Surging Saints connect at foul line
ALBANY The Super Bowl isn’t until Sunday, but a reasonable facsimile of Ed Reed made a game-winning play in a big game on Friday.
Guard Rakeem Brookins intercepted an entry pass by Michael Alvarado and made two free throws with 7.1 seconds left to help finish off Siena’s spectacular night from the line as well as a 66-63 win over Manhattan in front of 6,098 at the Times Union Center.
Brookins is a Philadelphia native, but he eschewed the Brian Dawkins analogy in favor of someone more topical, the Baltimore Ravens’ sure-to-be Hall of Famer.
“More like Ed Reed . . . I’ve got the Ravens winning,” Brookins said with a laugh.
Siena gradually continues to improve and moved into a tie with Manhattan for seventh in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference at 4-7. The Saints are 6-16, but have won four of their last seven.
They were in good shape to win this one with a 56-44 lead and 7:05 on the clock, but starting point guard Evan Hymes fouled out a few minutes later, and the Jaspers’ press began to take a toll.
Siena persevered, though, in large part because of a runner and free throw by Rob Poole with 1:04 left, and a 27-for-31 (87.1 percent) night from the line.
Senior forward O.D. Anosike had a quiet night statistically, but clinched the win by swishing the first of two free throws with 1.7 seconds, followed by a full-court heave that wasn’t close by Manhattan.
“It came down to the last possession, as we knew it probably would,” Anosike said. “The resolve and mental discipline that you need to have to beat a team of Manhattan’s caliber is a testament to the development of this team. We’re starting to turn the corner.”
“I knew Manhattan would make a run, they press you, and when Evan went out, we got a little out of sync,” head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. “But we held on. It was a great win, it’s a team that’s ahead of us in the standings, and we needed it.”
Poole, a sophomore, had his first career double-double, with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and redshirt sophomore Trenity Burdine had another strong night in his second game back from a six-game suspension.
He erupted for eight points in the first 1:09 of the second half to give the Saints a 38-27 lead.
The Jaspers, led by Alvarado with 16 points and five assists, took a 59-58 lead on Rhamel Brown’s tip-in, and 61-60 with 1:35 left on Alvarado’s drive at Anosike, who had to hold back contesting the shot because he had four fouls.
Brookins, who finished with 18 points and three assists, missed a drive, but Poole gathered the loose rebound on the baseline, saw an opening and cut across the lane for his runner, drawing a foul by Shane Richards. The free throw made it 63-61 with 1:04 left.
“I got the rebound and saw a wide open lane and just took it, did a little kind of hook shot, and luckily, it went in,” Poole said.
The Jaspers came out of a timeout with 18 seconds left in the game to get a shot, but never did.
Alvarado drew a high double-team from Anosike and tried to find Brown underneath, but his long bounce pass was stolen by Brookins, and he was fouled with 7.1 seconds left.
“Mike just took one dribble too many,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said. “I think if he went high with the pass instead of low, it would’ve got there. The bounce pass is a little slower and plays to the guard rotating.
“Listen, Mike Alvarado, if it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t even have been in the game, so it wasn’t his fault. But if he had it to do over, nine times out of 10, he would’ve passed it to the rim, and we’ll finish that.”
“Alvarado came off the ball screen, and I did my best to hedge out and get the ball out of his hands,” Anosike said. “We don’t want him to play-make and get to the basket. I think my size might’ve bothered him a little bit. Rahk was able to kind of play free safety and anticipate it. It was a big play.”
“I figured that he was going to pass it after we dogged him,” Brookins said. “Rhamel Brown was wide open, and me not going all the way over into the corner, I tried to play it like a safety, and as soon as he passed it I was right in the gap.”
Brookins’ first free caught the front of the rim, then the back, but rolled in, and the second one was a swish.
Brown dunked to make it 65-63 with 1.7 seconds left, and Anosike was fouled before the inbounds pass, sending the 50.7 percent shooter to the free throw line for the first time all night.
He swished the first and missed the second.
“It [free throw shooting] won us the game,” Poole said. “It’s probably a product of Manhattan being an aggressive team. They’re looking to slap and foul you and try to get some fouls that the refs don’t see.”
“They were very well prepared and kept their composure even though they lost Hymes with four and a half to go,” Masiello said.
Brown 6-13 1-3 13, Andujar 1-4 2-4 4, Colonette 1-1 1-2 3, Jackson, Jr. 1-2 0-0 3, Alvarado 4-8 8-9 16, Richards 4-9 0-1 11, Jones 0-2 0-0 0, McCoy 0-2 0-0 0, Stores 2-5 2-4 7, Koita 1-3 0-0 3, Kates 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 21-54 14-23 63.
Anosike 2-8 1-2 5, Burdine 5-8 3-3 14, Hymes 4-9 1-2 11, Brookins 3-10 11-12 18, Poole 2-7 8-9 13, Audu 0-0 2-2 2, Martens 0-1 0-0 0, Bisping 1-1 1-1 3, Silas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-44 27-31 66.
Halftime — Siena 30-27. 3-point goals — Manhattan 7-20 (Richards 3-8, Jackson, Jr. 1-1, Koita 1-3, Kates 1-3, Stores 1-3, McCoy 0-2), Siena 5-13 (Hymes 2-4, Burdine 1-2, Brookins 1-3, Poole 1-4). Fouled Out — Hymes. Rebounds — Manhattan 33 (Richards 7), Siena 37 (Poole 11). Assists — Manhattan 14 (Alvarado 5), Siena 12 (Hymes 6). Total Fouls — Manhattan 26, Siena 21. Technicals — Kates, Burdine. A — 6,098.