Siena Earns Gut-Check Win
It's only January 4th, but last night's 73-67 win over Iona could be the defining win of the season for Siena.
The Saints found themselves down 13 points with about 5 minutes to go in the 1st half and then something magical happened.
Siena became the team we all thought they'd be this season. A scrappy, hard-nosed, never-say-quit club that just refused to get rattled.
An 11-2 run before the half trimmed a 13 point deficit to just 3 at the half. The Saints went on a 13-0 run to start the 2nd half and built a 9-point lead with 9:41 to go. Iona fought back as the lead changed 10 times in that 2nd half.
Ryan Rossiter's bucket and foul with 49 seconds left sealed the game for Siena. Rossiter finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds. He carried Siena on his back for much of the 2nd half. When Siena needed a bucket, the senior delivered. Rossiter is making a legit case for the MAAC Player of the Year and even Honorable Mention All-American status.
There are several things to take away from this game. Remember, Siena was playing without senior guard Clarence Jackson and junior guard Kyle Griffin. So they came into the game short-handed in the backcourt. But Rakeem Brookins is becoming a completely different player from what we saw in the beginning of the season. He's making smart decisions, he isn't afraid to drive to the bucket and can also drain the 3-pointer if given the opportunity. Brookins had 11 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and just 1 turnover vs. Iona.
Owen Wignot and Kyle Downey could very well be the glue that's holding this team together right now. Wignot might not ever score 20 points a game but last night's stats showed that he can do so many other things well (8 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks). When the Saints were down big early on, it was Wignot that was hustling and making plays to keep his team in it.
Downey started in place of the injured Jackson - who missed his 4th straight game with a sprained ankle. The junior guard had 9 points, 2 assists and 2 blocks. Again, the stats might not look great but he just continues to come up with big plays in key moments.
This entire Siena team makes the most of their opportunities. Davis Martens came off the bench and added 8 points and 4 boards in 24 minutes. Jonathan Breeden, who was only 1 for 7 from the field, hit the game-clinching free throws in the final seconds.
Injuries to key players have forced Siena Head Coach Mitch Buonaguro to use players he probably wouldn't normally use in key situations. And it's working out for him right now.
It was a gut-check win for Siena. They came in riding a two-game losing streak and found themselves down 14 points in the first half to a MAAC rival. They could have easily folded but somehow they found a way to win. The Saints are now 5-8 overall and 2-1 in the league.
This Siena team is just a fun to watch. They might not be as talented as the other Saints teams in the recent past, but I certainly don't question this team's desire.