No players were harmed in the making of this victory.
Siena finished the regular season by beating Marist, 76-51, at the Times Union Center on Sunday with just the type of professional performance head coach Fran McCaffery wanted, as the Saints head into the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament next weekend.
The Saints walked through the traditional Senior Day pregame announcements honoring most prominently their three stars, Alex Franklin, Edwin Ubiles and Ronald Moore, then turned the emotion switch to “off” and coolly dispatched the Red Foxes, one of the worst teams in the country.
Siena (17-1, 24-6) had clinched the MAAC regular-season title two weeks ago and had more than a few reasons to come out flat against Marist, but the Saints were all business, especially after Marist improbably pulled within three points of the lead early in the second half.
With this one in the books, McCaffery rattled off a list of things with which he was pleased, including “Nobody got hurt.”
The win was so business-like that McCaffery pulled his starters during a media timeout with 3:49 left and Siena ahead, 69-47, eschewing the final curtain call by which coaches often give their outgoing seniors a chance at a gratuitous standing ovation.
“We knew it was going to be a special moment and an emotional one, but once the cameras and all the people were off the floor and the ball was ready to go up, we knew that we had to take care of business,” Moore said. “You want to enjoy it, but you’ve got to put that stuff behind you.
“He let us know during the week not to overdo it.”
“It wasn’t hard,” Ubiles said. “We’re going to get the opportunity to talk about our season and how great it was at the banquet. That was just something they do
every year, but at the same time, we had the game ahead of us, so we couldn’t stay emotional. We had to get ready and focused so we didn’t let one slip away from us before the tournament.”
“Coach wanted us to enjoy the moment, and then move forward and focus on the game in front of us,” Franklin said.
Siena will play a quarterfinal game at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Times Union Center against Friday’s Loyola-Manhattan winner.
If anything, the Saints got healthier, as sophomore guard Kyle Downey played 11 minutes in his first action since breaking his foot in practice on Jan. 19.
Ubiles scored 21 points, Franklin had 15 points and 13 rebounds and Moore had 12 assists, moving within two of tying Marc Brown’s career record of 796.
Junior center Ryan Rossiter had 15 points and 11 rebounds for his 13th double-double in the last 15 games. His 18 double-doubles are a school single-season record.
Siena was in control all the way, but didn’t really put it away until a 13-0 run early in the second half.
Ubiles started it with a three-pointer and a baseline pullup jumper, and Clarence Jackson (12 points) bookended a pair of threes around a nice left-handed finish by Franklin on an assist by Moore.
Marist (1-17, 1-28) got within nine, 53-44, with 9:39 to play, then Siena scored the next seven points.
Ubiles dunked on the break off a no-look, over-the-shoulder flip pass from Downey, and Downey set up Franklin for a hanger in transition. He drew a foul and made the free throw, and Rossiter followed with a turnaround hook for a 60-41 lead.
“We did a great job of pushing the ball and getting them to turn it over,” Ubiles said.
“They’re tremendous,” Marist head coach Chuck Martin said, of Siena’s three seniors. “They’ve been through this, they’re winners, they know how to win. You can make runs at them, and they know how to counter it.”
Downey, who had established himself as the top player off the bench before getting hurt, came in the game with 6:39 left in the first half, and launched a pullup jumper that went way long about a minute later.
“It was good to get the first-half jitters out of the way,” he said, chuckling. “The first-half air ball, let’s get that out of the way, and then we’re moving forward.
“I thought the shot clock was a lot less than it was, and I overshot it. It was just a little rust coming off.”
Siena broke the MAAC record for conference wins in a season and ran its home winning streak to 35 games, second-longest in the country behind Kansas’.
“We definitely are confident after bouncing back and winning two in a row,” Moore said.
“Obviously, we already clinched the regular-season championship, but we know what’s at stake here coming this weekend, and we’re going to be going full tilt.
“These games were probably more important to other teams than us, but we had to realize that we’re not working on winning the regular-season championship, we’re focusing on getting better as a team and really being at our best going into the MAAC tournament.”
Johnson 3-9 2-2 8, Bauer 3-11 2-5 8, Price 4-14 2-2 12, Goodwin 4-9 2-3 11, Rusin 3-5 0-2 8, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Kaba 1-6 0-0 2, Taylor 0-2 0-0 0, Parris 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 19-58 8-14 51.
Ubiles 7-13 5-5 21, Franklin 6-10 3-8 15, Rossiter 5-11 5-6 15, Jackson 4-10 1-2 12, Moore 0-3 0-0 0, Fenlon 0-0 0-0 0, Anosike 1-1 0-0 2, Downey 0-3 0-0 0, Smith 0-2 0-0 0, Griffin 1-6 0-0 3, Martens 1-1 0-0 2, Wignot 1-4 0-0 2, Breeden 1-1 0-0 2, Priestley 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 28-67 14-21 76.
Halftime: Siena 32, Marist 26. Three-point goals: Marist 5-22 (Johnson 0-3, Price 2-8, Goodwin 1-3, Rusin 2-3, Kaba 0-3, Taylor 0-2); Siena 6-16 (Ubiles 2-3, Jackson 3-7, Griffin 1-4). Rebounds: Marist 38 (Bauer 16); Siena 47 (Franklin 13, Rossiter 11). Assists: Marist 10 (Price 5); Siena 19 (Moore 12).
Total fouls: Marist 19; Siena 13. Attendance: 8,065.