Saints should have no trouble maintaining focus

It was two years ago to the day that Siena lost to Buffalo, 69-64. The Bulls nearly pulled off an up
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It was two years ago to the day that Siena lost to Buffalo, 69-64.

The Bulls nearly pulled off an upset of Connecticut this season and beat Temple by 10 points, but Siena head coach Fran McCaffery points to the loss at Buffalo two years ago as the reason the Saints need to be on top of their game tonight when the teams square off at the Times Union Center at 7.

Buffalo (5-3) went on a 21-0 run, and Siena blew a 15-point lead in that game, which shouldn’t be difficult for the Saints (5-4) to remember.

“A lot of the core guys are back for both teams,” McCaffery said. “So we already lost to them. So to me, I don’t think there’s anything that gets your attention more than playing someone who already beat you. There’s no reason for us to look at this game in any other way than, this is a really good team.”

Among the players back for Buffalo is Schenectady High School graduate Andy Robinson, a senior guard.

He was an all-Mid-American Conference honorable mention selection last year, but he was suspended for academic cheating last spring and has played in five of Buffalo’s eight games this season. He’s the Bulls’ leading scorer off the bench at 6.8 points per game, and was responsible for defending Dionte Christmas in the second half of the Temple win.

McCaffery said he expects Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon to go deep into his bench. Ten players on the Bulls’ roster average at least 11 minutes per game, including Rodney Pierce, a 6-foot-2 guard who is averaging 17.4 points per game and scored 28 in the 68-64 loss to No. 2-ranked UConn.

His three-pointer with 43 seconds left brought Buffalo within 66-64.

“The fact that they beat Temple by 10 is very impressive to me,” McCaffery said. “That, coupled with the fact that they played UConn tough, and they have other good wins. This is a team that, when you look at them, most of their key guys are juniors and seniors, and they have double-figure scorers returning. They’ve got a lot of different weapons, they’ve got size, they’ve got wing players and they have a number of guards who they can play, all of which can score. That’s a team that really creates problems for anyone they play.”

Siena is coming off a loss at Pittsburgh in which senior co-captain Kenny Hasbrouck was held scoreless, and was 0-for-6 from the field.

He’s shooting just 35.8 percent.

“He’s frustrated, but I look at what a guy does in practice,” McCaffery said. “Does he let that frustration go over into practice? And he’s killing it in practice. Shoots it well, drives the ball, does everything. Works hard and gets extra shots up. Makes his free throws and shoots the ball well in shooting drills. So I’m not worried about it.

“If anything, in the last game, I thought he should have shot more. That’s what I tell him to do. That’s what I told Tay Fisher. Tay was always a guy who had good percentages, but he had his 1-for-11’s. He would shoot the same exact shot the next time.”

Edwin Ubiles is leading Siena at 14.4 ppg, and sophomore center Ryan Rossiter is averaging 6.9 rebounds per game.

Against Pittsburgh, Siena got some valuable contributions off the bench from sophomore Clarence Jackson and freshman Kyle Downey.

Jackson was 0-for-8 from three-point range, but scored 12 points and had a spectacular reverse dunk on a baseline drive.

McCaffery won’t use the extra foot of distance from the three-point stripe as an excuse for Siena’s difficulties there, but the fact remains that the Saints are shooting 28.9 percent from there.

“I think the best explanation is that we’re playing really good teams that are defending us,” McCaffery said. “I usually attribute lower percentages to good defense. Especially in Kenny’s case, they’re all over him. He’s a marked man, and he has no space. You look at Pitt, and Pitt didn’t trap anybody off ball screens in any game they played, including ours, except when Kenny Hasbrouck was involved. So they’re going after him, limiting his space and beating him up off the ball.”

Categories: College Sports

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