ALBANY — The supply chain suffered no cutoff in the harried final minutes between Siena and Harvard on Monday night.
The Crimson supplied the 3-pointers, and the Saints produced just enough free throws in response to hang on for a 72-69 non-conference men’s college basketball victory before 4,673 at Times Union Center.
Siena (1-4) survived when a 3-pointer from the right wing by Luka Sakota, who had made two from behind the arc in the previous 10 seconds, banged off the rim at the buzzer.
The Saints appeared to have found a comfort zone when Colby Rogers gave them the biggest lead for either team with 1:05 to play, putting Siena up 65-55. Rogers made 3 of 4 free throws in the final 11 seconds to produce the final margin.
It wasn’t the smoothest of endings, but that didn’t matter much to a team that had lost its first four games by an average of 23.5 points.
“I think this is a step in the right direction,” Rogers said. “We capitalized off how well we played against Georgetown and came out today and executed, defended well enough and we stuck it out and got a win.”
“I think we needed this one,” guard Andrew Platek said. “You want to win every game, but obviously that’s usually not going to happen. We go out there expecting to win every game, so we’ve got to stick with it, stay with the game plan, and we’ll get some more wins, for sure.”
For Platek, it was his first home game since transferring to Siena after four seasons at North Carolina, and an echo to his final game for Guilderland High School, where he starred for three seasons before transferring to a prep school. Platek and the Dutchmen lost to Shenendehowa and Kevin Huerter, now with the Atlanta Hawks, in the 2015 Section II Class AA championship game at Times Union Center.
“Against Kev, yeah,” he said with a chuckle. “The lights are brighter, but that’s about it.”
Platek played 17 minutes off the bench and made two free throws with 55 seconds left to give Siena a 67-58 lead.
The Crimson (3-2) wouldn’t go away from there.
Chris Ledlum hit a three to cut it to 67-63 with 25 seconds left, answered by two free throws from Anthony Gaines with 20 seconds left.
Sakota hit a three with 12 seconds left to make it 69-66, followed by two free throws from Rogers. Harvard got within 71-69 on a Sakota three with six seconds left, and Rogers found himself at the line again with :03 on the clock.
His first of two free throws bounced off the rim, but he made the second, and Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello chose not to call timeout, knowing his Harvard counterpoint, Tommy Amaker, was out of timeouts.
On the long inbounds pass, Gaines leapt and got a swipe at the ball for a potential steal, but it deflected to to Sakota on the right wing.
“He [Amaker] didn’t have any timeouts left, so I could’ve used a timeout to set my defense; I didn’t want him to draw something up,” Maciariello said. “We did show these guys, too, what they did late-game against Iona, when they were down three and drove the ball, and everybody collapsed, and they hit the game-tying shot.
“We never hit the panic button.”
“He [Sakota] hit some tough shots,” Siena guard Nick Hopkins said. “That’s part of the game. We’ve got to close out a little bit better, but he hit some tough shots.”
“The biggest thing was the next play,” Rogers said. “We still have to take the ball out, we still have to get the ball in, still have to be strong. So that was in my head. He made the shot, get the ball in, make free throws and close the game out.”
Hopkins finished with 16 points, tying a single-game career high, and had the hot hand with under nine minutes to play.
He hit a three to tie it at 47-47, then scored eight straight points for Siena for a 57-53 lead, the first set up by a blocked shot at the other end by freshman Jared Billups, and the second on a kickout from center Jackson Stormo.
Javian McCollum was another Siena freshman who came up big down the stretch, hitting a jumper for a 59-54 lead and a 3 to put the Saints up 62-55, just before Rogers’ big triple at 1:05.
Rogers finished with 15 points, and McCollum scored 10. Sakota, a 46% three-pointer in the Crimson’s first four games, led Harvard with 19 points, six of which came in the final 12 seconds.
“We got up 10 and kind of relaxed,” Maciariello said. “That team’s not going to roll over. We need to grow that mindset and continue to execute.
“We executed when we wanted to get the ball to Platek. He made the front end of the 1-and-1, which was big. We’ve got to continue to work on some late-game things where we’re not even allowing those threes. But we’ll take these teaching moments in a win over a loss any day of the week.”