FINAL: Niagara 74, Siena 62
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Senior forward O.D. Anosike finished his brilliant career at Siena with another double-double, but top-seeded Niagara was just a little too good for No. 9 Siena as the Purple Eagles won, 74-62, in the MAAC Tournament quarterfinals at the MassMutual Center this afternoon.
The loss dropped Siena to 8-24, tying for most losses in a season in program history and casting doubt on the future of head coach Mitch Buonaguro, who is in the third year of a four-year contract. Siena is 35-59 (.376) under Buonaguro.
Anosike will graduate as the second-leading rebounder in school history and No. 23 on the all-time scoring list. He scored 13 points and 10 rebounds against Niagara, which took control of the game by scoring the first 10 points of the second half in less than three minutes.
Antoine Mason, son of former New York Knick Anthony Mason, made all 10 of his free throws and scored 21 points, and Juan'ya Green scored 15 for the Purple Eagles, including a big three-pointer that effectively ended Siena's hopes with 2:07 left.
Siena sophomore Evan Hymes (14 points) made a three to cut the deficit to 67-61, but Green nailed one from the right corner 35 seconds later. He also made two free throws with 49.3 seconds left to give Niagara (19-12) a 72-62 lead.
"Our guys played as hard as they could, and we were right in the thick of it with five minutes to go," Buonaguro said. "They have two guys, Green and Mason, who have been great all year and were really tough down the stretch."
"We needed to keep Green and Mason in check in the second half in order to have a chance, and they didn't hurt us too bad, but they made the plays they needed," Anosike said. "I think you have to throw the seeding out for every tournament game. If you're thinking about what seed you are, you probably don't have a good chance of winning. We fought hard and got it close, we just weren't able to seal the deal."
"I don't think it was our best game we've played all year, but We found a way to win, we made plays when we had to and we're just happy to be one of the four teams still playing," Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich said.
Niagara will play Iona in the semifinals today.
Anosike, an economics major, will look forward to graduation and a pro basketball career. He has been invited to next month's Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational,
where scouts from each NBA team will watch 64 college seniors in a four-day tournament.
"After I came out of the game, I sat there and was able to reflect on some things about the last four years, and the only things that came to mind were positive things," he said. "I've had a great four years. "If I had to do it over, I wouldn't change a thing."
"He'll go down as one of the top two or three frontcourt players in Siena history," Buonaguro said. "He's made his mark not only on the court, but off the court, where he's excelled in the classroom and has been the face of the program."
Buonaguro said he's been too preoccupied with the team to think about whether he'll be fired or not.
"It's out of my control," he said. "I'll get evaluated at the end of the year, as I do every year, and there will be a decision by the university. I'm just going to continue as the coach, I have a contract for next year, and we'll see what happens. I love Siena, and I want to be there. I don't think anyone works harder than me at coaching. This is a year when we had a lot of adversity. This season has been rewarding, because I think we played our best basketball at the end of the year."
Anosike 6-8 1-3 13, Burdine 4-10 1-4 9, Hymes 4-6 2-3 14, Poole 4-10 3-4 14, Silas 0-1 0-0 0, Audu 0-0 0-0 0, Brookins 3-6 0-0 8, Martens 1-3 2-4 4. Totals: 22-44 9-18 62.
White 0-0 0-0 0, McCall 1-2 0-0 2, Green 4-14 6-8 15, Tanksley 2-8 4-4 9, Mason 5-8 10-10 21, Cline 4-9 0-1 9, Lemmons 2-5 0-2 4, Thomas 3-4 0-0 6, Jordan 2-7 2-2 8. Totals: 23-57 22-27 74.
Halftime: Niagara 32, Siena 31. Three-point goals: Siena 9-16 (Burdine 0-1, Hymes 4-5, Poole 3-6, Brookins 2-4); Iona 6-21 (Green 1-2, Tanksley 1-4, Mason 1-2, Cline 1-4, Lemmons 0-3, Jordan 2-6). Rebounds: Siena 32 (Anosike 10); Iona 30 (Tanksley 9). Assists: Siena 14 (Hymes 5); Iona 14 (Green 6). Total fouls: Siena 20; Iona 17. Technical foul: Brookins.
Follow Mike MacAdam on Twitter at @Mike_MacAdam