The Siena men’s basketball team is ready to turn the key again.
The sound the Saints dread is that of a sputtering engine.
With a two-week final-exam break from games, Siena has made some modifications to get its offense running.
The Saints are going to need to find some scoring soon, or this season could be irretrievably lost.
Siena, 0-2 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and 2-9 overall following a seven-game losing streak, gets back into action with a noon game at Fordham today. The game will be televised on YES.
The Saints have defended well, despite the fact that they rank last in the MAAC in steals and blocked shots.
They’re second in field goal percentage allowed, first in three-point percentage allowed and third in points allowed.
Flip to the other side of the ledger, and Siena is last in scoring (56.9 points per game), free throw percentage (.575) and field goal percentage (.382), and eighth in three-point percentage.
With two weeks to prepare, the Saints will try to run more, and will also spread four players on the
perimeter around senior forward O.D. Anosike more in an effort to alleviate the help defense that opposing teams have relentlessly thrown at him.
“We’re going to play a little faster, try to implement some more ball screens and get some guys open,” Anosike said. “The defense has been really good, it’s just a matter of hitting some shots.”
“We’ll spread the floor more, we’ve simplified things,” head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. “We’re trying to get the ball up more, maybe beat the other team up the floor, but the biggest thing we’ve emphasized is not turning the ball over. We’ve been doing some extra shooting, too.”
Siena has already tried to tweak the offense this season, without much to show for it.
Subsequently, the losses have piled up, most recently 75-55 at Manhattan the last time Siena was on the floor, two weeks ago.
At a moment when the Saints desperately were looking for a glimmer of optimism heading into the break, they lost by the biggest margin this season.
“The Manhattan loss was definitely a demoralizing one,” Anosike said. “It was a game that we wanted, definitely a winnable game, we just didn’t sustain the focus and energy we needed to get it. So, again, the past few weeks have been dedicated to improving the team, evaluating ourselves and trying to get better.”
“We were really upset about it,” redshirt sophomore guard Rakeem Brookins said. “That three-point shooter [Shane Richards] they had, he wasn’t anything that we were unaware about. We knew exactly what he was capable of doing. We just lost him in the offense. Against Fordham, we have to come in mentally focused.”
Brookins should be the primary beneficiary of any attempt by Siena to turbo-boost its offense.
At 13.2 ppg, he has moved slightly ahead of Anosike for the team scoring lead, and prefers an up-tempo approach.
Unfortunately for the Saints, the three players who handle the ball the most, Anosike, Brookins and Evan Hymes, have combined for over 10 of the Saints’ 15 turnovers per game.
“We’re going to pick up the pace, run more, get up and down the floor,” Brookins said. “We changed out offense to go more four-out, one-in, instead of three-out, two-in. It’s an inside-out game still, but we’re going to run more. There should be more movement . . . pass, cut . . . more of a movement, constant motion offense, so we won’t be stagnant.”
“Part of the tweaking we’ve done is to get him [Anosike] some touches without as many people around him, and also getting it to him earlier in transition so that he’s not double-teamed,” Buonaguro said.
“It’s given us a chance to sit back and evaluate the team, look at the positives and address the negatives,” Anosike said. “What that means is a lot of offensive work, trying to put a jolt into the offense.
“It’s really important that we try to get a win against anybody. Fordham is a team that’s struggling a little bit, just like ourselves, but they’re a very good team.”
The Rams handed Siena its worst home loss in six years last season, 74-59.
Chris Gatson hurt Siena with 16 points and 15 rebounds in that gane, and the 6-foot-7, 231-pound forward is averaging 12.2 points, second on the team to guard Branden Frazier (16.5 ppg).
The Rams are also 2-9, with losses to Pitt, St. John’s and UConn.
“The key is to get a win, get the guys confident, and then move forward,” Buonaguro said. “We’re approaching this Fordham game as a restart, we’re starting the second part of the season.”
With the MAAC expanding to 11 schools next season, the league approved a 20-game conference schedule.
Loyola is leaving, and Quinnipiac and Monmouth will join the MAAC.
The postseason tournament will have three first-round games, with the winners to join the top five regular-season teams in the quarterfinals. . . .
Tom Parrotta, fired by Canisius after last season, is an assistant on Fordham head coach Tom Pecora’s staff. Parrotta is a 1991 Fordham graduate. . . .
Pecora, in his third season at Fordham, tried to recruit Anosike to Hofstra when Pecora was the head coach there.