BUFFALO — The Siena College men’s basketball team has one game left in its MAAC regular season, and plenty to play for in Sunday’s contest at Niagara.
That’s after the Saints squandered a double-digit lead in the second half of Friday’s game, a contest in which Canisius used a decisive run to score a 68-62 win at Koessler Athletic Center.
With the loss, Siena will need a win Sunday to guarantee itself a top-five seed and a first-round bye in next week’s MAAC tournament in Albany. The Saints had entered Friday’s game still in contention to win at least a share of the league’s regular-season championship, but will now end up anywhere from No. 4 to No. 6 for the MAAC tournament depending on Sunday’s results around the league.
“Great opportunity for us to show our ability to bounce back,” Siena head coach Jamion Christian said of Sunday’s game.
Siena (10-7, 15-15) appeared ready to run away from Canisius (11-7, 14-16) midway through the second half. The Saints had a 48-38 lead with less than 11 minutes to go, but Canisius responded with a 21-3 run that swung the game in its favor.
“They were electric,” Christian said. “They really showed why they were one of the preseason favorites in our league.”
As Canisius hit one 3-pointer after another to start its run, Siena’s offense struggled to find quality shots. Canisius was aggressive and physical on defense all night, and the rewards for that persistence came in the final 10 minutes for the Golden Griffins.
“I think our offense lapsed more than anything,” Christian said. “We just took some bad shots. Took some tough ones. Didn’t feel like we saw it clearly there, and I thought our frustration level really rose to a point where we just weren’t seeing it clearly on either end of the floor.”
For the game, Siena shot 26 of 64. Freshman guard Jalen Pickett flirted with a triple-double, but shot 5 of 20 — and attempted no free throws despite playing through plenty of contact.
“Disappointed with the amount of physicality that was on him tonight. I thought it was a little excessive, and if there is anything I’m disappointed about, I’m disappointed about him not getting to the free-throw line. When you’re one of the best players in this league, [in] a nationally televised game, and guys are hanging on you a ton, you just expect for him to have the opportunity to get there,” said Christian, whose team’s game was broadcast on ESPNU. “Doesn’t mean he has to get there every time, but for him not to shoot any free throws, that’s hard for me to stomach.”
Pickett finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while senior Evan Fisher had a team-high 17 points. For Canisius, sophomore Takal Molson had 16 points.
Siena led 32-28 at halftime after ending the opening 20 minutes on a 7-0 run that sophomore Manny Camper capped with a dunk off a pass from Pickett.
MAAC play started Friday with the possibility that five teams could still finish tied for first place. At day’s end, Iona had clinched at least a share of the league title, while Quinnipiac will earn a share with a win Sunday. Canisius, Rider and Siena were the other three teams involved in the potential five-way tie.
Seymour 4-8 1-1 12, Fisher 8-16 1-1 17, Degnan 5-12 0-0 12, Camper 3-7 0-1 6, Pickett 5-20 0-0 11, Smithen 1-1 2-2 4, Ratliff 0-0 0-0 0, Huerter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-64 4-5 62.
White 6-10 1-4 13, Hitchon 4-8 0-0 1, Johnson 4-5 2-3 10, Sanks 3-8 4-5 10, Molson 7-19 0-0 16, St. Louis 0-0 0-0 0, Henderson 2-3 1-2 6, Faulkner 1-5 0-0 2, Lotts 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-58 8-14 68.
Halftime score: Siena 32, Canisius 28. Three-point shooting: Siena 6-22, Canisius 6-21. Rebounds: Siena 39 (Pickett 10), Canisius 34 (Molson 9). Assists: Siena 11 (Pickett 8), Canisius 18 (Johnson 12). Turnovers: Siena 8, Canisius 3. Total fouls: Siena 13, Canisius 10. Attendance: 1,263.