Iona head coach Kevin Willard called it “Groundhog Day” for his team.
Siena forward Alex Franklin called it “deja vu all over again.”
The Saints were able to snap out of their spell; the Gaels were not.
Siena fell behind on Sunday, 14-2, and it looked like a replay of their blowout loss to Loyola on Thursday, but the Saints kept their poise and came back to win at the Hynes Athletics Center, 64-51.
The Saints turned it around in the second half, giving the Gaels a painful reminder of how Iona has been losing games lately, by playing well in the first half, but not being able to match it in the second. Siena (8-2 MAAC, 13-7 overall) outscored Iona (3-7, 7-15) in the second half, 38-21, making 54.5 percent of their shots after shooting 31.8 in the first half.
“We didn’t want to have a repeat of the last game,” forward Edwin Ubiles said. “We all wanted to pick it up, and that’s what we did.”
“It was scary at first, because we started out slow, and nothing was going in for us,” Franklin said. “We remained focused and overcame that start.”
The Saints didn’t make a basket until 5:15 into the game, but scored the last seven points of the half to get within 30-26. That set them up for the second half.
Kenny Hasbrouck (3-for-14, 13 points) had another quiet game offensively, but he made a three-pointer from the right corner to tie it at 37-37, and Josh Duell, who played four minutes in the first half and all but one minute of the second half, gave Siena its first lead, 42-39, on a drive and free throw with 12:55 left.
By then, the momentum had clearly shifted in Siena’s favor, especially after Iona’s Devon Clarke had missed an open dunk that would have given the Gaels a 39-30
“We could’ve gone up nine on Dev’s dunk, and instead, they come down and score, and it’s five,” Willard said.
“That would’ve got the crowd
going, it would’ve given them more energy and they would’ve been pressing and running and trapping,” Franklin said.
Iona hung around, but Hasbrouck hit another three from the same spot on a baseline pass by Franklin to give the Saints a 54-48 lead, and Ubiles’ soft bank shot made it
58-48 with 4:04 left.
In the last five minutes, the Gaels managed just a meaningless three-point play with 1:01 left.
“The last 10 minutes was about as well as we can play,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said.
“That’s been our biggest problem, we play good in the first half and come out flat in the second,” Iona forward Gary Springer said.
Franklin, who is hampered by an ongoing back injury, came off the bench and will probably continue to do so. He had 17 points, five rebounds and four assists.
He also made two big plays, a big dunk off a steal in the first half that seemed to wake Siena up, and a difficult, twisting offensive rebound between two players that he was able to corral and put back in to give the Saints a 48-42 lead with 10:35 left to play.
“I just saw an open lane and the guy coming from the wing, and I knew he was going to try to block it or do something, so I just palmed it with one hand and tried to dunk it,” he said with a chuckle. “Which I did.”
“He energizes you in so many different ways,” McCaffery said. “He gets you second shots, he gets to the free throw line, the monster dunk — those kinds of things really get your team going. But he gives us a legitimate low-post scoring threat.”
Siena missed its first seven shots of the game before Duell scored on a drive after Iona had taken a 14-2 lead.
Springer, who had seven offensive rebounds in Siena’s 81-76 victory earlier this season, was a handful inside again, at least in the first half.
On consecutive possessions midway through the first half, he scored on a putback and a layup, drawing a foul by Duell both times and making the free throws to give Iona a 24-10 lead.
The Saints cranked up the intensity on defense from there and chipped at the lead.
“We just had to stay composed,” Duell said. “We kind of lost it at Loyola.”
Ubiles swatted away Springer’s shot inside, leading to a dunk attempt that drew a foul, and Franklin came up with a steal and took two huge steps from the baseline for his big slam it to cut the Iona lead to 24-17.
Chris De La Rosa’s steal and layup made it 24-19.
The Gaels scored the next six points, but Siena answered with a 7-0 run capped by Tay Fisher’s three-pointer in the final half-minute to bring the Saints within 30-26 at halftime.
Ubiles finished with 12 points, and Duell had 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.
“Josh was splitting time with two other people, but in the last 10 days or so, he’s established himself as a guy who deserves more minutes,” McCaffery said. “He really came through for us.”
Rossiter 0-2 0-0 0, Ubiles 5-7 2-2 12, Fisher 1-3 1-2 4, Moore 1-3 2-2 4, Hasbrouck 3-14 5-7 13, De La Rosa 1-2 1-2 3, Duell 3-5 5-5 11, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Magee 0-0 0-0 0, Franklin 5-8 7-13 17. Totals: 19-44 23-33 64.
Clarke 6-7 2-3 14, Gray 2-5 0-0 4, Dwight 1-2 2-2 4, Camper 2-8 2-2 8, Prodanovic 1-4 0-0 3, Tarver 4-14 0-0 8, Griffin 0-3 0-0 0, Springer 3-5 2-2 8, Hassett 1-3 0-1 2. Totals: 20-51 8-10 51.
Halftime: Iona 30, Siena 26. Three-point goals: Siena 3-11 (Ubiles 0-1, Fisher 1-3, Moore 0-2, Hasbrouck 2-3, Duell 0-2); Iona 3-19 (Gray 0-1, Camper 2-7, Prodanovic 1-4, Tarver 0-5, Griffin 0-2). Rebounds: Siena 29 (Moore, Franklin 5); Iona 33 (Clarke 8). Assists: Siena 12 (Franklin 4); Iona 12 (Camper 5). Total fouls: Siena 16; Iona 23. Attendance: 2,423.
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