Siena Men’s BKB: Saints refuse to lose

Siena’s prayers were answered in the “Cathedral of College Basketball” on Sunday night. Sophomore ce
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Siena’s prayers were answered in the “Cathedral of College Basketball” on Sunday night.

Sophomore center Ryan Rossiter made two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to give the Saints (7-4) a 75-74 victory over Saint Joseph’s at the Palestra, completing a comeback from an 18-point second-half deficit in one of the most historic gyms in the country.

As the Saints ran on the floor to celebrate after the final buzzer, Siena head coach Fran McCaffery caught his 8-year-old son Patrick and carried him off the floor that was his basketball home for three years when he played for the University of Pennsylvania.

Sophomore Clarence Jackson, from nearby Marlboro, N.J., scored a career-high 28 points, including a baseline drive and a transition basket to tie it at 68-68 with 4:38 left to play.

In the final 4:04, there were five lead changes, the last coming when Rossiter, a 62.5 percent free-throw shooter this season, swished a pair after being hammered by Darrin Govens on a fast break. The play was set up when Saint Joe’s point guard Tasheed Carr badly missed the front end of a one-and-one with 9.5 seconds left. Alex Franklin rebounded and passed ahead to Kenny Hasbrouck, who dribbled down the left wing and found Rossiter cutting down the middle of the lane.

After he made his free throws, the Hawks’ Garrett Williamson heaved a shot from just inside halfcourt that grazed the right side of the rim.

Not affected by crowd

“I thought the crowd was pretty loud,” Rossiter said. “In my head, I’ve played that scenario over, when I was a little kid shooting in the front yard, and I was trying to remember everything I do for a regular free throw.

“Anything you can do to help the team. That wasn’t the only thing that won the game.”

Not by a long shot.

Jackson beat his previous best by 15 points, making 12 of 20 shots, and after Saint Joseph’s (5-6) shot 63.3 percent from the field in the first half, the Saints (7-4) cranked up the defense in the second half, holding the Hawks without a field goal for over nine minutes, during which Siena came back from a 61-43 deficit to get within three with just over six minutes left.

After Jackson tied it at 68-68, Edwin Ubiles made a three to give the Saints a 71-70 lead, Ahmad Nivins answered with a dunk for the Hawks and Ubiles made a tough bank shot to put Siena ahead, 73-72, with two minutes left.

Idris Hilliard, who led Saint Joseph’s with 20 points, scored inside with 1:26 left to put the Hawks back on top.

Ronald Moore’s floater in the lane rattled out, but Nivins got stuck with the ball at the top of the three-point arc with the shot clock running down, and chucked one up that was rebounded by Siena.

Ubiles was stripped from behind driving to the basket, and Carr was fouled, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with 9.5 seconds left to give Rossiter a chance to be the hero. He calmly swished his two free throws.

“He didn’t rattle all day, so I didn’t think he would rattle there,” McCaffery said.

“I was not nervous,” Jackson said. “Ryan loves being in big situations like that.”

The victory was especially meaningful for the Siena players and coaches with Philadelphia connections.

Jackson had never been in the Palestra before, but he looked right at home, bolstered by the support of 30 to 40 friends and family members.

“It’s a lot different [as a coach],” McCaffery said. “It’s much better being on the floor. These guys have a lot more fun. But that’s why I’m so happy for them, because I know what this feeling is like. We had a lot of games like this. It seemed like every time we played a Big 5 game, it was like this.”

Jackson scored his 28 points in 27 minutes, including 16 in a tight first half. The next highest scorer on the team was Ubiles, with 12, and Rossiter scored 11.

“We knew that he [Jackson] was a guy that came in the game looking to score the ball,” Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli said. “What we had talked about was, when they went small, how do we want to guard? And we really didn’t respond to that matchup real well. We wanted to start with Ubiles and Hasbrouck, and then work our way to Jackson, and we didn’t do a good job of containing his dribble penetrations.”

“I saw how much we were down, and had to do whatever I could to get the ball in the basket,” Jackson said. “Coach kept coming to me.

“They kept flying out at me, so I went baseline or drive to the middle. Nivins, he really didn’t want to foul, so I just kept attacking him.”

There were six ties and three lead changes in the first half, and neither team led by more than six.

The Hawks shot 63.3 percent from the field, making five of six threes, but Siena stayed close by crashing the glass, grabbing nine offensive rebounds.

Jackson scored the Saints’ last eight points of the first half, on a drive in the paint, a three-point play on Hilliard’s second foul and a three-pointer from the left corner to pull Siena within 41-39.

Govens came right back with a three to make it 44-39 at halftime.

SIENA (75)

Rossiter 2-5 7-7 11, Franklin 4-9 0-0 8, Ubiles 4-11 3-4 12, Moore 3-8 2-2 8, Has­brouck 1-7 0-0 2, Downey 1-2 0-0 3, Duell 1-1 0-0 3, Jackson 12-20 2-3 28, Wignot 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 28-65 14-16 75.

SAINT JOSEPH’S (74)

Hilliard 10-15 0-0 20, Nivins 6-7 3-4 15, Carr 4-9 0-1 10, Govens 4-7 0-0 11, Williamson 5-10 0-0 10, Prescott 0-0 0-0 0, Bentley 1-2 1-2 4, Lashley 0-0 0-0 0, Irwin 1-3 2-3 4, Rogers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 31-53 6-10 74.

Halftime: Saint Joseph’s 44, Siena 39. Three-point goals: Siena 5-15 (Ubiles 1-1, Moore 0-1, Hasbrouck 0-2, Downey 1-1, Duell 1-1, Jackson 2-7, Wignot 0-2); Saint Joseph’s 6-10 (Nivins 0-1, Carr 2-3, Govens 3-4, Williamson 0-1, Bentley 1-1). Rebounds: Siena 34 (Rossiter 9); Saint Joseph’s 26 (Hilliard 9). Assists: Siena 16 (Hasbrouck 4); Saint Joseph’s 24 (Williamson 7). Total fouls: Siena 12; Saint Joesph’s 16. Attendance: 6,128.

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