It was messy, it was bizarre, but the Siena men’s basketball team walked off the floor Sunday at Alumni Gymnasium in Lawrenceville, New Jersey with a win, and that’s really all that mattered.
Less than 48 hours after a court-storming celebration following their late-night Friday win over Iona at MVP Arena in Albany, Siena was back in action Sunday on the road against Rider. The Saints had to navigate through a stretch run that saw both teams make multiple confounding errors, but it was ultimately Siena that came out on top after a pair of Anthony Gaines free throws with 6.1 seconds left in overtime lifted the Saints to a 76-75 MAAC win.
“At the end of the day, we found a way to win on the road,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said in a video clip shared after the win on the team’s social-media account. “That’s what MAAC basketball’s about. I love the resolve in these guys. I love the growth this team has shown and continues to show, especially after a win on Friday night where you play at 9 o’clock on national TV. We were able to come here . . . and get the job done.”
Gaines’ game-winning free throws capped off an afternoon that saw him lead Siena (9-4 MAAC, 12-9 overall) with 17 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Three other Saints finished in double figures, with Colby Rogers and Jared Billup scoring 13 apiece — Billups completed a double-double with 10 rebounds — and Jackson Stormo scoring 10.
The final 45 seconds of regulation saw a roller coaster of mistakes and missed opportunities on both ends.
With Siena trailing 71-67 after a jumper by Rider’s Allen Powell, Billups was fouled with 36 seconds left and made 1 of 2 free throws to make it a three-point game.
On the ensuing inbounds pass, Rider’s Dwight Murray Jr. threw the ball away and Siena’s Jordan Kellier found Gaines for a layup to make it a 71-70 game.
Following an intentional foul by Billups, the next mental mistake came from Rider, which turned the ball over on an illegal inbounds play.
With a chance to take the lead, it was Siena’s turn for a major gaffe. After the ball moved to Rogers, the junior was trapped in the corner and called for a timeout — except, the Saints didn’t have any left, resulting in a technical foul.
But, Powell made only 1 of 2 at the line, then Rider’s Corey McKeithan was fouled and missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Billups was fouled with 11 seconds left and made both free throws to tie things at 72-72, with a missed jumper at the buzzer by Murray sending the game to overtime.
“I thought our ‘next play’ mentality really helped us,” Maciariello said.
The game’s strangeness didn’t end with regulation.
With Siena up 74-72 in overtime, Billups was fouled and headed to the line for a 1-and-1. When he missed the front end, both teams reacted as if Billups still had another shot to come, with Rider’s Dimencio Vaughn tapping the ball out-of-bounds to a referee — which resulted in Siena getting an extra possession.
Siena was unable to add to its lead as Rogers missed a jumper, and Rider took a 75-74 lead on its next trip down the floor when Nehemiah Benson — who entered the game when Vaughn was subbed out following his error — got a 3-pointer to rattle home with 3:10 to play.
Neither team scored again until Gaines’ decisive free throws, which came after Javian McCollum drew a charge on Benson with 19 seconds left to get Siena the ball back. Gaines was then fouled by Vaughn while going up for a layup, and knocked down both of his free throws to put Siena in front.
Jeremiah Pope’s last-second 3 was off the mark, securing Siena’s win.
“It wasn’t pretty, there were some mistakes,” Maciariello said. “We were able to fight through it and win the game. That’s what this team is about.”
The back-and-forth game saw Siena lead by as many as 10 in the first half when McCollum’s 3 capped off an 11-0 Saints run that made it 19-9.
Rider scored the next seven points to pull within 19-16, and the two teams were within five points of each other for the final 30:06 of regulation and the entirety of overtime.
Mervin James led Rider (6-8, 10-14) with 15 points before fouling out. Powell added 14 points and Benson scored 12, with Murray and Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson scoring 10 each.
Siena’s win avenged a 74-60 loss to Rider nine days earlier in Albany. The Saints have won three straight and six of their last seven, and now sit in a tie for second place in the MAAC with Saint Peter’s. Those two teams meet this coming Sunday in Albany, two days after the Saints host Marist at MVP Arena.