The theme from “Rocky” blasted over the public address during a timeout with 36.2 seconds left in the boisterous Yanitelli Center on Thursday night in an attempt to get the Saint Peter’s Peacocks going.
As it turned out, Alex Franklin and Siena had absorbed Saint Peter’s best punch, though, and were still standing.
Siena defeated the Peacocks, 66-58, to push its nation-leading winning streak to 12 games, and its record to 11-0 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and 18-4 overall.
Franklin, who left the game in each half because of a sore shoulder he incurred at 10:21 of the first half, powered his way to the basket with 36.2 seconds left to give Siena a 60-56 lead, and the Saints made all six of their free throws in the final 28.4 seconds.
Franklin finished with nine points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes, and frontcourt mate Ryan Rossiter had 21 points and nine rebounds against a team that came into the game surprisingly tied for second in the MAAC and playing in front of an unusually big, loud crowd of 1,609 in the tiny gym.
“I just tried to suck it up,” Franklin said. “I knew my teammates needed me, and I tried to play through it, and the bench came up big.”
“He gave us everything he had tonight,” Rossiter said. “His shoulder was kind of bothering him, but he still goes out there and gets big rebound after big rebound, he’s diving on the floor. He’s one of those guys who plays as hard as he can every time he’s out there.”
The Saints were already hurting because of a shoulder injury to senior small forward Edwin Ubiles, who was in street clothes for the second straight game.
Halfway through the first half, Franklin picked up a loose ball under the basket and tried to take it up for a layup. He had it blocked, and also had his left arm wrenched when a Saint Peter’s player grabbed it.
He left the game for the second time at 12:02 of the second half, after making one of two free throws to bring Siena within 45-44, but was back in there for the closing minutes.
A putback by Ryan Bacon, who finished with 15 rebounds and 11 points, brought Saint Peter’s (7-4, 12-9) within 58-56, but Franklin curled off a screen, caught a pass from Ronald Moore (nine assists) and took it hard down the right side of the lane for a lay-in with 36.2 seconds left.
“That’s a play we ran against Loyola,” Franklin said. “We’re trying to create for Ryan or myself. I saw a lane, and just tried to finish strong.”
“We had to make sure we stayed calm,” Moore said. “The crowd was involved, we waited to run the clock down and ran the play, really, to get to the line, but Alex had an opportunity to drive the ball and had a great finish.”
Clarence Jackson, who scored 15 points but continued to slump from three-point range, made two free throws with 28.4 seconds left, and after Darius Conley made two from the line for the Peacocks with 18.8 seconds left, Rossiter and Moore each made two to close out the game.
Siena finished 13-for-20 from the line, but made its last 10, from the 12:02 mark.
“Saint Peter’s is a tough place to play now,” Rossiter said. “We kept our composure. The crowd got into it, so we had to jam the ball inside and get some big stops.”
“Both teams played extremely hard,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said. “It was obvious from the opening tip that both teams went after it.
“The key was not to give up the lead, and then Franklin’s bucket was huge.”
The Peacocks had a five-game losing streak end, their longest since the 2005-06 season.
They fell into third place behind Fairfield and Iona, which both won on Thursday to improve to 8-3 in the MAAC.
“Because it’s Siena, we didn’t play as loosely as we’ve played,” Saint Peter’s head coach John Dunne said. “We had some unforced turnovers. You’re always nervous you’re going to turn it over against their 1-2-2, and we really didn’t. We had 19, and they were almost our own doing. We can learn from it and get better. We know we’re improving, we’re just not ready to beat Siena yet.”
“This year, we’re winning, so we’re trying to keep it together and not let this loss mess us up for the whole season,” the Peacocks’ Wesley Jenkins said.
In an entertaining first half that featured 13 lead changes and three ties, Siena took a 33-31 lead on a floating baseline drive that rattled through for Moore just before the buzzer.
Rossiter scored 14 points in the half on 7-for-11 shooting, and he and Jackson picked up the slack after Franklin left the game at 10:21 holding his left shoulder.
He got it iced and massaged on the sideline, and returned with 4:44 left in the half.
There were a total of 19 lead changes in the game.
Siena’s biggest lead was 56-48 with 8:41 to play, but Steven Samuels hit back-to-back threes to get the Peacocks back in it.
Rossiter 9-15 3-3 21, Wignot 1-4 0-0 2, Franklin 4-11 1-5 9, Jackson 4-11 7-10 15, Moore 4-14 2-2 10, Anosike 3-5 0-0 6, Griffin 1-3 0-0 3, Breeden 0-0 0-0 0, Priestley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-63 13-20 66.
SAINT PETER’S (58)
Bacon 5-8 1-2 11, Conley 3-7 2-5 8, Samuels 3-4 0-0 8, Jenkins 5-15 0-1 13, Leon 5-13 0-0 12, Raymond 0-3 0-0 0, Belin 3-7 0-0 6, Hall 0-0 0-0 0, Costner 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 24-59 3-8 58.
Halftime: Siena 33, Saint Peter’s 31. Three-point goals: Siena 1-10 (Wignot 0-1, Jackson 0-4, Moore 0-3, Griffin 1-2); Saint Peter’s 7-14 (Samuels 2-2, Jenkins 3-6, Leon 2-4, Belin 0-2). Rebounds: Siena 38 (Franklin 10); Saint Peter’s 37 (Bacon 15). Assists:
Siena 11 (Moore 9); Saint Peter’s 13 (Bacon, Leon 3). Total fouls: Siena 11; Saint Peter’s 17. Attendance: 1,609.
Categories: College Sports