FINAL: Niagara 78, Siena 68
ALBANY -- Siena gave first-place Niagara everything it had, but ran out of gas as the Purple Eagles' Juan'ya Green fell one rebound short of a triple-double in a 78-69 win at the TU Center tonight.
Sophomore point guard Evan Hymes played all 40 minutes and had 30 points and six assists for the Saints, but also two costly turnovers in the lane in the closing minutes. He was disconsolate about the loss.
"I could care less about the points; we should've won the game," he said. "I shouldn't have turned the ball over. I take ownership on that. We were right in it."
"Evan Hymes could not have played better," Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. "He was incredible. I think he got tired. He played 40 minutes against arguably one of the top two or three point guards in the league. I have no issues with him turning the ball over. The only reason we were in the game was because of him."
After Siena trailed by 12, 59-47, in the second half, a massive dunk by O.D. Anosike off a nifty behind-the-back feed from Hymes cut it to 70-69 with 2:04 left. The Saints didn't score another point, and the Purple Eagles made six of six free throws, including four by Green.
The Saints have lost 14 of their last 16 games and fell to 2-7 in the MAAC and 4-16 overall. Niagara is 8-1 in the MAAC and 12-8 overall.
Siena played without two starters, guard Rakeem Brookins (back injury) and forward Imoh Silas (ankle), as well as reserve guard Ryan Oliver (knee), but regained the services of starter Rob Poole, who missed four games with the flu, and small forward Trenity Burdine, who missed the last six games while on academic suspension.
Poole scored 14 points, but was disappointed to miss a potential game-tying three-pointer while open in the left corner with 1:12 left.
"I've got to make those shots, especially the one in the corner when I was wide open," Poole said. "Honestly, I thought that one was going in when I shot it."
The Saints played the last 7:07 without Burdine, who was pretty sharp despite the long layoff and had 11 points and four rebounds in 25 minutes. He fouled out with Siena in the midst of its comeback, trailing 63-61.
Buonaguro said the Siena coaching staff wasn't aware that he had four fouls at the time.
"To be honest, I thought he had three fouls," Buonaguro said. "That's an issue on the bench that should not happen. I'll take responsibility for that. The assistants told me he had three. It hurt a lot. You have to go with [Rich] Audu, a freshman, who's not as experienced."
Niagara was remarkably efficient on offense, with 18 assists against just three turnovers, one of which was in the second half. Typically turnover-prone Siena had a good first half, with 10 assists and four turnovers, and trailed by just 42-40. The Saints, who play at Marist on Sunday afternoon, had two assists and eight turnvers in the second half.
White 4-6 1-2 9, McCall 3-9 0-0 6, Green 6-17 6-6 19, Tanksley 5-8 4-7 14, Mason 5-11 4-4 17, Cline 1-3 0-0 2, Lemmons 0-2 0-0 0, Thomas 1-2 0-0 2, Jordan 3-6 0-2 9. Totals: 28-64 15-21 78.
Anosike 3-8 2-5 8, Bisping 0-2 2-2 2, Audu 1-4 0-0 2, Hymes 7-11 12-13 30, Poole 5-12 2-2 14, Burdine 4-7 2-2 11, Martens 1-3 0-1 2. Totals: 21-47 20-25 69.
Halftime: Niagara 42, Siena 40. Three-point goals: Niagara 7-20 (Green 1-4, Tanksley 0-1, Mason 3-6, Cline 0-2, Lemmons 0-1, Jordan 3-6); Siena 7-18 (Audu 0-2, Hymes 4-5, Poole 2-7, Burdine 1-3, Martens 0-1). Rebounds: Niagara 32 (Green 9); Siena 31 (Anosike 10). Assists: Niagara 18 (Green 11); Siena 12 (Hymes 6). Total fouls: Niagara 22; Siena 18. Fouled out: Thomas, Burdine. Technical foul: Thomas. Attendance: 6,387.
Follow Mike MacAdam on Twitter at @Mike_MacAdam