The Siena men’s basketball team will do its best to sneak between the snow squalls this weekend.
Tonight, they’ll settle for sneaking through what could be a blizzard of pressure from the Loyola Greyhounds at Reitz Arena in Baltimore.
As of Thursday, starting point guard Evan Hymes was still feeling the effects of a sore throat, but he has improved and will play at 9 tonight. The game will be televised live on ESPNU.
Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said he and the team are bracing for what could be more constant pressure, if Loyola believes the Saints’ ballhandling is vulnerable with Hymes under the weather.
Reserve forward Brett Bisping is sick and did not make the trip, and Hymes is trying to shake off the aftereffects of his illness, which slowed him to some degree in a 64-54 loss to Fairfield on Monday.
“We did a good job against Manhattan’s press, but that was also with Evan healthy,” Buonaguro said. “He Rahk [Rakeem Brookins] are both super ballhandlers, and Rob Poole is very good, too, so if we have all three guys, we’ll be OK.”
The Saints flew to Baltimore on Thursday night, and are hoping the Nemo storm doesn’t disrupt their travel plans the rest of the way.
They’re scheduled to fly out of Baltimore at 10 a.m. Saturday to play at Saint Peter’s in Jersey City, N.J., at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The rugged road trip continues with a game at Fairfield next Thursday.
With six Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games left, Siena (4-8 MAAC, 6-17 overall) will be hard-pressed to finish in at least sixth place and get a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Two of those games are against Loyola, which, at 8-4, is among several teams trying to stay close to first-place Niagara.
Since Trenity Burdine came back from a suspension and Poole got over the flu, Buonaguro has been relying heavily on his five starters, senior forward O.D. Anosike, Hymes, Brookins, Burdine and Poole.
It’s not unlike last year, but he had no choice then, because the bench was almost non-existent.
As it gets late into this season, the Saints need every win they can get, so the best players are going to be out there, a lot.
“At this time of the year, I’m going to go with the guys that I think can win the game,” Buonaguro said. “I’m not into this playing guys minutes just to play them. It’s the same for every team now.”
“Coach has confidence to put us out there, we just have to go out and make plays, no matter how tired we are or where we’re playing,” Anosike said after the Fairfield loss. “We can’t make any excuses.
“Fatigue sets in at some point. We’re not robots. But again, you can’t make excuses. For us, we just have to make shots.”
The Greyhounds are 16-8 overall and again have a strong nucleus with 6-foot-7 forward Erik Etherly, who was named MAAC preseason player of the year, Dylon Cormier and Robert Olson, who are averaging a combined 53.3 points per game.
“Those are the three main guys, but they have depth, too,” Buonaguro said. “I assume they’re going to press us, because Evan is not 100 percent. We’ll see some pressure at some point.”
Freshman guard Ryan Oliver is scheduled for surgery on his left knee today.
After playing in the first 17 games of the season, averaging 13.1 minutes, he has missed the last six and is done for the season. . . .
Burdine has scored at least 10 points in each of the four games he’s played since coming back from suspension. . . .
Saints have lost 15 of their last 17 road games. . . . As part of Siena’s overall resurgence at the free throw line, Brookins is 26-for-30 from the line over the last six games. . . .
Sophomore forward Imoh Silas had been hampered by an ankle injury, but is healthy again and back to the full practice routine. . . .