ALBANY — Siena spread the wealth of minutes on Monday, and they protected the ball like it was a gold nugget.
No one played more than 29 minutes, 10 players were in for at least 13 minutes and at the end of the game, the Saints had four freshmen and senior Tay Fisher on the floor.
A big lead early gave head coach Fran McCaffery a chance to use his bench at will, and he did so in a 77-49 victory over Canisius at the Times Union Center.
Freshman point guard Chris De La Rosa had, by far, his best game of the season, making all four of his shots for 10 points, five assists and three steals against one of Siena’s four total turnovers, and starting small forward Edwin Ubiles scored 20 points in 29 minutes, giving him double-digit scoring in all 18 games this season.
“I think we have guys coming off the bench and playing great,” Ubiles said. “The other thing is the defense has been great, especially early in games, which is key. We’re not scoring back and forth, and trading baskets. We’re getting after them, and keep going.”
Siena improved to 7-1 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and 12-6 overall against the last-place team in the conference. McCaffery made sure his team didn’t take the Golden Griffins lightly, after Canisius (1-7, 3-15) beat Niagara on Friday. Motivation wasn’t a problem.
“It was pretty easy, with what happened on Friday,” McCaffery said.
“They showed that they can play with anybody in the league,” said center Cory Magee, who was a starter at the beginning of the season, but has come off the bench for the last eight. “We knew we couldn’t quick-shoot the ball, because that’s what they got Niagara to do, and that’s how they beat Niagara.”
It was close until a 10-0 run by Siena midway through the first half put the Saints ahead, 25-14.
Kenny Hasbrouck hit a three, Magee had back-to-back tip-ins and freshman Clarence Jackson made a difficult hanger in the lane off a feed from De La Rosa, who started the fast break with a steal.
Ubiles hit a three-pointer, and freshman center Ryan Rossiter finished a three-point play in the closing moments of the first half to give the Saints a 42-26 lead.
“Cory had a couple of big tips when we weren’t getting any offensive rebounds,” McCaffery said.
“I like coming off the bench,” Magee said. “When I was starting, for example, the Syracuse game, I had to guard this big beast [Arinze Onuaku], and I think it got me out of my rebounding game, because I’m so worried about keeping this guy off the glass early in the game, I don’t just go get it. Now, I think I come in and say, ‘Whatever happens, happens, just go get the ball, play hard, try to dunk on somebody,’ and I think that’s what this team needs me to do. I’m more than willing to do that.”
De La Rosa, Ronald Moore’s backup all season, has had sporadic playing time as he adjusts to the college game.
He played nine minutes in the first half on Monday, and most of the second half.
He capped the scoring by making a fadeaway three-pointer with three seconds on the shot clock.
“For any freshman, you need the ability to stay out there,” McCaffery said. “It was hardest thing for [Ryan] Rossiter in the beginning, and it’s the hardest thing for Chris and Clarence [Jackson]. Make a bonehead play, stay on the floor, kick it off your foot, miss a shot, forget where to line up, run the wrong play, but just play through it. It was hard for him. He’s used to having the ball, and playing the whole game. To his credit, he’s really worked, and got better in practice. He’s been phenomenal in practice for about the last three, four weeks.”
“I feel much more confident in my ability to play, and I feel like the team and the coaching staff have more confidence in me. That’s the most important thing,” De La Rosa said.
“He’s playing great lately, finding people, knowing when to shoot and when to pass,” Ubiles said.
Besides scoring, Ubiles contributed eight rebounds and five assists.
He helped put the game away early in the second half by knocking down a three-pointer off the inbounds pass following a timeout to make it 53-33.
“It seemed like every time he got the ball in the second half, he made a great play, usually for someone else, and that’s the beauty of Edwin,” McCaffery said.
Siena held Canisius under 50 percent shooting and outscored the Golden Griffins, 23-6, off turnovers.
Canisius had just six assists in the game.
“When they have the long, athletic people out there shooting gaps, it was not necessarily the first trap that bothered us, but perhaps the second pass out of the double, which we practiced,” Canisius head coach Tom Parotta said. “When they go athletic, they shoot the gaps and get deflections that lead to fast-break points.”
“We’ve been working on our defense. It’s getting better, it’s not there yet, but it’s substantially better than it was a month ago, two months ago,” McCaffery said.
Bevilacqua 0-0 0-0 0, a’Nyam 2-4 0-2 4, Frazier 1-4 0-0 2, Logins 0-2 0-0 0, Turner
5-10 4-6 15, Goldsberry 0-0 0-0 0, Coles
1-3 0-0 2, Hassell 2-4 1-3 5, Robinson 2-4
0-0 5, Johnson 5-12 1-4 11, Malesa 0-2 2-3 2, Vazquez-Simmons 1-3 1-3 3. Totals: 19-48 9-21 49.
Ubiles 9-17 0-0 20, Franklin 2-5 2-6 6, Rossiter 1-4 3-3 5, Moore 3-7 1-1 8, Hasbrouck 2-8 0-0 6, De La Rosa 4-4 1-2 10, Fisher 1-5 2-2 5, Duell 0-0 2-2 2, Jackson 3-7 1-1 8, Magee 3-3 1-5 7, Priestley 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 28-62 13-22 77.
Halftime: Siena 42, Canisius 26. Three-point goals: Canisius 2-14 (Frazier 0-2, Logins 0-1, Turner 1-3, Hassell 0-2, Robinson 1-3, Malesa 0-2, Vazquez-Simmons 0-1); Siena 8-21 (Ubiles 2-4, Moore 1-2, Hasbrouck 2-5, De La Rosa 1-1, Fisher 1-4, Jackson 1-4, Priestley 0-1). Rebounds: Canisius 36 (Vazquez-Simmons 10); Siena 34 (Ubiles 8). Assists: Canisius 6 (Turner 3); Siena 15 (Ubiles, De La Rosa 5). Total fouls: Canisius 19; Siena 14. Attendance: 5,013.