Senior forward O.D. Anosike is having another spectacular season, leading the nation in rebounding and the Siena Saints in scoring.
He could use a little more help, though, especially now that Siena has entered a difficult stretch in its non-conference schedule.
That may be compromised when the Saints face Massachusetts at 7 tonight at the Times Union Center, Siena’s first home game since the season opener 19 days ago.
Guard Rakeem Brookins, who missed all of last season with herniated and bulging discs in his back, left Sunday’s 72-66 loss at Maine late with a back problem, and had an MRI on Monday.
If he can’t play, Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro probably will start Trenity Burdine and move Rob Poole to shooting guard in the backcourt with Evan Hymes.
No matter who starts and plays, Siena needs to provide better support for Anosike.
He’s averaging 14.7 points and 14.3 rebounds per game, but the Saints’ perimeter game has been inconsistent, and the frontcourt, which was supposed to be deep, hasn’t lived up to expectations because Davis Martens hasn’t been productive and Imoh Silas has been foul-prone.
Anosike had 20 rebounds against the Black Bears, but just nine shots in 40 minutes, in an offense that is supposed to go through him in the halfcourt.
“O.D has given us everything he can possibly give,” Buonaguro said during Tuesday’s media lunch. “He was cramping up at halftime [against Maine], and I kept asking him about taking him out, and he said no.
“He’s been as good as advertised. The problem now is he’s the focal point of the other teams. Maine, in the first three minutes, played man-to-man, then went right to zone and surrounded him. We’re going to see more of that. We’re figuring out ways to move him around, but he’s still going to be the focal point of other teams, and the other guys are going to have to step up and to make some shots.
Buonaguro said the Saints (2-4) are also working on ways to get the outside shooters better opportunities, although, in many cases against Maine, the Saints simply missed open shots.
They were 6-for-30 from three-point range, after shooting almost 50 percent in three game at the NUCDF Basketball Challenege in San Diego.
“Our three perimeter players, the shots they took, they usually make, so I’m expecting those shots will drop as the season goes on,” Buonaguro said. “I think they’re [Hymes and Brookins] playing well together. They’re both scoring about what I thought they would. Rahk has a little rust, he hasn’t played in a year. Teams are playing both of them very physical, and they are getting a lot of attention. We’re trying to get them some looks off ball screens, and we’ll tweak some things for UMass to get them more looks.”
Martens missed all of last season with a hip injury, and Silas, who has shown flashes of being a solid
defender and rebounder, didn’t play as a freshman because of an NCAA eligibility ruling, so he’s essentially a freshman getting his first taste of college ball.
Against Maine, he made his third start in six games, but played just six minutes because he picked up two fouls early and another later.
“Imoh is still learning and is a developing player,” Buonaguro said. “What you have to do with young players is keep them up and keep it positive. One thing we’re trying to address with him is fouling. I sat down with him yesterday and discussed being more judicious with his fouling. That’s why he isn’t playing more. The other thing is he’s adjusting to playing with another good big guy.
“The thing with Davis is he’s just rusty. He hasn’t played in a year and hasn’t figured out his role. I think he understands we need him to win.”
Buonaguro said Brookins was feeling a little better on Monday, but it’s still uncertain if he’ll be available tonight.
Siena lost to UMass in an exciting game in Springfield, Mass., last year, 82-78.
Minutemen point guard Chaz Williams, a former AAU teammate of Anosike, took over at the end, scoring 11 points in the last three minutes, including 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the last nine seconds.
Siena plays UAlbany on Saturday and will travel to St. Bonaventure next Tuesday.
The rivalry game against the Great Danes looms as tough spot, since Siena is struggling and the Great Danes are 5-2, with one of the biggest upsets in the history of the program, at Washington.
“It’s going to be a little different this year,” Buonaguro said. “Albany certainly, right now, you’d have to consider the favorite, I hate to say it. They’re 5-2, and they’re a team that’s playing pretty well. Our guys will go in with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders and go in knowing they’re going to have to play well. It’s a Saturday night, so you’re
going to have 10,000 people there. I love the game. It’s hard for the Siena coach, because there’s a lot of media and questions about the game. I’d rather just play it.”