SPRINGFIELD – Siena held on to a 70-64 victory in the first game of the MAAC Tournament at the MassMutual Center, scoring the game’s final six points in a minute capped by an emphatic dunk from senior O.D. Anosike.
Anosike led Siena with 24 points on 9-21 from the floor and a game-high 12 rebounds.
“This is definitely the epitome of a team effort,” Anosike said. “I’m a senior and I don’t want to go home.”
“They understood that if we didn’t play with a sense of urgency, we were going home. I’m real proud of these guys.”
Marist Sophomore Chavaughn Lewis also tied Anosike’s game-high 24 points but could not convert when he had the ball in his hands with the chance to go ahead and just over a minute left.
The Red Foxes ran two-man action through the sophomore at the top of the key but, Lewis lost the handle after getting double-teamed. On the ensuing loose ball Lewis managed to gave up his fourth foul with just over a minute left.
Head coach Chuck Martin was out beyond the coaching box to distress his unhappiness with the loose ball foul on Lewis.
“Something happened there,” Martin said. “Lewis was on the floor so, something happened. It looked like a foul but, the officials said he didn’t see it that way and that’s his call.”
“Chavaughn Lewis is dribbling and then in two seconds he’s on the floor. Something happened. He didn’t trip by himself.”
Lewis said in the locker room after the game he apologized to the seniors for missing out on the opportunity to tie.
“I like to take the blame on myself because I had two big time possessions where I could have put us in the lead or even gave us a good opportunity,” Lewis said. “I apologized to the seniors for that and wish them the best of luck.”
Trenity Burdine went to the line and missed the first and made the second to give Siena a 65-64 lead.
Lewis had a chance to take the lead with a jumper from the free throw line; however, his shot went in and out.
“Definitely that was the play where I saw how open I was, all I was thinking about was knocking the shot down, but I let it go too hard and I missed.” Lewis said.
“It’s crazy because all week that’s what I’ve been in the gym just shooting and thinking about that moment when I had the opportunity I would knock that shot down. It’s disappointing to know that all that work, I actually missed the shot.”
On the other end Burdine drove to the basket on Lewis and dropped in a layup to give Siena a 67-64 lead.
On the next possession Lewis had a contested three point look but missed the shot with just under 30 seconds left. From there Siena managed to ice the game. Marist missed their final seven shots of the game
The game went back and forth until the final media timeout. Marist went on an 8-0 run early to take an 18-17 lead. Off an Evan Hymes tunrover, Isaiah Morton threw it in transition to Manny Thomas who missed the layup. However, Adam Kemp trailed the play and threw down a dunk, forcing a Siena timeout.
O.D. Anosike dominated early, scoring 12 points in the half. However, Anosike was held without a bakset for the final 8:27 of the half. The senior missed four shots from the field with shots blocked from Manny Thomas and Pieter Prinsloo. Siena led 32-31 at halftime thanks to Trenity Burdine free throw in the final minute.
In the second half, defense dominated early. Silas had a hook shot rejected by Kemp and on ensuing possession Silas blocked Morton’s drive early in the second half. Kemp blocked a Brookins drive to the basket a few feet from the stands from the paint.
T.J. Curry off a Burdine turnover drove to the basket for the layup to give Marist a 49-48 lead, their first since leading 20-17 in the first half. Chavaughn Lewis drove in transition got fouled by Martens and made the basket. His three point play capped a 7-2 Red Fox run to give Marist a 56-52 lead with 5:54 left.
However Rob Poole dialed up a response with a game-tying three pointer from the left baseline with 3:47 left.
Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said that Poole’s two late three pointers came on the same set play.
“I was just going to try to let the game come to me,” Poole said who had 11 of his 19 points in the second half. “I just kept shooting, and luckily, they went in.”
After a Siena timeout, the Saints went man to man and Lewis drove off a pick from Kemp drawing a foul on Poole. Lewis made one of two free throws to give Marist a 61-60 lead.
Redshirt sophomore Rahkeem Brookins, who last played February 10th against Saint Peter’s, played 20 minutes off the bench scoring four points. Brookins free throws with 2:53 left gave Siena a 62-61 lead, a lead they would hold on for good. On the next possession Kemp drew a charge backing down in the post for his fourth foul with 2:33 left. Poole banked a jumper off the window to add to the cushion and give Siena a 64-61 lead.
The junior Bowie had 14 of his 16 points in the second half to help Marist come back in the game. Kemp finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks but fouled out of the game in the final minute.
Siena has won each of the six tournament meetings against the Red Foxes.
Martin said after the game that this close loss will be motivation to rally the team for next season.
“I think that it is but if there’s anything I could tell my guys it’s that you are who you are and in the critical moments you reveal yourself,” Martin said. “This is who you were all year long, you could fake it and hide it but in the moment of truth you are who you are and hopefully the same lesson for us to commit from day one.”
“Completely commit from day one, everyone, staff, players, managers because if you don’t do it that way in critical moments, you are who you are you reveal yourself and that happened tonight a little bit.”
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for Big Apple Buckets, follow him on twitter @ryanarestivo.