Two of the youngest and most inexperienced Division I teams in the country met here Sunday, and both got an early test on dramatic endings, as Siena topped Navy, 54-49, in overtime.
Siena has 11 freshmen and sophomores among its 14 members, and Navy started a freshman point guard and three sophomores on a team with no seniors.
So it would figure that the most experienced and one of highly regarded players in the country would play a big difference in the win, and he did.
Siena senior O.D. Anosike scored the go-ahead basket among his game-high 17 points to life the Saints (1-1) to their first win of the season. The leading rebounder in Division I last season, Anosike added 12 rebounds for the 30th double-double of his career.
Siena led, 47-41, with one minute to play, before Navy scored three straight baskets to tie the game and sent it to overtime. It was Navy freshman’s Jerome Alexander jumper only a foot or so in front of the three-point arc that tied the game at 47-47 with 20 seconds left in regulation.
In overtime, the teams played nearly three minutes without a score before Navy’s Isaiah Roberts put the Mids, 48-47, with a free throw with 2:04 to play.
Anosike then scored on a jumper with 1:22 to play — the Saints first basket since 4:29 remained in regulation — to put the Saints ahead, 49-48, with 1:22 to play.
Evan Hymes added two free throws to make it 51-48 with 50 seconds to play. Siena wound up outscoring Navy (1-1) in overtime. The Mids missed all eight of their shots in overtime.
“I thought the game was going to be this kind of game. Luckily, the bounces went our way,” said Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro, who got his 100th career win. “We hung in there. It was a very important win to us. I am really elated with the win. The kids played really hard.
“The key word here is that we’re pretty young. O.D. is the lone senior. We had guys out there who this was their first run through in this situation. So I was elated to get the win and very happy to how the kids handled the adversity.”
The Saints lost Friday’s season opener 54-53 to Vermont.
“These are the kind of games that build your character the most, the ones where you really have to grind it out,” Anosike said of the Saints’ first two games. “So this was really a confidence builder, a morale builder and a character builder for us,”
Anosike was double-teamed most of the game and took only seven shots, making six, and went five-for-eight at the free throw line. His presence inside also affected Navy’s inside attack, as the Mids were forced to rely on their perimeter game, where they shot just 32.8 percent (20-for-61) and made just four of 20 three-pointers.
Navy’s long-range shooters, Brandon Venturini and Kendall Knorr, were 0-for-11 from beyond the arc. They had combined for seven three-pointers in Navy’s win Friday.
“We locked into the two shooters. I don’t think Venturini and Knorr got much. I thought that was the big key,” said Buonaguro.
Sophomore Imoh Silas played 26 minutes and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Saints, who used a 48-39 rebounding advantage and a smothering defense to offset their own poor shooting (18-for-55, 32.7 percent) from the floor.
Hymes scored nine points, but went just 2-for-15 (1-for-11 on threes) and Rob Poole (10 points, nine rebounds) was 3-for 12.
“Our main focus was to stop [Anosike]. We knew they had a couple of good shooters on the wing and we wanted to close on them as hard as possible,” said Navy freshman guard Tilman Dunbar. “I think we gave ourselves a chance to win, but came up short.
Dunbar led Navy with 13 points, five assists and just one turnover in 35 minutes. Thurgood Wynn, Alexander and Roberts each had eight points for the Mids.
Anosike 6-7 5-8 17, Martens 1-2 0-0 2, Oliver 2-7 0-0 5, Hymes 2-16 4-5 9, Poole 3-12 3-4 10, Audu 1-3 0-0 2, Leppanen 0-0 0-0 0, Bisping 1-5 2-2 4, Silas 2-3 1-3 5. Totals 18-55 15-22 54.
Smith 1-5 1-2 3, Smoot 1-4 0-0 2, Dunbar 6-13 1-2 13, Wynn 3-4 0-0 8, Venturini 1-11 0-0 2, Kelly 0-1 0-0 0, Knorr 0-5 0-0 0, Wyatt 2-3 0-0 5, Loupos 0-1 0-0 0, Roberts 2-7 3-5 8, Alexander 4-7 0-1 8. Totals 20-61 5-10 49.
Halftime—Navy, 23-21. End Of regulation—Tied, 47-47. 3-Point Goals—Siena 3-25 (Oliver 1-4, Poole 1-6, Hymes 1-11, Bisping 0-2, Audu 0-2), Navy 4-20 (Wynn 2-2, Wyatt 1-1, Roberts 1-2, Smith 0-1, Dunbar 0-3, Knorr 0-4, Venturini 0-7). Rebounds—Siena 48 (Anosike, Silas 12), Navy 39 (Venturini 10). Assists—Siena 6 (Poole 3), Navy 11 (Dunbar, Venturini 5). Total Fouls—Siena 16, Navy 20. A—584.