The Siena Saints may have thought that their comeback against Iona on Friday night was as tantalizingly close as a comeback can get.
They would’ve been wrong.
Two days after flirting with victory despite trailing Iona by 12 with 3:01 left, only to lose, the Saints got within one of Manhattan after falling behind by 18 on Sunday afternoon, only to fumble away a chance to win in the final half-minute.
Manhattan escaped with an 84-81 victory at Draddy Gym, even though the Jaspers were outscored, 33-18, in the final 6:35.
Siena pulled within 82-81 on a Clarence Jackson three-pointer, then the Jaspers’ Demetrius Jemison missed two free throws with 24.1 seconds left.
Siena’s OD Anosike secured the rebound, but on the exchange to Kyle Downey, the Saints turned it over, and Kidani Brutus made two free throws with 18.3 seconds left to produce the final score.
The Saints weren’t quite done yet.
Senior center Ryan Rossiter tried a three from the right corner, and Anosike rebounded the miss and dribbled out to the three-point arc. He whirled and could only get off a line drive that hit the rim, but was never high enough to have a chance to go in.
“It’s the same thing, We played hard at the end, we’re proud of that, but we fall in these holes where we’re down by 15, and I feel like I say it every time, we don’t come out with enough energy,” Rossiter said. “The last 10 minutes of the game, we’re like the best team in the league. We have to put that kind of effort into the first half.”
“This is definitely one we wanted to get,” Anosike said. “Obviously, Manhattan’s a team that’s been struggling a bit. They’re at the bottom of the conference, and we thought we could come in here and beat them. This would’ve boosted our confidence on a tough road trip, and unfortunately, we let this one slip away.”
With Canisius losing to Loyola earlier in the day, Siena (7-8, 10-15) had a chance to take over sole possession of sixth place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference by beating the last-place team in the conference, but instead, finds itself tied with the Griffs.
For the second game in a row, Siena played without starting point guard Rakeem Brookins (bruised ribs), and also started freshman Trenity Burdine in place of junior small forward Owen Wignot, who was in uniform but was suffering from a 24-hour virus and didn’t even warm up before the game.
Also for the second game in a row, sophomore Jon Breeden sparked the comeback in place of Brookins.
He finished with 20 points, nine of which came in the final 1:45.
Threes by Downey and Jackson brought Siena within 82-81, and the Saints appeared to have a chance to take the last shot of the game, but Anosike and Downey couldn’t connect after Jemison, an 80 percent free-throw shooter, missed two.
“I got the rebound, I saw Kyle Downey next to me . . . it was just a bang-bang play,” Anosike said. “As I started handing him the ball, he started running up the court, and they got it. It was an unfortunate play, but it happens. Manhattan didn’t have anything to do with it. I cleanly got the rebound, turned to hand it off to Kyle and it was just miscommunication.”
“If we had gotten the ball there, I would’ve probably gone inside, I would’ve run a set for Ryan,” Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. “That changed the whole complexion. Then we’re looking for a three late, and they bottled up Clarence. We wound up getting the three that Ryan took, and it wasn’t a great shot, but they defended it well.”
Brutus, a 69.4 percent free-throw shooter, made both of his with 18.3 seconds left for an 84-81 lead.
Breeden tried a drive, and during the scramble for the rebound of his miss, the Jaspers slapped it out of bounds with 6.7 seconds left.
Siena couldn’t get it in to Jackson, so Rossiter had no choice but to shoot a three.
The ball bounced straight up off the rim, tapped the top of the backboard, and actually looked like it might have a chance to fall through, but it tipped the rim and kicked to the side.
Anosike did well just to get his wild turnaround shot to hit the rim.
“[Andrew] Gabriel was face-guarding me pretty good,” Jackson said. “I think he knew I was going to get the shot. I was trying to set a back screen for Ryan to kind of
decoy it, and maybe two guys would run at him, and then I would be open. But they matched us pretty well. It’s unfortunate that Ryan had to take a shot that he’s not normally used to taking.”
“The play was for Clarence, and they did a good job of marking the shooters, so it was kind of scramble, I flashed to the corner, Jon hit me, and I thought I had a pretty good look at it,” Rossiter said.
“I thought we did everything we could in the last five minutes,” Buonaguro said. “If we get that one rebound, who knows?”
Sophomore George Beamon dropped a career-high 35 points on Siena, making 12 of 19 field goals and all 10 of his free throws before fouling out with 50.8 seconds left and Manhattan (3-12, 5-21) leading, 79-73. Breeden made both free throws.
Beamon came into the game averaging 14.9 points a game as the Jaspers’ leading scorer.
“We had the scouting report, we knew exactly how to play him, coach prepared us how to play him, but when it came to execution, we let him do whatever he wanted,” Rossiter said. “We let him go right too many times, we know he’s
going to finish with his right, we still allowed it. We let him get easy baskets, and that’s not acceptable.”
Rossiter had his 52nd career double-double, with 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Anosike had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Junior guard Kyle Griffin saw his first action since injuring his right shoulder at St. Bonaventure on Dec. 28, a span of 13 games on the sideline.
Wearing a black protective brace on his shoulder, Griffin entered the game with 8:44 left in the first half and soon after made a long jumper to bring Siena within 20-16.
It was his first basket since Dec. 10 against Florida Atlantic.
Anosike 4-10 3-7 11, Burdine 4-6 0-1 9, Rossiter 6-16 7-7 19, Jackson 4-14 2-2 13, Breeden 6-11 6-8 20, Walters 0-0 0-0 0, Downey 3-6 0-0 7, Griffin 1-2 0-0 2, Martens 0-2 0-4 0. Totals: 28-67 18-29 81.
Gabriel 1-5 0-1 2, Brown 2-2 0-0 4, Jemison 3-9 2-5 8, Beamon 12-19 10-10 35, Brutus 5-9 5-6 20, Koita 1-4 2-4 5, Walsh 1-1 0-0 2, Coulibaly 3-6 2-2 8. Totals: 28-55 21-28 84.
Halftime: Manhattan 33, Siena 26. Three-point goals: Siena 7-21 (Burdine 1-2, Rossiter 0-1, Jackson 3-11, Breeden 2-2, Downey 1-4, Griffin 1-1); Manhattan 7-14 (Gabriel 0-1, Beamon 1-2, Brutus 5-8, Koita 1-3). Rebounds: Siena 42 (Rossiter 15, Anosike 10); Manhattan 36 (Jemison 9). Assists: Siena 10 (Jackson, Breeden 4); Manhattan 14 (Jemison 4). Total fouls: Siena 23; Manhattan 23. Fouled out: Burdine, Beamon. Attendance: 1,982.