Anyone who told me I was an idiot for skipping the Saints' game on Saturday is the real idiot. Because I saw the Saints.
However, they weren't the Saints who lost to the 49ers in the NFL playoffs.
Instead, 1,275 people and I succumbed to the lure of a MAAC basketball game between the Saints of Siena and the Jaspers of Manhattan, who were coming off Thursday's dramatic 17-point comeback and buzzer-beating win over Iona.
Let's just say it was a rough day for Saints fans around the country.
As the football Saints allowed Alex Smith -- Alex frickin' Smith! -- to march 85 yards in 1:28 for the game-winning touchdown, the basketball Saints were in the midst of a lopsided second half against the Jaspers. Manhattan outscored Mitch Buonaguro's squad 44-26 after the break, and a stretch of 33 seconds enabled the Jaspers to extricate themselves from what had been a tight first 21-plus minutes.
With the score knotted at 30, Roberto Colonette buried a 17-footer from the baseline with 18:12 remaining. Then, Mike Alvarado stripped Owen Wignot and fed George Beamon for an and-one layup 18 seconds later. After breaking Manhattan's full-court press, Siena missed a layup, and Alvarado found Kidani Brutus behind the arc for a trey.
38-30 Manhattan. Timeout Siena. 17:39 remaining.
The Jaspers didn't score for another four minutes, but the Saints only mustered three points before the Jaspers found their stroke again. Rhamel Brown scored six straight points, Beamon converted a fast break layup and suddenly Manhattan led 46-33 with just over 12 minutes left.
Siena trimmed the lead to nine, but Manhattan thwarted the comeback attempt with a 23-7 run fueled by a barrage of long range bombs by Brutus (two), Ryan McCoy, Liam McCabe-Moran and Donovan Kates.
As Manhattan pushed the lead to 20, ESPN3's cameraman served as the only distraction -- albeit an ephemeral one -- from the "party" a group of six-year-old boy scouts were having in the top row of the bleachers (after the leader of the boy scouts told them to stop throwing a water bottle, one boy exclaimed, "But we're having a party!").
The Jaspers led by enough with three minutes left that Steve Masiello unloaded his bench, inserting Djibril Coulibaly, DeCarlos Anderson, Chris Viven and the one-armed Kevin Laue into the game. You didn't read the previous sentence incorrectly -- Laue, as far as records show, is the only one-armed hoopster in NCAA Division I history.
Perhaps because I spent a good portion of the second half checking on the NFL Saints, I might have missed some O.D. Anosike rebounds. Still, the nation's rebounding leader quietly totaled 16 boards to go with 16 points. The double-double was his 13th straight, a streak that currently leads the nation, but it wasn't nearly enough to beat Manhattan.
The Jaspers won by a final of 72-53.
It's amazing how much of an impact coaches have in college basketball. Just one season ago, Barry Rohrssen -- with a very similar roster -- won six games at the helm of Manhattan. Two months into his rookie season, Masiello has doubled last season's win total.
A 20-win finish isn't out of the question.
The 12-7 Jaspers, who beat the preseason No. 1 and 2 MAAC teams consecutively, are set up to potentially win their next five with Niagara (twice), Marist (twice) and Canisius on the upcoming schedule.
at MANHATTAN 72, SIENA 53 01/14/2012
SIENA 8-9 (3-4) -- K. Downey 1-13 3-3 6; E. Hymes 2-10 0-2 6; O. Anosike 7-11 2-5 16; O. Wignot 3-9 0-0 7; R. Poole 2-8 2-2 6; B. Walters 4-5 2-5 10; M. Hopper 0-0 0-0 0; S. Cruz 0-1 2-2 2; C. Fenlon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-57 11-19 53. MANHATTAN 12-7 (5-2) -- G. Beamon 10-19 2-2 24; M. Alvarado 0-2 2-2 2; R. Colonette 2-4 1-2 5; K. Brutus 5-10 0-0 14; E. Andujar 2-5 0-0 5; L. McCabe-Moran 2-6 0-0 5; R. Brown 2-5 2-3 6; D. Kates 1-3 0-0 3; R. McCoy 1-1 1-2 4; M. Koita 1-2 0-0 2; D. Anderson 0-2 0-0 0; D. Coulibaly 1-2 0-0 2; K. Laue 0-0 0-0 0; C. Viven 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-61 8-11 72.
Three-point goals: SIE 4-18 (K. Downey 1-6; O. Wignot 1-2; S. Cruz 0-1; E. Hymes 2-5; R. Poole 0-4), MAN 10-29 (L. McCabe-Moran 1-4; G. Beamon 2-7; M. Koita 0-1; M. Alvarado 0-2; K. Brutus 4-8; D. Anderson 0-2; E. Andujar 1-2; D. Kates 1-2; R. McCoy 1-1); Rebounds: SIE 38 (O. Anosike 16), MAN 35 (G. Beamon 7); Assists: SIE 10 (E. Hymes 4), MAN 20 (M. Alvarado 9); Total Fouls -- SIE 10, MAN 16; Fouled Out: SIE-None; MAN-None.