The Siena Saints have done a good job of leaving their wins behind them, and not getting caught up in being undefeated.
Now, for the first time in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference season, they’ll see if they can leave a loss behind.
The Saints get a quick turnaround from Saturday’s wild 90-88 loss at Rider, as they’ll face Loyola at 7 tonight at the Times Union Center.
Losing to Rider should have an impact on Siena (12-1, 18-6) in a variety of ways, especially within the context of the national picture. The Saints’ Ratings Percentage Index projection will drop, and they probably lost their way out of a chance to gain an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, should they win the rest of their games, but lose in the MAAC tournament championship game and miss the automatic bid that goes with it.
That’s for later, as far as the Saints are concerned. As disappointed as they were on Saturday, Siena is looking forward to getting back on the floor in a hurry.
“It’s a quick bounce-back to refocus ourselves,” junior forward Edwin Ubiles said. “We got that one loss out of the way. I’d rather get it out now than in the tournament. It woke us up, and if we see these guys in the tournament again, we’ll definitely be ready.”
“It is an opportunity to refocus on the next game,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
The Saints lost to Rider because of an apparent lack of focus on the defensive game plan, McCaffery and senior co-captain Kenny Hasbrouck said.
As hard as it is to believe that Siena scored 88 points and still lost, the Saints didn’t follow the scouting report closely enough. Hasbrouck admitted that one of the key components of the game plan was to fly out at the three-point shooters, but Rider was 11-for-19 from beyond the arc, and sophomore guard Justin Robinson was 5-for-6 and scored a career-high 25 points. He came into the game averaging 8.7 points per game.
“It’s [defense] all effort, how hard you’re working, how mentally tough you are,” Hasbrouck said. “You’re going to have an off game, yeah, that happens, but defensively, that should never happen. We should always be focused, always intense. Even if somebody’s hot, you still should make it hard for them. They had a lot of wide-open threes, a lot of tip-backs, and most of the time, we just weren’t there. You never should have a letdown on defense. Offensively, it happens, but not on defense.”
“The players knew the scouting report. We knew it,” McCaffery said. “We talked about it, we asked them questions, but we didn’t execute today with the level of efficiency, based on the information that they were given. And that’s disappointing. That said, we still only lost by two. Yeah, we blew a lead, yeah, we didn’t play great defense, but we still have shown that we have the ability to keep coming.”
The game was tied twice in the final 1:06, but the Broncs made the play they needed each time, including the game-winning layup by Ryan Thompson, who drove to the right on Ubiles and banked it in with 3.5 seconds left. Just as important as making the shot, he had dribbled out most of the shot clock and timed his move so that Siena only had a few desperate seconds left.
Usually under those circumstances, McCaffery doesn’t want his team to call a timeout, but only if they have at least six or seven seconds or so to get it up the floor.
This time, they had a little less than that, and McCaffery screamed for a timeout, but couldn’t be heard above the noise in the packed little Alumni Gym.
After the game, Ubiles was sporting a charley horse he received in the first half.
He was kneed in the thigh while being fouled with 14:37 left, and limped off the court at the next whistle. He didn’t come back until the 7:15 mark of the first half, and played 31 minutes.
“It’s something that can linger if you don’t get in that training room,” he said. “I only have today [Saturday] and tomorrow [Sunday] for treatment. Hopefully, it stops. And, of course, it stiffens up even more because your adrenaline’s not going anymore.”
It appears to be only a matter of time before senior co-captain Josh Duell, out since the game at Kansas game on Jan. 6 with a sprained knee, gets back in there. He was in uniform for the Rider game, but didn’t play.
The Greyhounds’ Jamal Barney is the leading scorer in the MAAC. He had 20 points on 10-for-22 shooting in the first matchup.
Loyola is 6-7 in the MAAC and 11-14 overall after losing to Manhattan on Saturday. The Greyhounds had won six straight, including a 14-point victory over Rider, but lost at Fairfield, despite the fact that the Stags had just lost three of their best players to various suspensions and ailments, and then lost to Manhattan at home.
Siena had won eight straight and 16 of 18 before losing to the Broncs.
Tay Fisher, one of the heroes of the 2007-08 season, will be at the Times Union Center concourse signing autographs and talking to fans from 6-8 p.m. . . .
The Rider game marked the 1,000th game coached by Siena assistant Mitch Buonaguro. He’s been a head coach at Fairfield and an assistant at Villanova, Texas A&M, Cleveland State and UNC-Greensboro.