A Seat in the Bleachers: Answers don’t come easy here

Siena needs to approach each game the rest of the way as if it were a tournament

Where did this come from?

Just to show you how easy it is to settle into a rhythm of expectation, only to have it coming crashing to the ground, the Loyola Greyhounds crawled out of Chesapeake Bay and went Cloverfield on the Siena Saints on Thursday.

After Siena threw everything they had at Loyola, only to make just one shot in the first 111⁄2 minutes, you could sense the Saints looking at each other and gulping: “It’s winning.”

The final score — 85-56 — was ugly; the implications were uglier.

A week ago, senior guard Tay Fisher had urged his young teammates to start looking at each game as if it was a tournament game. It was a heady, well-timed and natural move by the only player who won’t be back on the team next year, and the Saints appeared to have taken his words to heart when they crushed Canisius.

Then this.

Perhaps the most disturbing and mystifying aspect of the lopsided loss was head coach Fran McCaffery’s observation afterward that the Greyhounds played like they had a greater sense of urgency than the Saints did. That’s hard to fathom, considering the possibilities that this season holds for Siena.

McCaffery was correct in pointing out how good — as expected — Loyola is, and he said he didn’t have a problem with the Saints’ shot selection. That doesn’t fully explain how a team that has been rolling gets stopped in its tracks and flattened. For one night, it went beyond that.

“Like Coach said, they played like the ball was worth something,” Fisher said. “We can’t go into games, especially on the road, and give that kind of effort.

“I know Coach was very disappointed with our effort, and he said it, too. I saw it. Since I’ve been here with Coach McCaffery, I think that was the worst effort that we gave, as a team, even his first year, when we didn’t have the type of team we’ve had the last two years.”

Kenny Hasbrouck kept the Saints in the game in the first half, but it got out of hand in a hurry. The Saints missed everything — lay­ups, putbacks, open three-pointers. McCaffery said the player he especially felt bad for was Edwin Ubiles, who did everything the coaches asked him to do within the offense, and was nevertheless 0-for-6 in the first half.

If this had been a tournament game, Siena could’ve lost to anybody in the conference.

The Saints have four sophomores and four freshmen on their roster, and they’re going to be good for a long time.

They’re real good now, but not good enough to show up with the kind of performance they brought to the Loyola game.

That’s why Fisher, as well as Hasbrouck, a junior, believe it’s so important to convince the rest of the team that approaching the rest of the regular season as if it was tournament time is the only way to go.

“It shouldn’t be difficult to do,” McCaffery said. “Sometimes, it may be hard to get young guys to understand how small a number of games they get to play in college basketball in any one year. You’re going to play 29 games and a tournament. This time of year you’re playing twice a week, you should be able to rev it up twice a week. And you don’t want to look back and say, well, I gave my best most of the time.”

“If we can’t do it now, then we won’t be able to do it later,” Fisher said.

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