At 6-foot-9, Ryan Rossiter might look awkward on skates, but he appeared to have just played for the Albany River Rats, not the Siena Saints, at the Times Union Center on Thursday.
The junior center had a red welt and a small cut on the bridge of his nose, and traces of a black eye.
He had all his teeth, though, which was obvious from his smile, after Siena defeated Loyola, 67-61.
Rossiter has been playing like an all-conference first-teamer this season, and they’ll need everything he can bring today, when the Saints take on Manhattan at Draddy Gym in the Bronx, possibly without leading scorer Edwin Ubiles, and definitely without sixth man Kyle Downey, who broke his foot in practice on Tuesday and will be out for 4-6 weeks.
Ubiles missed last Monday’s home win over Manhattan with a back injury, and although he came back to score 18 points in 33 minutes and hit the game-clinching three-pointer against the Greyhounds, his injury troubles only got worse, as he hurt his left shoulder during the game.
It’s the same shoulder that kept Ubiles out of practice during the preseason, when it took a few weeks for him to get comfortable raising it forward in a shooting motion. After the Loyola game, he said his back felt fine, but that it might have been masked by the adrenaline of having just finished a game.
Without Ubiles, Rossiter and his frontcourt partner in grime, senior Alex Franklin, will likely have to work all the harder on the boards.
That’s fine with Rossiter, who is averaging a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference-leading 10.4 rebounds per game and has 10 double-doubles to his credit this season, after scoring 12 points and grabbing 13 rebounds against Loyola.
“We do have a little competition, but it seems like I’ll get 12 one night, he’ll get eight, then he’ll come back with 10 the next game, and I’ll get eight,” Rossiter said of Franklin.
First-place Siena (16-4 overall) is 9-0 in the MAAC and holds a two-game lead over Fairfield.
Head coach Fran McCaffery said that, besides the raw numbers, the emergence of Rossiter has helped Siena in a more subtle way, in that it’s dangerous for teams to double-team anybody in the Saints’ starting lineup.
Rossiter and Franklin work the high-low game well together, both can put the ball on the floor and both can score.
Rossiter is also mobile enough to run the floor and seems to be in the middle of most loose ball scrambles, even if that means going face first to the deck.
“Rossiter is the most underrated player in the league,” Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos said. “You try and tell people who Rossiter is around the country, and they say, ‘Who’s that?’ and I say, ‘The guy who gets a double-double and gets every rebound, every tip, and just does what he’s supposed to do to help you win.’ ”
If Ubiles, who is averaging 15.8 points per game, doesn’t play, it will be his third game missed due to injury this season. He didn’t play against Georgia Tech on Dec. 2 because of a knee, and he missed the other Manhattan game last week.
“This is the most injuries that I’ve had in a year than I’ve had all my life,” he said. “I’m just trying to stay positive and battle through them.
“I felt something pop a little bit, but I just tried to fight through it. It was fine until, I think, the second half, and I think I ran into somebody, and I felt my shoulder kind of go out of place a little bit.”
Sophomore Owen Wignot would likely start for Ubiles. He’s averaging 3.0 points in 11.4 minutes per game.
Manhattan (2-7, 7-12) nearly knocked off Iona at Draddy Gym on Friday night, but went without a field goal in the final 6:59 after Rico Pickett’s three-pointer gave the Jaspers a 50-49 lead. Pickett scored 26 against Siena on Monday.
Manhattan was called for two intentional fouls and had another hard foul called in that game.
“Anytime we go down there, even besides last game, it’s always physical, they always play tough, it’s a tough place to play, so we have to avoid a slow start again,” Rossiter said.
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