Evan Hymes said he should’ve gone under the ball screen.
O.D. Anosike said he should’ve made more free throws.
Head coach Mitch Buonaguro said he should’ve arranged his players differently for the final play.
A tipped inbounds pass cost valuable seconds.
Each element may seem like a small thing when viewed individually, but they added up to a season-opening loss for Siena as Vermont squeaked by, 54-53, before 6,779 at the Times Union Center on Friday night.
Sandro Carissimo bolted past Hymes from the wing to score the game-winning points on a layup with nine seconds left, and Siena failed to get a shot when the Catamount’s Brian Voelkel left his man to slap away a pass intended for Anosike to end the game.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Anosike said. “This is a team we thought we could beat.”
“It was exactly what I thought it would be, a close game, a halfcourt game that would come down to a couple plays,” Buonaguro said. “It was just a couple mistakes at the end; it’s a shame.”
“Obviously, we didn’t come out ready to play, but the identity of the team the last few years has been to hang in there and grind it out,” said Vermont forward Luke Apfeld.
Siena exploded for a 20-4 lead as Vermont made just one of its first 15 shots, but the Catamounts settled down and gradually got back in it by halftime.
The second half became a tight, low-scoring battle, made even more tense for Siena by the Saints’ 6-for-17 performance from the free-throw line in the half.
Carissimo missed a layup with 50 seconds left and the score tied, 52-52, but made up for it on the next possession.
He blew past Hymes, who spent much of the second half in the lockerroom with a severe cramp to his left calf, to make it 54-53 with nine seconds on the clock.
“I wasn’t thinking about the play before that, I was just thinking about that play and hoping to make a play for my team. It went in, so . . .” Carissimo said with a grin.
“I should’ve went under the ball screen,” Hymes said. “That definitely hurt me, because once you get on his hip, he’s going to get in the lane and score. I should’ve went under the ball screen.”
“We thought Hymes might have been a little injured, and O.D. might have been a little tired, so we ran a ball screen on O.D.,” Vermont coach John Becker said.
Siena lost a few seconds passing in from the baseline when a Vermont player tipped it out of bounds, leaving 6.7 seconds for a sideline inbounds play.
Sophomore Rob Poole passed to Hymes, who dribbled into the frontcourt and passed to freshman Rich Audu as Audu used a downscreen from Anosike to get free above the foul line.
Audu looked for Anosike down low and lobbed it in, but Voelkel cut over to intercept the pass to end the game.
Buonaguro said he should’ve flip-flopped Poole and Audu to put the more experienced player in position to make the crucial final pass.
“I debated in the timeout to put Rob Poole in Rich Audu’s spot, which I probably should’ve done,” Buonaguro said. “But I was afraid to get the ball inbounds. I didn’t want a freshman to throw it in.
“To put a freshman in that position, that’s my fault. That’s not Rich Audu’s fault.”
“We thought Hymes was maybe going to just go and try to make something happen,” Becker said. “But once we saw them kind of slowly bringing it up, then we knew they were going to O.D.
“That high-low in the middle of the court is tough to guard, because it’s tough to bring help to him, so they can isolate him [Anosike] in the middle of the court. Brian came off his man and knew there wasn’t enough time for another pass and was able to pick it off.”
Anosike finished with 10 points and 17 rebounds, but he only scored four points after the 20-4 run in the first 11 minutes of the game.
He was 2-for-11 from the free-throw line, missing two with Siena leading, 52-50, and another after scoring and drawing a foul to give Siena a 53-52 lead with 18.3 seconds left.
“I just had an off night,” he said. “I’ve gotten better since I’ve been here. I don’t foresee myself shooting 20 percent for the whole year. I’ll bounce back.”
As a team, Siena finished 11-for-24 from the line.
“Our free throw shooting ultimately did us in,” Buonaguro said. “They’re not a team that rattles. If you get up, 20-4, on them, they play the same way. So I expected them to come back. The problem we had was, when we missed the free throws, we couldn’t get the lead to six or seven. It kept staying at two or three.”
Hymes scored 15 points, and Poole had 13.
Apfeld led Vermont with 16 points, and Carissimo scored 11.
Siena received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-8 forward Javion Ogunyemi.
His final college choices were down to Siena and James Madison, coached by former Siena guard Matt Brady. . . .
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference released its preseason coaches poll and player awards.
Loyola got seven of 10 first-place votes and was picked No. 1, and the Greyhounds Erik Etherly was picked player of the year.
Voelkel 2-4 0-0 5, Apfeld 4-13 8-9 16, Rugg 1-6 2-4 4, Carissimo 4-10 2-2 11, Rusin 1-5 1-2 4, Blue 1-5 0-0 2, Elbaum 1-3 0-0 2, Kilpatrick 0-0 1-3 1, O’Day 3-6 3-4 9. Totals: 17-52 17-24 54.
Anosike 4-9 2-11 10, Martens 1-3 0-0 2, Oliver 0-2 1-2 1, Hymes 4-12 5-6 15, Poole 5-12 1-3 13, Audu 1-3 0-0 3, Gomis 0-0 0-0 0, Leppanen 1-3 0-0 2, Bisping 2-5 2-2 7, Silas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-49 11-24 53.
Halftime: Siena, 30-24. Three-point goals: Vermont 3-13 (Voelkel 1-2, Apfeld 0-2, Rugg 0-1, Carissimo 1-3, Rugg 1-3, Blue 0-2); Siena 6-18 (Oliver 0-2, Hymes 2-5, Poole 2-7, Audu 1-2, Bisping 1-2).
Rebounds: Vermont 39 (Voelkel 7);
Siena 36 (Anolsike 17). Assists: Vermont 7 (Voelkel, Carissimo 2); Siena 9 (Hymes 4). Total fouls: Vermont 17; Siena 23. Fouled out: Oliver, O’Day. Technical foul: Voelkel. Attendance: 6,779.