Lactic acid has gotten a bad rap over the decades. Long thought to be the source of muscle fatigue, in the past few years it has been shown to be critical to fitness and energy in athletes.
Of course, when it is allowed to accumulate, muscles can become tight, athletes get tired, and the level of performance drops off quickly. How do you fight it? Well, other than fitness training, I've seen ice baths, rolling the muscles soon after a workout (or game), or various different supplements.
Siena probably used all of those and maybe a couple of other tricks I don't know in preparing for the MAAC semifinal against Loyola. With their thrilling quarterfinal win over Manhattan ending at 12:35 Saturday morning, the tipoff for the next round was exactly 16 hours later. The Saints only use six players, and all of them had played at least 37 minutes the night before.
Of course, the antithesis to lactic acid buildup is adrenaline, and Siena, with the crowd again behind them, went on a 14-2 run to take an early 14-6 lead. We love Jimmy Patsos, and he's a certified friend of the Mid-Majority, but he seemed to be teetering toward the edge of bullyness when he relentlessly lit into sophomore Dylon Cormier for an extended period of time after he got off to a sluggish start.
Siena was up 16-9 when Patsos used another timeout, but the clock was ticking on the Saints it seemed.
As much as we talk about the physical side of fatigue, to me it was the mental fatigue that was the more difficult thing to overcome in these situations. If you figure they left the arena sometime after 1 a.m., took an hour or two to calm down after a ridiculous quarterfinal, conservatively -- very conservatively -- they were asleep by 3 or 4 a.m. The fatigue showed in their shots, in their defense, even in the crowd. The student section was about half what is was the night before, and not nearly as loud.
For a 4:30 p.m. tipoff, that doesn't leave much room for error or for recovery, and at some point, there is a limit to what the body can handle. The crowd was trying to push Siena on, but five straight points by Justin Drummond put the Greyhounds ahead for good near the end of the first half. Siena didn't score in the final 3:45 of the half, and Loyola, despite playing fairly poorly, led 28-23 at the break.
The adrenaline kicked in again to start the second half, and senior Kyle Downey's basket got Siena within three, but the whole fighting the dying of the light thing only goes so far when you're an underdog and you're playing a bigger, stronger team on tired legs. Adding to the dilemma was Loyola playing a tight man-to-man defense, as opposed to Manhattan's trapping zone that seemed to open up the outside.
Erik Etherly's three-pointer at the eight-minute mark pushed the lead to double digits, and the rest of the game was a mere formality, Loyola was one game from the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994.
It was a milestone for Jimmy Patsos, who advanced to a conference title game as a head coach for the first time, but the celebration was subdued. He thanked his faithful, gave a couple of hugs, and was down the tunnel to the locker room.
The big one was Monday night.
LOYOLA (MD.) 70, SIENA 60 03/04/2012
SIENA 14-17 (8-10) -- K. Downey 8-15 1-3 17; O. Anosike 5-9 3-4 13; O. Wignot 7-12 1-1 16; R. Poole 0-3 0-0 0; E. Hymes 2-10 1-2 6; B. Walters 4-7 0-0 8. Totals 26-56 6-10 60. LOYOLA (MD.) 23-8 (13-5) -- S. Walker 5-9 0-0 12; R. Olson 5-9 0-0 12; E. Etherly 8-15 4-6 21; D. Cormier 2-5 0-0 5; R. Williams 1-1 4-4 6; J. Drummond 4-11 1-1 10; A. Winbush 2-2 0-0 4; J. Brooks 0-1 0-0 0; J. Latham 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-53 9-11 70.
Three-point goals: SIE 2-9 (K. Downey 0-1; O. Wignot 1-2; E. Hymes 1-5; R. Poole 0-1), LMD 7-13 (S. Walker 2-3; E. Etherly 1-1; R. Olson 2-5; D. Cormier 1-2; J. Drummond 1-2); Rebounds: SIE 20 (B. Walters 6), LMD 29 (S. Walker 6); Assists: SIE 16 (E. Hymes 5), LMD 18 (R. Olson 6); Total Fouls -- SIE 11, LMD 10; Fouled Out: SIE-None; LMD-None.