Friday was a photo negative of Tuesday for Siena.
Three days after getting run off the Madison Square Garden floor by Iona, the Saints used stifling defense and torrid shooting to beat the other Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leader, Fairfield, 73-60, before 6,765 at the Times Union Center.
Siena (1-3, 6-8) got its first MAAC win of the season and gave the Stags (3-1, 8-7) their first loss.
The Saints doggedly stuck to the zone defense they’ve used all year — the same one that surrendered 17 three-pointers and 95 points to the Gaels — and held Fairfield to 29 percent from the field, the lowest field-goal percentage by a Siena opponent in 229 games dating back to a game on Dec. 11, 2004 against Iona.
Siena made 63.4 percent of its shots, its best number in that department since 65.2 at Tennessee State in 2009, 75 games ago.
Clearly, there was no hangover from the 36-point embarassment in New York on Tuesday.
“It just kind of shows our resiliency,” senior guard Kyle Downey said. “We put Iona in the past. We had an ‘off’ night; they had an ‘on’ night. This win shows we can compete with anyone in the league.”
“We couldn’t get discouraged by what Iona did to our zone the other night,” junior forward OD Anosike said. “We’re going to stick to it all year, because, quite frankly, it’s been working for us all year. It got them out of rhythm, and we were able to rebound out of it and run out of it.”
After a scoreless first half, Anosike went to work early in the second half and finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds, his 10th straight double-double, which is the longest active streak in the country.
Again, the depleted Saints played just six players, and five of them scored in double figures, led by Downey with 19.
Freshman Rob Poole made four of five three-pointers for 13 points, the best scoring night of his season, and Owen Wignot had 12 points and eight rebounds.
In more up-is-down, down-is-up, freshman point guard Evan Hymes, Siena’s leading scorer, was held to 10 points, but he did an admirable job bringing the ball up against the pressure of Fairfield, the leading defensive scoring team in the MAAC.
Besides junior guard Desmond Wade, who surpassed his career single-game high by halftime, with 16 of his 27 points, Fairfield got virtually no production from its starting five.
Derek Needham, Maurice Barrow, Ryan Olander and leading scorer Rakim Sanders (16.9 ppg) were a combined 7-41 (17 percent) from the field.The Saints were so efficient at both ends of the court, they won by 13, despite taking 28 fewer shots.
“We could not have played any better,” head coach Mitch Buonaguro said.
“I have to say I’m pretty crushed right now,” Fairfield head coach Sydney Johnson said. “Mitch had his guys ready to play, and we were humbled tonight. I don’t know if they can play better, given the situation they’re in.”
Siena had a slim lead at halftime, 32-30, but a subtle shift was on the horizon, a product of the Saints having made six of nine threes.
The Stags hedged toward Siena’s outside shooters to start the second half, opening things up for Anosike inside.
He scored 11 points in the first 8:31 to propel Siena to a 49-42 lead.
“We featured Anosike in the first half,” Johnson said. “We were very attentive to him, they passed it out and made every shot. Then we said, ‘OK, let’s get a little closer to the shooters,’ and he went to work. They played flawless.”
“It was a combination of different things,” Anosike said. “With Downey and Owen hitting shots, they had to kind of stay home on them and went single coverage on me to open the second half. I was able to make some quick moves, get to my spots, elevate and finish.”
Siena began to pull away with a 10-3 run for a 63-49 lead, capped by Wignot’s hard drive to the basket with 6:33 left.
Things got a bit nerve-racking for Siena when Anosike picked up his fourth foul with 4:48 left, but Poole hit a crushing three-pointer from the right corner for a 66-52 lead.
“Owen threw it to me, and I knew Needham was coming out. I caught it, just let it go and luckily, it went in,” Poole said.
“It was huge,” Anosike said. “I skipped it out, it skipped over to Poole in the corner, he was wide open, stepped into it, didn’t hesitate, basically everything we were preaching to him all year.”
The Stags began to foul, and Siena made just enough free throws, including 2-for-2 by the 49.2-percent shooter Anosike with 2:39 left, to maintain a comfortable lead.
He fouled out with 2:09 left.
Barrow 2-11 0-0 4, Sanders 1-10 0-4 2, Olander 2-11 3-4 8, Needham 2-9 0-1 6, Wade 9-15 2-2 27, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Crawford 2-6 0-0 6, Martin 0-1 0-0 0,Fields 2-5 24 7, Nickerson 0-0 0-0 0, Matthews 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-69 7-15 60.
Anosike 5-6 3-6 13, Wignot 3-4 5-6 12, Walters 3-5 0-0 6, Downey 7-13 3-4 19, Hymes 4-8 1-2 10, Poole 4-5 1-2 13. Totals: 26-41 13-20 73.
Halftime: Siena 32, Fairfield 30. Three-point goals: Fairfield 13-29 (Sanders 0-4, Olander 1-2, Needham 2-5, Wade 7-11, Crawford 2-4, Fields 1-3); Siena 8-13 (Wignot 1-1, Downey 2-5, Hymes 1-2, Poole 4-5). Rebounds: Fairfield 33 (Sanders, Olander 9); Siena 37 (Anosike 15). Assists: Fairfield 16 (Needham 5); Siena 14 (Downey 5). Total fouls: Fairfield 20; Siena 14. Fouled out: Anosike, Olander. Attendance: 6,765.
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Categories: College Sports