Siena’s run screeches to a halt

Niagara attacked the rim as if it was the zero in Siena’s conference record. It’s a zero no more, cr
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Niagara attacked the rim as if it was the zero in Siena’s conference record.

It’s a zero no more, crumbled by an 87-74 loss to the Purple Eagles before a packed house of 2,310 Friday night at the Gallagher Center.

The Purple Eagles shared the ball and set each other up for repeated dunks and kickouts for three-pointers, and ran the Saints off the floor in the second half to hand Siena its first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference loss of the season.

The Saints, who had already clinched the top seed in the MAAC Tournament, fell to 14-1 in the conference and 21-5 overall, and had their nation-leading winning streak stopped at 15 games.

“We didn’t even put too much emphasis on that to begin with,” said junior center Ryan Rossiter, who had his 10th double-double in the last 11 games with 23 points and 12 rebounds. “Obviously, it’s good to win, but we never talked about, let’s take it [winning streak] to 16, we just took it game by game.”

“I think this loss will wake us up a little bit, and we just have to prepare for the next game and try not to let it happen again,” senior small foward Edwin Ubiles said.

“I don’t think it was a letdown,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We expected a phenomenal effort, which is exactly what we got.”

The Saints might not have focused their attention on such ancillary matters as a winning streak and a potentially undefeated conference season, but the Purple Eagles (7-8, 14-13) sure did.

Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich said this was a breakthrough win for the Purple Eagles, who muddled through injuries to some of their top players early in the season, but could be finding their stride at the right time of year, and were extra-motivated to face the Saints and their gaudy won-lost record on their home floor.

“Of course. I mean, c’mon. We’re one big win away from feeling like we’re in the picture here,” Mihalich said. “And we just got it. And I think the whole league feels that way, too.”

The Saints uncharacteristically committed 16 turnovers against 11 assists, committed 11 fouls in the first half, and had a whopping 24 offensive rebounds, but only outscored Niagara on second-chance points by 26-25.

Many of the Purple Eagles’ points in that department came by way of the dunk, as they soared in for missed shots and shoved them back in the Saints’ faces.

The Saints led by nine in the first half and were up, 50-46, in the early stages of the second when Niagara made its big push.

Tyrone Lewis, who made four of seven three-pointers and scored 24 points, started a 24-3 run with a three, and the Purple Eagles had a stretch of 10 straight possessions in which they were able to score nine times.

The Saints, meanwhile, managed just three free throws during the crucial run.

Austin Cooley made a three to put the Purple Eagles up by 10, 63-53, with 12:06 left, and Demetrius Will­iamson made another three to give Niagara a 70-53 lead with 9:58 left.

The Purple Eagles didn’t let up, continuing to work it around for dunks.

“I think it’s pretty simple. We just got outplayed, from start to finish, in pretty much all facets of the game,” McCaffery said. “A decent portion of the game, I thought we tried to battle and hang in there, but . . . turn it over 16 times, that’s not like us, nine offensive rebounds for one player, that’s not like us. Our defensive focus and concentration wasn’t what it needed to be to beat a team of this caliber, and they executed well.

“Sure, they made a lot of threes, but a lot of what they got was off penetration. We didn’t keep anybody in front of us. Their effort level was excellent, which we knew it would be.”

“We were very slow on defense, if we even rotated at all,” Rossiter said. “It was really about effort tonight. We came with effort, but too late. They outhustled and really just outplayed us.”

“They’re always aggressive and put pressure on the ball, but we’re not usually a turnover team,” Ubiles said. “We made some bad decisions tonight, some uncharacteristic plays during the flow of the game. I’m pretty sure everybody wishes they could take some of the things they did back, but it happens sometimes that way.”

The Saints, averaging just under 14 fouls per game, committed 11 in the first half alone, and starters Alex Franklin, Rossiter and Clarence Jackson had two each.

Siena, which was also hurt by 11 turnovers, dominated the offensive glass, but didn’t capitalize as much as they might have, scoring just 15 second-chance points off a whopping 16 offensive rebounds.

Still, the Saints led by nine, 35-26, after 6-foot-8 freshman O.D. Anosike scored six points during an 8-0 run.

SIENA (74)

Rossiter 8-17 7-10 23, Franklin 2-8 5-8 9, Jackson 3-8 0-0 6, Ubiles 6-15 0-1 12, Moore 3-6 0-0 7, Anosike 3-4 0-0 6, Griffin 3-7 0-0 8, Martens 0-1 0-0 0, Wignot 1-2 0-0 3, Breeden 0-1 0-0 0, Priestley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 29-69 12-19 74.

NIAGARA (87)

Williamson 3-8 0-0 7, Edwards 9-14 2-2 20, Lewis 7-13 0-0 15, Benn 7-13 0-0 15, Nelson 3-5 1-6 7, Garrison 2-4 5-5 9, Cooley 2-3 0-0 5, Gillette 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-1 0-0 0. otals: 33-61 14-19 87.

Halftime: Niagara 39, Siena 37. Three-point goals: Siena 4-17 (Rossiter 0-1, Jackson 0-4, Ubiles 0-3, Moore 1-2, Griffin 2-6, Wignot 1-1); Niagara 7-21 (Williamson 1-5, Lewis 4-7, Benn 1-4, Nelson 0-2, Garrison 0-1, Cooley 1-2). Rebounds: Siena 39 (Rossiter 12); Niagara 35 (Benn 11). Assists: Siena 11 (Moore 6); Niagara 22 (Willoamson, Nelson 6). Total fouls: Siena 20; Niagara 16. Technical foul: Niagara bench. Attendance: 2,130.

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