A piece of rim was bent before the second half started, then a Christmas ornament shattered on the court during a promotion, but Rakeem Brookins’ back held up just fine.
Still, that wasn’t enough for Siena to avoid its sixth loss in a row, 62-56, to Rider before 5,530 at the Times Union Center on Friday night.
The Saints fell to 2-8 heading into a two-week break after Sunday’s game at Manhattan.
Anthony Myles scored 20 points for Rider (1-0, 6-4), and the Broncs led by at least five points for the entire second half.
A few crucial plays in the final five minutes kept Siena from clawing its way back any closer, and Rider had the game well in hand for the final minute and a half.
Brookins, who originally wasn’t supposed to return to the lineup for another three weeks because of a back injury, got ahead of schedule in his recovery and was a pleasant surprise just being in uniform.
The 5-foot-10 guard from Philadelphia didn’t stop there, playing 27 minutes, including most of the last 15 before fouling out with 16 seconds left. He scored 10 points in the second half, including two free throws to bring Siena within 56-51 with 3:23 left.
“I got up this morning, I grabbed the newspaper, and it kind of said they weren’t sure he was going to play,” Rider first-year head coach Kevin Baggett said. “I just knew he was going to play. He’s a competitor, he’s a kid from Philadelphia, and any chance he would have to play, I knew he was going to get in the game.”
“His effort and intensity brought the whole thing to where it was,” Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. “We make that layup, who knows what happens.”
Buonaguro was referring to a wild sequence after Brookins’ free throws in which Siena had two apparent layups that went for naught.
The Broncs’ Nurideen Lindsey turned it over, giving Siena a chance to cut into the five-point lead.
Senior forward O.D. Anosike put up a short floater that appeared to be goaltended by Junior Fortunat.
After a mad scramble on the floor for the loose ball, the Saints’ Rob Poole somehow desperately got it to Ryan Oliver, who went in for another layup, but he missed, and Daniel Stewart grabbed the rebound for the Broncs.
“I thought he had a layup on that, and they came out of nowhere to block it,” Buonaguro said. “If we make one of those two layups, it’s a one-possession game.”
“It might’ve been a goaltend, but I don’t know for sure,” Anosike said. “It’s not why we lost the game.”
That led to a free throw by Fortunat, a 26.1 percent shooter from there, and after Brookins chucked a three off-target, Myles got his own rebound and put it in for a 59-51 lead with 1:49 left.
Brookins turned it over when his heel touched the center court line for an over-and-back, leading to two free throws by Lindsey.
Brett Bisping’s three cut it to 61-54 with 1:16 left, but Buonaguro had burned his last time out with 3:37 left, and the Saints didn’t stop the clock with a foul, leaving them with just 30.5 seconds left by the time they got the ball back.
“I thought the block that Junior Fortunat had was big,” Baggett said. “Then the free throw that he made, he’s been struggling, and he got up there and made the first one with poise. Anthony had a couple drives and rebounds, and the backcourt they had kind of preserved things for us.”
Anosike had 11 points and 10 rebounds, Poole scored 11 and Brookins finished with 12 points, three assists and four steals.
He missed all of last season with bulging and herniated discs in his back, during which then-freshman Evan Hymes emerged as a surprisingly adept replacement at point guard.
After coming out of the game early in the second half, Hymes spent the rest of the game on the bench, while Brookins, who hurt his back again on Nov. 25 against Maine, energized the Saints’ moribund offense.
“It was just the tempo,” Brookins said. “We didn’t have as much as we needed to, so I thought, with me pushing the ball, it would give us better opportunities, penetrating and kicking. I didn’t think about my back, I just went out and played my game.”
“Rahk played great, just the effort, the energy he came in with,” Anosike said. “He’s such a dynamic player and got us back in the game.”
“At that point [early second half], I didn’t like the energy level; then Rahk stepped it up,” Buonaguro said.
Siena shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, after scoring just 22 points in the first half.
The Saints had another nightmare from the free-throw line, making just six of 17, the exact numbers they had from three-point range.
They were also hurt by 13 offensive rebounds by five different Rider players.
“We know that O.D. Anosike is one of the best rebounders in the nation, and coach made it a big point to crash the boards and help our bigs out,” Myles said.
“I know those guys have been on a losing streak, but they gave us a hard time,” Baggett said. “I knew they would find a way to get back into it. Our guys are resilient and did a good job of staying together and finding a way to weather the storm.”
Siena managed just two field goals in the final 111⁄2 minutes of the first half, and Rider went on a 15-3 run capped by back-to-back three-pointers by Anthony Myles to take a 28-19 lead.
Zedric Sadler, averaging 5.3 points per game, gave the Broncs a 32-19 lead when Anosike goaltended his putback attempt.
Rob Poole’s three-pointer with 28 seconds left salvaged a 32-22 deficit for Siena and prevented them from being on pace to score fewer points than the 43-points offensive debacle at St. Bonaventure on Tuesday.
Lindsey 4-8 2-3 11, Da. Stewart 3-12 0-0 6, Nd-Ezuma 0-0 0-0 0, Thompson 4-5 1-212, Myles 7-16 3-4 20, Sadler 3-6 2-3 8, Valentine 0-3 0-0 0, Fortunat 2-5 1-4 5, Pereira 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 23-58 9-16 62.
Anosike 5-6 1-6 11, Burdine 1-4 0-0 2, Silas 1-3 0-0 2, Hymes 1-6 0-0 2, Poole 4-11 0-0 11, Audu 1-1 2-2 5, Oliver 1-2 0-0 3, Brookins 5-16 2-4 12, Leppanen 0-0 0-0 0, Martens 1-2 1-3 3, Bisping 2-2 0-2 5.
Halftime: Rider 32, Siena 22. Three-point goals: Rider 7-21 (Lindsey 1-3, Thompson 3-4, Myles 3-8, Sadler 0-2, Valentine 0-1, Pereira 0-3); Siena 6-17 (Burdine 0-1, Hymes 0-3, Poole 3-5, Audu 1-1, Oliver 1-1, Brookins 0-5, Bisping 1-1). Rebounds: Rider 42 (Da. Stewart 10); Siena 34 (Anosike 10). Assists: Rider 9 (Thompson 5); Siena 13 (Poole, Brookins 3). Total fouls: Rider 18; Siena 16. Fouled out: Brookins. Attendance: 5,530.