Siena’s Franklin returns in time to face high-flying Eagles

Alex Franklin vowed on Tuesday to play against Niagara tonight. The Siena Saints are going to need a
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Alex Franklin vowed on Tuesday to play against Niagara tonight.

The Siena Saints are going to need all the help they can get, because the Purple Eagles, in particular Charron Fisher, are on fire right now.

Fisher leads the nation in scoring at 27.4 points per game after scoring 32 points against Iona last week and 27 against Manhattan on Saturday.

The Purple Eagles are 10-3, lead the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference at 4-0 and on Monday, Niagara got one vote in the receiving-votes category of the latest Associated Press poll.

“It’s a nice honor, but we know there are a lot of ways that we can get better,”

Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said on the team Web site. “Where we are at the end of the season means a lot more than where we are on Jan. 7.”

Where they will be at 9 tonight is their homecourt at the Gallagher Center to face a Siena team that was ice-cold offensively in a 53-52 loss to Fairfield on Tuesday at the Times Union Center.

Franklin, a two-time MAAC player of the week this season, was in uniform, but missed his fifth straight game because of a back injury against Holy Cross.

He’s averaging 15.4 points a game, is the team’s leading rebounder at 7.4 rpg and scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds off the bench as a freshman in the MAAC tournament championship game last year, won by Niagara, 83-79. The Purple Eagles went on to beat Florida A&M to move into the round of 64 of the NCAA tournament before losing to Kansas.

Franklin was supposed to play at least a little bit against Fairfield, but he decided at the last minute that it wouldn’t be a good idea.

“I really didn’t think I was comfortable enough playing,” he said after the game. “I’m definitely going to play Friday.

“It’s tough, especially when you want to play so bad, but you know that if you do, you can’t give the team 100 percent. I’m the kind of guy that, if I can’t give my teammates everything I have, then I don’t want to play at all. That’s how I really felt tonight. I didn’t feel like I could do that, so that’s why I decided to sit out.”

“He said he wasn’t ready, so I respected his wishes,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said.

The Saints’ shooting was so bad against Fairfield that they made no field goals in the final 8:14 of the first half.

Senior guard Tay Fisher hit a jumper and a three-pointer to give Siena a 5-0 lead at 17:08, but Siena made just four field goals over the next nine minutes, then relied on free throws to stay within six points of the Stags’ lead by halftime.

Junior guard Kenny Hasbrouck picked up his third foul on the first play of the second half and finished with three points on 1-for-7 shooting.

In the final 1:44, after freshman Ryan Rossiter’s tip-in pulled Siena within 53-53, the Saints had several chances to win the game, but Hasbrouck and freshman point guard Chris De La Rosa missed three-pointers, Rossiter turned it over when his pass to Edwin Ubiles went out of bounds and Ubiles missed a short turnaround just in front of the rim with six seconds left.

“It’s a difficult loss. Every loss is difficult, but you’ve got to get over it,” Hasbrouck said. “It’s a long season, we’ve got 16, 17 more games, so you can’t really think about that too much.”

“Everybody had a good shot multiple times, but we really can’t worry about that,” Fisher said. “Just because we had a bad offensive night doesn’t mean that we’re a bad offensive team now. We’re going to make up for it, we’re going to keep moving forward, we have Niagara coming up. They beat us last year in the championship, and we have to approach it seriously.”

“At the end of the first half, our young kids showed a lot by getting back in the game, and we kept coming, which is a good thing, but you’ve got to learn how to win a game like this when you don’t

really play that well and are still in a pos­ition to win,” McCaffery said.

Franklin said he doesn’t expect to be too rusty for tonight’s game, but it will be his first real action since Dec. 7.

He said it was difficult to sit on the bench watching the Fairfield game.

“Words can’t really describe that,” he said. “It’s been close to three weeks, and I was playing a pretty good game, so I’m just going to go out there and play my hardest and give everything I have.

“I don’t know. I’ve been working out this week. I won’t be that bad.”

Josh Duell’s availability is uncertain. He caught an elbow in the face against Saint Peter’s on Sunday and didn’t dress for the Fairfield game. He had oral surgery on Wednesday to fix a broken bone in the upper part of his mouth.

NOTEBOOK

After a review of the stats from Siena’s victory over Saint Peter’s on Sunday, Rossiter was credited with another rebound, giving him a total of 13 for the game. . . .

The team will play some friendly games against local teams during a 14-day tour of northern Italy in

August that will include stops in Lake Como, Venice, San Marino, Florence, Siena and Rome.

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