The primary result was unacceptable, but the secondary result was pretty good for Siena on Friday night.
The Saints failed to hold off first-place Niagara in the closing minutes and lost, 78-69, to continue a mostly miserable season in which they have lost 14 of their last 16 to fall to 4-16 overall and 2-7 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Today, they’ll face a team in similar circumstances, Marist, which is 2-7 and 5-15, at 2 p.m. at McCann Arena.
One bright spot for Siena on Friday was the play of sophomore Rob Poole and redshirt sophomore Trenity Burdine in their first game back from a layoff.
Poole missed four games with the flu, and Burdine was out for six games while on academic suspension.
Each played well against the Purple Eagles, and should only improve with each passing game as they shake off the rust.
Siena may also be bolstered today by the return of guard Rakeem Brookins, who was scheduled to play against Niagara, but was held out on the advice of doctors that he take 48 hours to recover from a cortisone shot that was administered to his back on Thursday.
Poole had 14 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes, and Burdine had 11 and four in 25 minutes. He probably would have been more productive, but he fouled out with 7:07 left. Head coach Mitch Buonaguro and his assistants were under the mistaken belief that he had three fouls instead of four at that point.
Poole, who actually moved into a very slight lead ahead of O.D. Anosike as leading scorer on the team, said he’ll still need a few games to get into game shape.
“I felt like I was making shots when I came back, and after that, there were some parts of my game, like getting in shape and feeling a couple steps slow, weren’t there, so I need a couple games to get back,” he said. “Those guards were going right by me the entire game.”
“He played great in the first half,” Buonaguro said. “He’s coming off two weeks of not practicing much. He had three wide-open looks [in the second half], and he was tired. He normally makes those shots.”
“It was good, knowing I can get in the lane and kick out to Robby, because he’s been making big shots,” said point guard Evan Hymes, who had 30 points and six assists against Niagara.
Burdine’s production perhaps was even more encouraging for Siena, since he’s been suspended twice this season and was averaging 5.2 points per game.
He was 4-for-7 from the field and had some baseline plays to the rim that have been missing from Siena’s offense.
“I just came into the game confident,” Burdine said. “I didn’t come in thinking I was going to miss this shot, miss that shot. I kept my confidence high and playing hard, and everything was going in.”
“It’s a little demoralizing when you have two of your best players back, but then you’re missing a couple more,” Anosike said. “But we played well. Trenity came off the bench and gave us a big spark, Robby played really well.”
Starting forward Imoh Silas did not play against Niagara because of an ankle injury, the first game he’s missed this year. He may be available today. Freshman Ryan Oliver is still out with a knee injury.