Saints let Rossiter take over, rally to defeat Iona

There’s a movement afoot to tab Siena’s Ryan Rossiter with the Transformers nickname “Megatron,” in
PHOTOGRAPHER:

There’s a movement afoot to tab Siena’s Ryan Rossiter with the Transformers nickname “Megatron,” in counterbalance to that of his Iona rival, Mike “Opt­imus Prime” Glover.

“Terminator” was more ap­propriate on Tuesday night.

Rossiter scored seven points in the final 1:42 as the Saints overcame a 14-point deficit midway through the first half and pulled out a 73-67 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference victory over the Gaels at the Times Union Center.

Not only did Rossiter, who finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds, get the upper hand over Glover, but Siena (2-1 MAAC, 5-8 overall) kept its name in the conversation as a MAAC contender. Iona fell to 2-1 and 8-6.

“The Georgia Tech win was good, but it was an out-of-conference win, and you have to produce in conference,” Rossiter said. “Iona was probably the hottest team, outside of Fairfield, so it was a good win to show people we’re not just going to be walked over.”

“It was a great win against a quality team, and establishes ourselves again in the league as a team to be reckoned with,” Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said.

Glover, a 6-foot-7 junior power forward who is leading the MAAC in scoring and is second to Rossiter in rebounding, had 18 points and eight rebounds. He didn’t miss a shot, but took just seven in the game and was a non-factor in the closing minutes.

There were eight lead changes in the final 7:03, the last coming with 49.3 seconds left on a dif­ficult runner to the left that Rossiter banked in, drawing a foul by Alejo Rod­riguez.

His free throw gave the Saints a 69-67 lead, and after Iona point guard Scott Machado (21 points) missed a three-pointer that Rossiter rebounded, sophomore guard Jon Breeden made two free throws to give the Saints a 71-67 lead with 23.0 seconds left.

With three fouls to give before Iona was in the bonus, Siena used them to kill almost eight seconds, and the Gaels’ Jermel Jenkins missed a drive rebounded by Rossiter. He made both ends of the one-and-one with 10.5 seconds left to complete the victory.

“Ryan Rossiter took the game over, which he’s done most of the year,” Buonaguro said.

“We didn’t defend him the way we had practiced defending him. We had a lot of breakdowns, but I give him credit for making big plays when they needed them,” Iona head coach Tim Cluess said. “He’s a fundamentally sound kid, he doesn’t do anything fancy, but he works every possession and he knows how to get himself open.”

“We called a play, and we didn’t execute it,” Rossiter said of the three-point play. “I caught the ball with 10 seconds [on the shot clock], and I didn’t want to just drive and throw it to someone and put them in a bad position with four or five seconds, so I tried to make a play. I drove left, and once I got past the defender on the wing, I knew I’d be able to get a good look. I was fortunate enough to have it go in and got the foul.”

Junior small forward Owen Wignot contributed in several areas, most notably starting the fast break off defensive rebounds, which was a big part of the Saints’ first-half comeback as well as their ability to outscore Iona in the second half, 42-33.

He had nine points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

“He was live,” Buonaguro said. “He’s one of those kids that you’ve got to appreciate more as kind of a glue guy. He does a lot of stuff that doesn’t get noticed. He doesn’t do the glamor stuff, but he does a lot of little things that help you win.”

“Coach B talked about being more aggressive, getting the ball, turning and attacking,” Wignot said. “I thought we really did that tonight. They kind of jumped us early, but we kept grinding it out, going two by two. We were right back in it by halftime.”

Siena made just four of its first 21 shots, and the Gaels took a 26-12 lead with 10:16 left in the first half on two free throws at the end of a 12-0 run.

After Glover made a tough scoop shot to give Iona a 32-19 lead, Siena outscored the Gaels, 12-2, the rest of the half to pull within 34-31.

Wignot made two free throws, then assisted a basket inside by Kyle Downey and a layup in transition by Rossiter.

Point guard Rakeem Brookins finished a fast break started by Wignot’s defensive rebound, and Rossiter scored in transition on a pass from Brookins to make it 34-31.

“We were a little hesitant early figuring out their zone. We were a little too passive and didn’t have good shot selection,” Rossiter said. “Once we were more assertive and took it to them, I think that cleared it up for us.”

Siena’s zone defense, meanwhile, limited Glover’s impact late in the game and forced Iona to take 31 three-point attempts, of which they made seven.

The Saints never lost sight of the dangerous Kyle Smyth, who came into the game having made 44 percent of his threes, and was held to 1-for-6 from behind the arc.

“[Walk-on] Conner Fenlon was probably the best Kyle Smyth I’ve ever seen in practice,” Rossiter said. “He really murdered us.”

“He [Glover] needs to get it more, but they did a great job of concentrating on him, throwing a second guy at him all the time,” Cluess said. “Our guards have to knock down some shots.”

“Early in the game, he [Glover] was dominating,” Buonaguro said. “What we did, the zone was taking him out of the game. We would have trouble beating that team man-to-man, I really believe that. We just don’t have the matchups. But the zone neutralized him. I think what happened was he started standing around, and he’s an active player.”

“They were ready to be beaten tonight, especially the way the game started. Credit to them, they fought back, but that’s what teams that have been there and have won do. They don’t fold when they get down by 14. Our guys still have to get to the point where they believe they can win these games.”

NOTEBOOK

It was the 1,000th win of Siena’s basketball program; Iona has 999. . . .

Albany Academy graduate Chris Pelcher played seven minutes off the bench for Iona and had two points, two rebounds, a block and a steal.

IONA (67)

Glover 7-7 4-4 18, Rodriguez 2-3 2-2 6, Machado 9-20 1-3 21, Dwight 2-7 1-2 7, Smyth 2-7 0-0 5, Jenkins 2-8 0-0 5, Fields

0-2 0-0 0, Armand 1-5 0-0 3, Pelcher 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 26-61 8-11 67.

SIENA (73)

Anosike 2-3 2-2 6, Wignot 2-7 2-2 8, Rossiter 9-17 8-8 26, Downey 4-9 0-0 9, Brookins 5-13 0-0 11, Walters 0-1 1-2 1, Burdine 0-1 0-0 0, Martens 3-4 2-2 8, Breeden 1-7 2-2 4.

Totals: 26-62 17-18 73.

Halftime: Iona 34, Siena 31. Three-point goals: Iona 7-31 (Machado 2-9, Dwight 2-4, Smyth 1-6, Jenkins 1-5, Fields 0-2, Armand 1-5); Siena 4-12 (Wignot 2-5, Downey

1-2, Brookins 1-4, Breeden 0-1). Rebounds: Iona 31 (Glover 8); Siena 40 (Rossiter 15). Assists: Iona 13 (Machado 7); Siena 13 (Wignot 5). Total fouls: Iona 15; Siena 12. Attendance: 5,850.

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