Lights, camera, action Jackson.
Sophomore Clarence Jackson made four of five three-pointers in the first half as Siena built a 40-19 lead over Northern Iowa, and the Saints weathered a comeback in the second half to win, 81-75, in front of a sellout crowd of 8,065 at the Times Union Center and a national TV audience on ESPN2.
Siena improved to 22-6 (14-0 at home) and bolstered its national standing by beating the Missouri Valley Conference co-leader as part of the ESPNU BracketBusters games pitting some of the best mid-majors in the country.
Jackson actually outscored the entire Northern Iowa team, 12-10, in the first 14:31 of the game, after his fourth three made it 29-10.
Kenny Hasbrouck led Siena with 16 points in a balanced team performance that evolved as Saint after Saint got into foul trouble that, if not dangerous, at least had to be addressed as the game progressed.
Jackson, a 6-foot-3 guard from Marlton, N.J., was instant offense off the bench again, scoring 14 points in 17 minutes.
“He came out, it was a big stage he was on, national TV, and he showed no fear,” Hasbrouck said. “He looked like whenever he was open, he let it go, and he felt so confident it was going in everytime, no matter whether his feet were set or not.”
“He’s really an amazing player,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “He was in rhythm, he was taking really good shots. The key for him in that half was he kept moving, and he didn’t make any mistakes. They were really locking on him in the second half.”
“We were very aware of him, and he was part of our game plan,” UNI head coach Ben Jacobson said. “He and Hasbrouck were the two guys we wanted to get to every time on the three-point line. I think we were there on two of the four, and he made them.”
The final minutes of the game got just anxious enough for Siena that the game was anything but a laugher, but the damage done in the first half proved to be too much for the Panthers (18-10), who cut it to 76-70 with a blizzard of scoring, to overcome.
Siena outscored UNI, 17-4, in the first 8:46, as Jackson bookended threes around an NBA-range three by Hasbrouck to complete the run.
It took Jackson 10 seconds to score after entering the game at 13:20. He caught an inbounds pass, gave it back, then got it back for a three.
Hasbrouck hit, then his co-captain, Josh Duell, gathered a defensive rebound against two Panthers, passed to Hasbrouck, and he fired a long pass ahead to Jackson in transition for a three to make it 17-4.
“Everybody was saying keep shooting whenever you get open,” Jackson said. “You’re just trying to take good shots. Ron [Moore] set me up, they find me when I’m open, and you don’t want to force too much, especially against a good team like that.”
Moore beat two buzzers in the last nine seconds, making a runner as the shot clock expired and another runner at the halftime buzzer, after Jackson had rebounded a missed free throw with five seconds left and passed ahead to the streaking Moore, who made a tough floater in the lane.
Everything seemed to be going Siena’s way when 25-year-old Brendan Bradt of Boston, who grew up in Cohoes, won $25,000 from Northeastern Fine Jewelry by making a halfcourt shot with 13:27 left, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
McCaffery tried to maintain an attentive huddle, but gave up.
“I was pretty nervous, not so much about shooting in front of people, but you have one shot for $25,000,” said Bradt, a former Hudson Valley Community College player. “I was in disbelief, really.”
“The huddle just stopped,” Hasbrouck said, chuckling. “Coach stopped talking, started clapping, stood up and we were all paying attention to the shot, anyway, so he really couldn’t say anything.”
Northern Iowa, trailing 55-35 at the time, was all business the rest of the way.
The Panthers scored 22 of their 56 second-half points in the final 2:40, pulling within 73-66 with 57 seconds left.
Jordan Eglseder (16 points), UNI’s 7-1, 290-pound center, was credited with a basket that appeared to have been tipped in by Duell into his own basket trying to rebound a miss. That made it 76-70 with 32.1 seconds left. Siena, 16-for-22 from the free throw line in the game, made five of six from there, two by freshman Kyle Downey, two by Duell and one by Edwin Ubiles, to close it out.
“We did make some threes late, which got us some points, but Siena had the game in hand at that point,” Jacobson said. “But I did feel, in that first 12 minutes [of the second half], that we played well enough to give ourselves a chance.”
“You knew they were going to make a run,” McCaffery said. “Fortunately, we had our transition game going, and our defense was solid for a good 30, 35 minutes. The other key was we drove the ball enough in the second half to get in the double bonus, so when they had to foul us in the end, we were getting two shots.
“The second half, we didn’t press as much. Maybe we should have. But we had a lead, we had some foul trouble, we didn’t want to open up the floor, because then maybe you’ve got Kenny Hasbrouck and Alexander Franklin on the bench more than you wanted to. I felt like, for us to win, we needed those key players on the floor for the stretch run.”
NORTHERN IOWA (75)
Koch 2-6 7-8 11, Eglseder 7-11 2-3 16, Farokhmanesh 3-11 0-0 9, Ahelegbe 2-7 9-10 13, Moran 3-9 0-0 7, Brown 3-6 0-0 9, Dunham 1-4 0-0 2, O’Rear 2-3 4-4 8, Rodenberg 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-57 22-25 75.
Rossiter 3-4 5-6 11, Franklin 4-6 1-4 9, Ubiles 4-13 2-4 10, Moore 3-8 2-2 8, Hasbrouck 6-12 2-2 16, Downey 1-2 2-2 5, Duell 3-5 2-2 8, Jackson 5-8 0-0 14, Wignot 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 29-59 16-22 81.
Halftime: Siena 40, Northern Iowa 19. Three-point goals: Northern Iowa 7-25 (Eglseder 0-1, Farokhmanesh 3-10, Moran 1-6, Brown 3-6, Dunham 0-1, ‘Rear 0-1); Siena 7-19 (Ubiles 0-2, Moore 0-3, Hasbrouck 2-3, Downey 1-2, Duell 0-1, Jackson 4-7, Wignot 0-1). Rebounds: Northern Iowa 36 (Eglseder 14); Siena 31 (Ubiles 7). Assists: Northern Iowa 11 (Farokhmanesh 3); Siena 18 (Moore 5). Total fouls: Northern Iowa 22; Siena 18. Fouled out: Koch. Attendance: 8,065.