"In short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
Game #9-145: Siena at Manhattan JaspersDecember 9, 2012 2:00 pm
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities at MANHATTAN 75, SIENA 55
BRONX, N.Y. - It was Chamber of Commerce weather Sunday afternoon in Riverdale, at least if you were trying to promote some kind of bizarre Dickensian paradise. It was gloomy, wet, and cold, and when you add in the 19th century architecture both inside and outside the Manhattan College campus, I think Oliver Twist might have felt right at home.
Alas, it has not been the best of times for either Manhattan or Siena of late, particularly Siena, who not only ruled the MAAC from 2008-2010, but didn't stop there, recording NCAA Tournament Red Line Upsets in back-to-back years (a thrashing of Vanderbilt and double-overtime thriller over Ohio St., respectively) in 2008 and 2009.
Under Fran McCaffrey, the Saints went 77-26 in those three campaigns, an impressive 49-8 against MAAC competition. Siena was never really in the conversation with the George Masons and Butlers of the world, but they were getting there. Then McCaffrey, as many others before him have done, jumped the Red Line to Iowa.
Assistant Mitch Buonaguro was promoted, having coached Fairfield to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances previously. Of course, that was 1985 and 1986, and to put it in historical perspective, the 1986 Tournament was the first with a shot clock and the #superhoop wasn't introduced until the next season. Might as well be Dickens' time to us, no?
Siena had back-to-back 13-18 seasons under Buonaguro, with a losing MAAC record in both. So that set up this season, Buonaguro's third, as a big one. Last season, the Saints earned some positive press for their guts with a small rotation down the stretch, but they came into Draddy Gym with a woeful 2-8 mark.
I was somewhat surprised that there was a fairly large contingent of visiting fans in Riverdale, but I probably shouldn't have been: it's only 150 miles or so between the Bronx and Albany and a straight shot up the New York Thruway. Some of it, though, as when I saw Bucknell at Columbia, had to do with their still recent success, winning begets followers most of the time.
It isn't exactly the epoch of incredulity for Manhattan, either, although a revival under new coach Steve Masiello last year had Jaspers fans dreaming of the back-to-back MAAC titles Bobby Gonzalez led them to a decade ago.
However, they came into their home gym on this dreary day only 2-5, and 0-1 in the league with a loss at lowly Marist on Friday. And their top scorer, George Beamon, wasn't even suiting up for this one because of an ankle injury. It was a far cry from the last time I saw these teams meet in a classic at March's MAAC Tournament that ended well after midnight.
After visiting a couple of relatively giant minor league hockey arena this week, Manhattan College was still a welcome change. A small school with a hilltop campus that overlooks the entire Bronx, what makes it even better from our perspective is that almost literally all pedestrian roads from the dorms lead to ancient Draddy Gym via wooden bridges. No buses or shuttles here.
Although they opened their warmup with "Call Me Maybe", it was nice to see a real live pep band. I walked over to talk to a TMM friend, John Templon of Big Apple Buckets on press row, only to be cut off by Ronnie. "C'mon, John, you know this is a professional environment, he doesn't belong here with the press, he doesn't have a credential."
John tried to plead my case, but I told him it was OK, he was right.
Seems like jerk move, especially 30 minutes before tip-off, but Ronnie Weintraub is a legend at Draddy Gym, and a well-deserved one. In fact, he probably should be a Mid-majority legend as well. After I saw Ronnie walk away to congratulate the women's team on their win the day before, I walked back over to check on his set-up, and it was classic. I wondered how many scorebooks he's gone through, how many pens and pencils, and how every one of those pages is a memory that he'll probably never forget.
Every team in Our Game needs a Ronnie.
Alas, Ronnie seemed more excited to be there than Siena did, and that's a big problem when you're struggling as much as they are, and facing a clearly wounded team. Masiello, quite possibly just to be a jerk but likely for a perceived mental advantage, came out and played one possession of man-to-man, but quickly went into his super-aggressive zone for the rest of the game.
Masiello, the subject of some criticism for being overzealous here, was a little more subdued, although there was a comical moment (to me, at least) in the first half when Michael Alvarado committed a careless turnover. With play stopped, Masiello called him over, but seemed keenly aware that there were people watching him, so he whispered what appeared from my amateur lip-reading perspective to be a profanity-laced tirade. That's one way to do it, I guess.
Siena seemed content to move their offense further and further away from the basket, and midway through the first half, the Jaspers led 22-9 and Buonaguro had already called three time outs. Thanks to some heroics from Rakeem Brookins and some poor offensive sets from Manhattan, Siena was able to close somewhat miraculously to 38-31 at the half.
