There’s nothing the Siena Saints would like more than to get right back into a game after Sunday’s blowout of Saint Peter’s at the Times Union Center.
They’re eager to use the winning attitude they saw first-hand from Memphis in a crushing loss to the Tigers last Thursday as a model of how to play, not just for a game or two, but for the rest of the season, which means Fairfield will face a hungry team at the Times Union Center at 7 tonight.
The Saints and Stags will meet for the second time this season, following a 74-61 Siena win on the road on Dec. 7.
Fairfield has been tinkering with its starting lineup, but it’s Siena that could be the more profoundly different team this time, in the aftermath of a loss to a national championship contender that everyone’s still buzzing about.
“For me, it’s going to be a reference point for the rest of my career,” junior guard Kenny Hasbrouck said Monday. “It showed how aggressive and intense you have to be. I don’t think too many players on our team have gotten beat by 45 points before, and just got manhandled the whole game. A lot of people just didn’t know what to do on the floor. Anytime we get in a bind, we can look back at that game, see what they did to us, and try to use it against somebody else.”
“I don’t see anybody beating them, I really don’t,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “There are some teams out there that could. Hopefully, our guys understand, because if you look at the games prior to that, we’ve played really good defense at times, but we have never played really good defense for 40 minutes. I understand we’re an offensive team and all that, but if you want to win a championship, you have to play defense. [Sunday] we did it for probably 32 or 34 minutes, which I guess is a positive step.”
It’s still relatively early in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule, but Siena (3-0) and Niagara (4-0) are the only undefeated teams left.
The Saints (8-5 overall) are, in fact, giving up the most points per game in the conference, and also scoring the most.
They approached the Saint
Peter’s game with the mentality to shut down the Peacocks from start to finish, and came pretty close to pulling it off.
That’s the plan against Fairfield, which is coming off a 69-67 win over highly regarded Loyola, and also beat Saint Peter’s in overtime to get to 2-1 in the MAAC.
The Stags came back from an eight-point deficit with less than three minutes left against Saint Peter’s, and were down by as many as 11 in the second half of their win over Loyola. Mike Evanovich and Herbie Allen, who scored 13 points against Siena in the first meeting, started against Loyola, but came off the bench in the Dec. 7 game. Anthony Johnson and Warren Edney were starters in their place.
“They’re playing a lot different than when we played them the first time,” Hasbrouck said. “They’re starting to use fast breaks more often, looking for runouts.”
“Herbie Allen is playing well,” McCaffery said. “One of his better games was against us. He gives them another aggressive player to go along with [Jonathan] Han, and then Evanovich certainly has been spectacular — six threes the other night. He’s had some big scoring games.”
Evanovich was 6-for-8 on three-pointers, and scored 20 points against Loyola.
Two-time MAAC player of the week Alex Franklin, out for four games with a back injury, could be back in the lineup for Siena. Even if he is, McCaffery expects that it will be a few games before Franklin gets into the full swing of things.
“He hasn’t done anything since the Holy Cross game on
Dec. 22. So you have a lot of things in play,” McCaffery said. “How does his back feel? How are his legs? What’s his wind like? He’s bound to be a little rusty, I would think. [His back] feels fine, but he hasn’t run or jumped or banged yet.”
Without Franklin, freshman Ryan Rossiter has continued to emerge as a productive post man, and fellow freshman Steven Priestley has been getting some minutes.
“Ryan’s playing more to his strengths now,” Hasbrouck said. “During the summer, he was playing, I guess, like he did in high school. I think he thought it was
going to be the same style. He knows it’s changed. I think the Memphis game did a lot for him, also. He’d never seen anybody that big, [Joey] Dorsey, and that rattled him and I don’t think he knew what to do for a little while.
“He’s getting tougher. He’s going after rebounds instead of waiting for the ball to come to him.”