Coming off the program’s first win over a team from a Power 5 conference in eight years on Thursday, Siena men’s basketball headed to halftime on Friday in prime position to pull off the feat again.
This time around, the second 20 minutes didn’t go the Saints’ way.
Mississippi was red hot from the field after halftime, making 14 of its first 17 shots and shooting 62.1% from the floor in the second half, turning back a career-high 24 points from Siena’s Javian McCollum and pulling away for a 74-62 win in the semifinals of the ESPN Events Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
“Those first four minutes [of a half] are really important,” McCollum said during Siena’s post-game press conference. “We’ve got to capitalize with the same intensity we came out with in the first half.”
Siena (3-3 overall) was coming off an 80-63 victory over Florida State of the ACC in the opening round of the tournament on Thursday, the Saints’ first win over a team from a power conference since beating Penn State in the quarterfinals of the 2014 College Basketball Invitational.
“We’ve got to make sure at the start of halves, the first four minutes are imperative for us to win,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said. “We were slow out of the gate against Florida State, and then obviously we were slow out of the gate in the second half here against Ole Miss. We have to really correct that problem, sooner rather than later.”
Maciariello’s team spent Friday’s first half looking like they were ready to pull off another upset, leading 27-26 after an entertaining, back-and-forth first half, but the Saints’ undefeated SEC foe poured it on after intermission.
Ole Miss (6-0 overall) scored the first five points of the second half to take the lead for good, kicking off a torrid shooting streak that saw the Rebels lead by as many as 14 points after a Theo Akwuba free throw made it 61-47 with 8:22 to play.
Siena responded to that with a 9-0 run to get back within five, but dunks by Matthew Murrell and Myles Burns, sandwiched around a layup by Amaree Abram, extended the Ole Miss lead to 11 with 2:30 to play, and Siena never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
The loss soured a career-best performance from McCollum, as the sophomore point guard put up a career-high 24 points on 9 of 17 shooting from the floor, and his eight assists matched the career-high total he notched against Florida State 24 hours earlier.
“It’s been nice to see him take the coaching and understanding what’s asked of him and what’s needed to be done,” Maciariello said.
Jackson Stormo scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half for the Saints, and Jared Billup scored 11, but Andrew Platek was limited to four points on 2 of 7 shooting a day after his career-high 20 points against Florida State.
Siena also committed 17 turnovers and was outrebounded 36-27.
“I just think we made fatigue mistakes,” Maciariello said. “We made tired turnovers. When Javian gives the ball up, other guys aren’t exactly sure where to go with the ball, as opposed to knowing we want to attack the paint.”
Abram scored 19 points on 6 of 8 shooting for Ole Miss, Jaemyn Brakefield added 17 points and Murrell scored 14.
Siena will wrap up play in the ESPN Events Invitational in the third-place game on Sunday at 5 p.m. against Seton Hall, which lost to Oklahoma 77-64 in the other semifinal.
“There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Maciariello said.