You don't like to pick on individual players, especially from the cheap seats, but to put it mildly, Manhattan center Rhamel Brown battered Siena counterpart O.D. Anosike, holding Anosike to just two points, while scoring 12 of his own, many of which were right past Anosike. It was more than a little disturbing to watch; Anosike was the nation's leading rebounder last season, and - granted, he wasn't getting much help in the paint - didn't look up to the challenge.
Someone clearly said something to Anosike at halftime, and he dominated the first few minutes of the second half. Combined with some cold shooting against Siena's zone, the Saints were able to climb within two with 15:45 left.
Alvarado committed another wild turnover, and Masiello grabbed C.J. Jones to replace him, but the ball never went out of bounds, giving him a chance to redeem himself seconds later with a steal and layup. He hit two more free throws before coming out.
While Anosike was playing better, Manhattan's pressure began to wear on the Saints, and Buonaguro didn't want to waste a time out with only two left. Shane Richards, heretofore invisible in the contest, suddenly caught fire, partly because Siena never bothered to close him down. Back-to-back #superhoops pushed the Jaspers lead to double figures, and there was no response this time from Siena.
By the end, it got rather ugly. Manhattan was getting layups at will, and Siena - well - seemed pretty ambivalent to what was going on.
To be fair, they were down too far to make a legitimate run at winning the game, and trying to interpret body language from the stands can be a very inexact science.
But Buonoguro never did use those two time outs, even though it seemed like he had a couple of chances to. He finally took Anosike (who finished with 13 rebounds, on his average, to stay second in the nation this season, but most of it was just window dressing) out with 55 seconds left, and he gave him an awkward hug as Anosike dejectedly made his way to the end of the bench.
It was Siena's seventh straight loss overall, and they are now 0-2 in the MAAC (with only an overtime win over Navy and a close win over Northern Kentucky in the win column this season), both of which would have been unfathomable a few years ago.
There's still time, of course. The MAAC is very balanced this season, and it's not like Siena was going to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament anyway. They have nearly a month until they host defending regular season champ Iona in their next conference game, which is plenty of time to erase the memory of a dreadful start. They, indeed, still have almost everything before them.
I took a few minutes to leave, and - now a Draddy Gym veteran - have found a nice out-of-the-way parking spot next to the Horace Mann School. It's a couple of blocks walk from the campus, but I never mind, especially when it's a nice neighborhood like it is in Riverdale.
The route takes me past where the visiting team's bus parks, but on Sunday, there were two buses, one for the team and another for some of the fans that had made their way down from Albany.
As I sauntered by, they were discussing whether to wait for the team or not. A block later, I heard the bus coming behind me, going slowly through the winding Riverdale streets.
I guess not.
They hope that Siena is not entering the winter of despair.
SIENA 2-9 (0-2) -- S. Hinrichs 5-14 2-2 15; O. Anosike 7-11 2-7 16; R. Brookins 7-17 2-4 19; R. Poole 2-8 3-3 8; E. Hymes 2-8 2-4 8; T. Burdine 0-2 4-7 4; R. Audu 0-1 0-0 0; B. Bisping 0-3 0-0 0; R. Oliver 0-1 0-0 0; D. Martens 0-0 0-0 0; C. Leppanen 0-0 0-0 0; I. Silas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-51 13-25 55.
MANHATTAN 3-5 (1-1) -- D. Kates 2-8 3-5 8; E. Andujar 5-8 0-0 11; R. Stores 4-5 0-0 12; R. Brown 9-12 3-3 21; S. Richards 3-8 0-0 9; C. Jones 0-6 0-0 0; M. Alvarado 2-7 6-6 10; R. Colonette 1-2 0-0 2; R. McCoy 0-1 0-0 0; M. Jackson Jr. 0-1 0-0 0; M. Koita 1-1 0-0 2; A. Lacey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-59 12-14 75.
Three-point goals: SIE 6-19 (R. Brookins 3-7; E. Hymes 2-7; R. Poole 1-4; R. Oliver 0-1), MAN 9-25 (M. Jackson 0-1; M. Alvarado 0-3; E. Andujar 1-2; D. Kates 1-5; R. Stores 4-4; C. Jones 0-3; S. Richards 3-7); Rebounds: SIE 34 (O. Anosike 13), MAN 34 (E. Andujar 7); Assists: SIE 9 (R. Brookins 3), MAN 18 (R. Stores 6); Total Fouls -- SIE 15, MAN 23; Fouled Out: SIE-None; MAN-None.