FINAL: Siena 57, Canisius 54
ALBANY -- A chaotic play led to a chaotic celebration tonight.
Eschewing a timeout to set a play in the final seconds, Siena rolled the clock and the dice, and got a three-pointer from redshirt sophomore Rakeem Brookins to beat Canisius, 57-54, before 5,986 at the Time Union Center, ending an 11-game losing streak dating back to Nov. 18.
The helter-skelter sequence and game-winning shot unleashed a wild celebration from the Siena bench, most noticeably 59-year-old head coach Mitch Buonaguro, who leapt in the air, dislodging his shirttails, and ran around the court a la Jim Valvano, fumbling through hasty handshakes with the Golden Griffins before sprinting up the tunnel pumping his fists.
"It's definitely a great win in so many ways," senior forward O.D. Anosike said with relief.
"Well, this is, to say the least, a great win, under the circumstances ... 11 straight losses, playing arguably the best team in the league, with our backs to the wall down 10," Buonaguro said. "It shows a lot about what this team is made of."
Brookins, a 5-foot-10 guard from Philadelphia, was shooting a paltry 20.8 percent from three-point range coming into the game and had made just three of nine field goals before attempting the game-winner.
Siena freshman Ryan Oliver rebounded Billy Baron's three-point miss and passed to Evan Hymes, but Brookins ran into the pass and proceeded upcourt with it down the left sideline toward the Siena bench. Expecting a timeout, he hesitated near Buonaguro, but the coach waved his arm to keep playing, so Brookins took another dribble and nailed the three with Isaac Sosa's hand in his face and eight-tenths of a second on the clock.
"By far, that's the biggest shot I've ever hit in my life. By far," he said.
Siena (1-4, 3-13) beat Canisius (3-2, 10-6) despite playing without starting small forward Rob Poole (flu) and losing Hymes to an eye injury late in the first half. After returning midway through the second half, he managed to continue what was by far his best shooting game of the season, hitting two deep threes late, one to tie it, and another to give Siena a 50-49 lead.
Oliver made a three for a 53-51 lead, and Brookins' free throw tied it at 54-54 with 1:07 left.
Brookins also hit the game-winner, with 3.9 seconds left, the last time Siena won a game, against Northern Kentucky way back on Nov. 18.
"He let it go, he had great arc on the shot, and I thought he was either going to make it or airball it," Anosike said. "It was a great shot."
The 5-8 Hymes came into the game shooting 30.8 percent from the field, but was 8-for-12 (4-for-6 from three-point range) and scored 20 points in 28 minutes.
Manhertz 2-8 1-2 5, Jo. Jor. Heath 2-4 0-0 5, Washington 5-15 0-0 12, Baron 4-9 3-4 12, Sosa 5-10 0-0 13, Asprilla 1-1 0-0 2, Groves 1-5 0-0 3, Jos. Heath 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 21-54 4-6 54.
Anosike 1-4 7-10 9, Silas 2-3 0-2 4, Audu 1-6 0-0 2, Hymes 8-12 0-0 20, Brookins 4-10 3-6 13, Oliver 2-7 0-0 6, Leppanen 0-0 0-0 0, Martens 0-1 0-0 0, Bisping 1-3 0-1 3. Totals: 19-46 10-19 57.
Halftime: Canisius 34, Siena 27. Three-point goals: Canisius 8-27 (Manhertz 0-1, Jor. Heath 1-2, Washington 2-8, Baron 1-4, Sosa 3-7, roves 1-5); Siena 9-23 (Audu 0-3, Hymes 4-6, Brookins 2-6, Oliver 2-5, Bisping 1-3). Rebounds: Canisius 36 (Manhertz 10); Siena 31 (Anosike 7). Assists: Canisius 12 (Baron 8); Siena 9 (Hymes, Brookins 3). Total fouls: Canisius 16; Siena 11. Attendance: 5,986.
Follow Mike MacAdam on Twitter at @Mike_MacAdam