Siena College assistant coach Luke D’Alessio told Rob Poole he had more breathing room than he realized.
So Poole took it upon himself to give the Saints all the breathing room they needed at the start of the second half.
As a result, Siena got a gulp of oxygen as they crawled a little closer to the surface of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and a little farther from the ocean floor on Thursday. For now, anyway.
“Standings,” head coach Jimmy Patsos muttered my way as he left the post-game interview room, and I fully accept any chops-busting for bringing it up on Jan. 23 with the league schedule still shy of half over.
But the truth is, it’s not too early to think about, not when the MAAC is starting to show signs of a Top Half and a Bottom Half. At least it’s not too early for those of us luxuriating on shore with a cold drink under an umbrella.
Siena beat Saint Peter’s, 64-47, at the Times Union Center on Thursday night to inch closer to .500, at 4-5 in the MAAC and 8-12 overall.
Forget about the psychology of .500 (I’m looking at you, Washington Wizards). The Saints’ win kept them tied with Monmouth, dropped the Peacocks a notch, with Marist holding at 3-5 heading into tonight’s game at Niagara.
The clump above is comprised of five teams from 5-3 to 7-2.
Every little bit of separation from the bottom matters, as does every bit of contact with the top, especially with 11 teams instead of 10 this year. Traditionally, the top six got a bye in the conference tournament, but this year it’s five, with the bottom six duking it out in the first round to create the quarterfinal field.
When a team misses an opportunity like that by losing the final game of the regular season, how often do you hear them claim that they didn’t lose it there, they lost it when they should’ve won that game back on so-and-so?
Well, Thursday’s game might turn into one of those, and it might not, but for now, a team that had lost three straight has a good win against a dangerous team.
Freshman point guard Marquis Wright was named player of the game, but Poole scored 11 points in the second half after an awful 1-for-5 in the first, and as Patsos said, “Rob Poole wasn’t going to let us lose that game in the second half.
“A lot of guys did a lot of things, but Poole gets credit for the win because he just wasn’t going to let us lose in the second half.”
The turnaround started with some advice from D’Alessio, Poole said.
He told the junior small forward that he was rushing his shot, and to relax and take advantage of the bit of space and time he was getting.
Poole hit a three, scored on a hard drive to his right and set up a layup by Wright, who was fouled and made the free throw in a 12-2 run.
That took just a 3:22 to start the second half, gave the Saints a 44-28 lead and pretty much decided the game.
Patsos said he’s too immersed in the day-to-day to look at the standings.
Getting in that top five is vitally important, though, so every bit, like Thursday, matters.
“Gary Williams told us, ‘I’ve watched your team for a day, you guys can have a winning record and you can come in fifth or above,’ ” Patsos said. “Maybe we can. I don’t know. All I know is I only have one more game against Manhattan, and I’m thankful for that.”
Then he crossed himself.