For a team that had been chugging along on level ground for 10 games, the Siena Saints have experienced the view from the mountaintop followed by a precipitous drop in their last two games.
After playing mostly close games against the first 10 opponents on its schedule, Siena has seen a blowout in each direction since New Year’s Eve, when the Saints crushed Dartmouth, 89-54.
That was followed by a 102-58 loss at Memphis on Thursday, one of the worst losses in program history.
Memphis, ranked No. 2 in the country and widely considered the team to beat for the national championship, is simply in a different category than Siena, so head coach Fran McCaffery doesn’t believe his team will bear a psychological hangover from that game when the Saints begin the bulk of their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule at 6 tonight against Saint Peter’s at the Times Union Center.
“I don’t worry about that. They’ll rebound from it,” McCaffery said.
Siena only trailed Memphis by 10 points with four minutes left in the first half, but the Tigers turned on the jets and took a 25-point halftime lead, and that was it.
Picking through the rubble of the 44-point loss, McCaffery was encouraged by the play of some of his big men, an important development since leading rebounder Alex Franklin is not expected to play against Saint Peter’s,
his fourth straight game out of
uniform after injuring his back in the Dec. 22 overtime victory over Holy Cross.
He did not make the trip to Memphis.
Freshman forward Ryan Rossiter started his second straight game, and although he wasn’t much of a factor, little-used Steve Priestley had five points and four rebounds before fouling out in the second half, and sophomore Cory Magee, replaced by Rossiter in the starting lineup after starting the first 10 games, had 10 rebounds.
The overall result of the game may have been dismal, but there were some good signs as the Saints jump into their MAAC schedule in earnest.
“I think we have to look at that game on an individual basis,” McCaffery said. “From that standpoint, Steven Priestley, had a good game, which is great for a guy who hasn’t
played much. Cory Magee had 10 rebounds, and Tay Fisher scored 14 points in the second half.
“In the first half, we only had three guys score, then in the second half, Tay Fisher got hot.”
Fisher, the only senior on the roster, has been on fire from three-point range.
Throw out an 0-for-2 in the Holy Cross victory, and he is 17-for-28 (60.7 percent) in the other five games since Dec. 9.
His 3-for-6 against Memphis makes him 27-for-56 (48.2 percent) for the season, and Edwin Ubiles is also hitting a high percentage of his three-pointers, 13-for-26.
He and Kenny Hasbrouck, who scored 18 points against the Tigers, are 1-2 in scoring for the Saints, at 16.8 and 16.2 points per game, respectively.
McCaffery assembled an extremely difficult non-conference schedule to get ready for the MAAC, and Siena seems none the worse for the wear, as long as the Saints get Franklin back soon.
“Now we have some sense of the schedule, that it’ll be all conference games except the BracketBuster, and you can start preparing for teams that you know,” McCaffery said. “Of course, we all know each other, which presents a whole new challenge.”
Siena swept the season series with the Peacocks in 2006-07,
66-50 and 82-65.
Saint Peter’s is 1-2 in the MAAC and 4-9 overall after beating Canisius Friday night, 65-54, on the heels of a five-point loss at Providence and an overtime loss to Fairfield.
Todd Sowell, a 6-foot-7,
250-pound senior from Bishop Loughlin High in Brooklyn, leads the Peacocks in scoring (13.2) and rebounding (11.4).
women also on schedule
The Siena men’s game will be the second half of a double-header that will begin at 3 with the Siena and Canisius women squaring off.
The Saints (0-2, 4-8), who have lost four straight, beat the Golden Griffins (1-1, 6-7) twice last season, including a 59-58 victory in Buffalo in which Laura Menty made a layup at the buzzer to snap a 13-game road losing streak.
Menty, averaging a MAAC-leading 19.3 ppg, needs 10 points to move into eighth place on Siena’s all-time scoring list.