Posted at: 11/09/2012 11:12 PM
By: WNYT Sports & Siena Athletics
For the second time in as many years Siena and Vermont came down to the final play. For the second straight year the Catamounts walked away with the victory. Sandro Carissimo’s spinning layup with nine seconds left gave Vermont a 54-53 victory in the season-opener for both school’s Friday night in Albany.
Brian Voelkel batted away an entry pass to O.D. Anosike on the Saints’ final play to preserve the win.
Siena shot just 11-24 from the free throw line, and just 4-17 in the second half.
"In the end, that was the difference in the game," head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. "You can’t shoot 11-24 from the free throw line and beat a good team like Vermont in a close game."
Siena sprinted to a 20-4 lead 11 minutes into the game, but Vermont cut the deficit to six at halftime and methodically pecked away. The Catamounts took their first of just three leads in the game, 47-46, on a Josh Elbaum layup with 5:17 to play.
After Voelkel tied the game at 52-52, Anosike made 1-2 free throws with 18 seconds left to give Siena a 53-52 lead. The experienced Catamounts elected not to call a timeout off the missed free throw, and Carissimo took advantage of a high ball screen to find a lane to the basket.
Anosike finished with 10 points and 17 rebounds for the Saints, but missed nine of his 11 free throws.
"That was uncharacteristic," Buoanguro said. "He’s made great progress on the line. We are going to continue to go to him. He’s our best player."
Siena got 15 points and four assists for Evan Hymes, but he was carted off the court on a stretcher after suffering a cramp midway through the second half. Freshman walk-on Chris Leppanen was forced into duty, and performed admirably in a tough spot before Hymes returned for the final 3:31. The Saints led 40-35 when Hymes left the court with 12:05 on the game clock, and 52-49 when he returned.
Luke Apfeld scored a game-high 16 points for Vermont. The Catamounts defeated Siena for the third straight season after losing 21 of the first 26 games in the series. Vermont joins UAlbany as the only non-conference opponents to have beaten Siena three times at Times Union Center since the Saints made the full-time move here in 1997.
"This is a great series," Vermont coach John Becker said. "It was a terrific atmosphere here tonight. Obviously, a great way to start our season."
A crowd of 6,779 turned out to watch two of the Northeast’s top Mid-Major programs of the past decade.
Siena plays its next five games away from home, beginning with Sunday’ contest at Navy.