Siena vs. Minnesota: Sampson, Iverson an imposing pair

The Twin Cities pose double trouble for the Siena Saints tonight.

The Twin Cities pose double trouble for the Siena Saints tonight.

Siena won’t have any time to lick its wounds from Saturday’s season-opening 80-76 loss to Vermont at home, as they’ll play at the University of Minnesota at 9 tonight in a game to be broadcast on ESPNU.

The Golden Gophers, coached by Tubby Smith, are one of the top teams among those also receiving votes in the preseason national rankings.

Not only does Minnesota present an imposing challenge as one of the top teams in the country, but the Golden Gophers also boast two big men who serve as an echo to the Twin Towers duo of Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets team that lost the 1986 NBA championship to the Boston Celtics.

Sampson’s son, Ralph Sampson III, is a 6-foot-11, 241-pound junior for the Gophers, and he’s paired with 6-11, 258-pound junior Colton Iverson.

Siena senior center Ryan Rossiter won’t have much time to recuperate from his 27-point, 10-rebound performance that almost brought Siena back to victory against Vermont.

Siena flew to Minneapolis early Sunday morning, and was scheduled for a light walkthrough Sunday night.

“It’s only going to make you stronger, mentally and physically. We just have to go out there and play like we did in the last 10 minutes [against Vermont],” Rossiter said.

“They’ve got some NBA prospects. Sampson’s a great player, Iverson’s a beast down low. Vermont was actually pretty big, but Minnesota is big, too, and it’s a good learning curve to go from Vermont to Minnesota.”

“To play them the second game of the year with still a lot of question marks, it’s a tough game,” Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro said. “I’d much rather have an easier game, especially a day after Vermont.”

Minnesota will be without Devoe Joseph, the Gophers’ leading assist man and fourth-leading scorer last year. He’s suspended indefinitely for breaking team rules.

The Gophers are coming off a 69-55 home win over Wofford at 14,625-seat Williams Arena in which Sampson was 7-for-14 for 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Siena would have had dif­ficulty with this opponent, even if the Saints had had weeks to prepare, but they’ll have to settle for a quick turnover and a relatively long trip.

“We’ve got to try to figure it out,” Buonaguro said. “We have an idea of how to play them, but the one day, flying out there, Rossiter’s tired right now, so we’ve got to go easy [Sunday], fly out there, have a pretty solid walkthrough, and then play the game and see what happens.”

It will help Siena’s cause if senior shooting guard Clarence Jackson can shake off a 4-for-16 shooting night against Vermont, but he was rusty to begin with because of preseason injuries, and that list got longer on Saturday when Jackson jammed his non-shooting thumb for the second day in a row.

He wore a heavy wrap on it during the second half, and had a new wrap on it after the game.

“I took the wrap off, and it really swelled up,” he said. “I hope it’s just a strained ligament. It’s obviously annoying, having all these injuries, but that’s part of basketball. I just have to play through it. My team needs me.”

Perhaps the brightest spot for Siena was the play of freshman point guard Rakeem Brookins, who played most of the second half and was instrumental in the Saints’ comeback attempt from a 58-43 deficit with 8:27 left.

Categories: College Sports

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