Posted at: 02/01/2013 10:42 PM
By: Siena Athletics
If you’re going to play your best basketball in March, February is a great place to start. The Saints turned in their most complete effort of the season, and turned back a late Manhattan rally in a 66-63 MAAC win in Albany Friday night.
“They’re playing as well as any team in the conference right now,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said of Siena.
Even if that’s a stretch – conference leader Niagara has won 10 straight – Siena’s played some inspired basketball the last seven days, lending hope to a season many had written off for dead.
After losing 11 straight over a 55-day stretch earlier this season, the Saints have found their footing, winning four of their last seven, and three of their last four at home. They’ve also found balance.
Double-double machine O.D. Anosike was held to just five points and six rebounds Friday night, but Siena’s new-found smaller lineup found plenty of ways to score without him.
Resurgent wing Trenity Burdine scored eight of his 14 points during a key 10-0 run to open the second half, and he grabbed nine rebounds. Rakeem Brookins led all players with 18 points, making 11-12 free throws. Rob Poole had his first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and his late 3-point play put the Saints up to stay.
Manhattan didn’t make things easy.
The Jaspers erased Siena’s big second half lead with a 15-2 run, taking a 59-58 lead on Rhamel Brown’s tip-in with 2:10 to play. Siena’s starting point guard Evan Hymes fouled out during that stretch, and the Saints were in serious jeopardy of blowing their third double digit home lead of the season.
But this team showed it has matured since December.
After Mike Alvarado’s driving layup put Manhattan back up 61-60 with 1:35 left, Poole secured a tough offensive rebound, circled through the lane and scored high of the glass while drawing contact.
Brookins made a deft steal on Manhattan’s ensuing possession, sprinting across the court from the 3-point line to steal an entry feed to Brown. He was fouled with seven seconds left and made both to put Siena up four. Brown scored with 1.7 seconds left, Anosike made 1-2 free throws and Donovan Kates three-quarter court heave was well short.
Siena moves into a seventh place tie with Manhattan, and they can move up another spot Monday night when sixth-place Fairfield comes to town.
It’s a start. How they’ll finish? Time will tell.