It will be difficult for Rakeem Brookins to be the hero for a second time against Canisius this afternoon.
Just over a week after his three-pointer at the buzzer beat the Golden Griffins to stop Siena’s 11-game losing streak, the 5-foot-10 guard from Philadelphia comes into today’s 2 p.m. game at the Koessler Center with a sore back.
Brookins missed all of last season with bulging and herniated disks in his back.
Because of a thin bench, he played 39 minutes in Siena’s 87-64 loss at Niagara on Thursday night, but the wear and tear has taken a toll, and he didn’t do much at practice on Friday, and isn’t expected to play a lot today.
“He’ll play, but we’re going to watch his minutes,” head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. “He played too many minutes the other night, but with the state of the team, we had no depth.”
Siena is already without forward Trenity Burdine (academic suspension), starting small forward Rob Poole stayed at Siena with the flu and freshman guard Ryan Oliver made the trip to Buffalo, but he has a knee injury and didn’t play against Niagara and won’t play against Canisius.
That means freshman walk-on Chris Leppanen, a Christian Brothers Academy graduate, will get some playing time today, as he did on Friday, when he scored four points in seven minutes.
Buonaguro said he’ll probably be in the 7-12 minutes range today.
“He’s a good player,” Buonaguro said. “The big thing is he understands his role. He’s not in there to score, but he’s got to get better at running the team. But he hasn’t played a lot of minutes.”
Siena’s thin bench wasn’t helped by the fact that senior forward O.D. Anosike got two quick technicals and was ejected in the second half on Friday.
“It’s obviously not something he wants to do,” Buonaguro said. “We were down 20, and there was some frustration, but he’s got to contain his emotions. O.D. likes to win, but you can’t let it escalate.”
Brookins’ three on Jan. 11 gave Siena a 57-54 victory, the type of low score the Saints need against the Canisiuses and Niagaras of the world, and didn’t get on Friday, when the Purple Eagles made eight of 12 threes in the first half and exploded for 15 points in the first four minutes of the second.
Siena is 2-5 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and 4-14 overall, and the Golden Griffins are 4-3 and 11-7.
“I think Canisius plays well at home, they’re 7-1, so it’ll be a tough game, not only because of the revenge factor, but they’ve established themselves on their homecourt.
“One good thing is that we have played them, and the prep is short. They’re very good, offensively. We played them very, very well on defense last time, and the defensive effort has to be the same this time.”
Freshman Rich Audu will start again for Poole.
He played 39 minutes against Canisius last week and scored nine points, then had three points in 34 minutes against Niagara.
Freshman Breet Bisping had a solid game against the Purple Eagles, with 11 points in 27 minutes.
He made three of five three-pointers.