"Do not go gentle into that good night" - Dylan Thomas
Game #9-456: Siena Saints at Marist Red FoxesMarch 8, 2013 7:30 pm
McCann Recreation Center
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - It's hard to put a positive spin on a 7-23 season, even harder to do so when your team used to be the dominant team in your conference in the not so distant past.
Siena won the MAAC three straight times from 2008-2010, winning NCAA Tournament games in 2008 and 2009, but it's been a downward spiral since Fran McCaffrey left for Iowa three years ago.
The Saints handed the job to assistant Mitch Buonaguro, who had two mediocre seasons and then this one, which has been disappointing by any standards, disastrous might be a better way to frame it.
Siena plays in the biggest arena (the Times Union Center) in the MAAC, and while they don't exactly fill it, usually lead the conference in attendance by a fairly wide margin. They will again this season, which speaks to the loyalty of their fanbase, but a portion of their fans turned on Buonaguro long ago, and even some of those that didn't changed their minds on Feb. 16, when in a home blowout loss to Loyola, Buonaguro benched star senior OD Anosike, leading to a heated exchange near the bench area during the second half
Whether or not Buonaguro (who long ago led Fairfield to the NCAA Tournament) gets shown the door by Siena, who has been rumored by some to go to the Big East of all places soon, Anosike will graduate in May and obviously his eligibility will go with that.
That's the thing about a college playing career, you don't get second chances.
After leading the nation in rebounding last season, Anosike was named All-MAAC and made the preseason All-MAAC team as well, but was only second team in the postseason awards. It's hard to get too many accolades when your team has only seven wins, even if you're second in the country in rebounding and you lead your team in scoring.
The great thing about conference tournaments, though, is it gives everyone, even the most disheartened teams like Siena, one last shot to make things go your way. In an extremely balanced MAAC, ninth-seeded Siena took on No. 8 Marist to open the 2013 MAAC Tournament. Siena will have to pull two upsets to reach the semifinals, which it has gotten to in 12 of the last 15 seasons.
Unfortunately, it didn't appear like many Siena fans shared that enthusiasm. Despite having those huge attendance figures (by MAAC standards) and Springfield being reasonably close to Albany, Marist outdrew Siena for the game, amidst rumors that many Siena supporters were boycotting the game (which is a little harsh, maybe just didn't want to come) this year's MAAC Tournament to show they wanted Buonaguro's ouster. The Saints had the largest numbers of fans in Springfield last season, and only a fraction of that number showed up Friday night.
And so Anosike - who played four minutes in Siena's NCAA loss to Purdue his freshman year - played perhaps the final game of his college career with many of the people that watched him indifferent (again, you don't want to blanket a fanbase, there were some Siena supporters in Springfield and they deserve credit) to the proceedings.
You immediately saw the urgency from Anosike as he scored 12 points in the first 15 minutes of the game and the Saints led by as many as seven early. But Marist had been one of the hotter teams in the MAAC down the stretch and sophomore Chavaughn Lewis (a New York City kid like Anosike) led the comeback, Siena clinging to a one-point lead at the half.
Anosike got the help he desperately needed to start the second half and then when on a mini-run of his own before the Red Foxes charged back again and Anosike - prone to foul trouble - picked up his third with 11:45 left.
Unfortunately, outside of Anosike, the Saints have a lot of young parts (he's the only senior), and they made plenty of mistakes in the middle of the second half. Anosike begged for the ball as things looked to be slipping away from his team, but sophomore Rob Poole calmly stepped up and hit a pir of #superhoops
to tie the game at 60 with 3:47 left.
But Lewis, in a possible changing of the guard moment, couldn't be stopped, and Anosike looked on helplessly from only a few feet away. Ironically, Lewis chose Marist over Siena two years ago
. Something that may not have happened under the old regime.
Poole banked in a shot as the shot clock ran down to put Siena up three, but Jay Bowie - an unsung member for the Red Foxes - tied it again with a #superhoop.
Life can of course be ironic, and a potential go-ahead shot went halfway down and out with 45 seconds left, Anosike grabbing the board, of course. Sophomore Trenity Burdine put the Saints ahead seconds later, again Lewis misfired and Anosike got the rebound, and Anosike sealed the game with a free throw at the other end.
As time wound down, Anosike had a dream ending, he found himself all alone behind the Marist defense and finished things off with a breakaway dunk. He saluted the Saints cheerleaders, band, and crown, a moment to remember in a season to forget.
One more day. One more chance. That's all we ever ask for, isn't it? It will eventually end in a loss, we know that.
But not tonight.