By Paul Gotham
ALBANY, NY — Rakeem Brookins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to complete a furious rally as an under-manned Siena Saints beat the Canisius Golden Griffins, 57-54 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference action at the Times-Union Center, Friday night.
Brookins went end-to-end for the game-winner. Siena erased a 13-point deficit earlier to snap an-11-game losing streak.
“To say the least this is a great win,” commented Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro. “Under the circumstances, 11 straight losses, playing arguably the best team in the league, our backs to the wall it shows a lot of what this team is made of.”
Evan Hymes returned from an injury and capped a 14-2 run with a pull-up three to tie the score at 47. The pint-sized point guard gave Siena its first lead of the game at 50-49 with his fourth trey on the night.
“It was really a team effort,” Buonaguro continued. “You couldn’t have a better win than that considering the circumstances.”
OD Anosike started the run with a layup. Following the under 12 media timeout, Ryan Oliver nailed a catch-and-shoot three from the top of the key.
“It was a tough game,” said Canisius head coach Jim Baron. “We knew coming in it was going to be a battle. They had a chance to beat UMass. They played Iona really tough. They’re a really good basketball team.”
Anosike connected twice from the free throw line. Brookins finished a drive from the top of the key in traffic before Brett Bisping closed the gap to three at 47-44 with a trifecta.
Canisius called a timeout, but it was to no avail.
Oliver followed the Hymes triples with another triple for a 53-51 advantage.
Canisius had chances late. Jordan Heath connected for a 3-ball from the top of the key. On the next possession, Heath and Billy Baron worked a ball screen to perfection getting the 6-10 forward open for another look. The ball looked destined to fall but spun out of the cylinder. Chris Manhertz corralled the offensive rebound, but the Griffs could not convert.
“We fell short,” Baron added. “We didn’t step up and make the shots that we normally have, and they stepped up and made some big plays and big shots.”
Using a barrage of long balls, the Griffs jumped to an early 13-5 advantage. Isaac Sosa connected on the first possession from the right corner. Manhertz and Jordan Heath combined on a high-low pass with Manhertz converting at the rim. Harold Washington drained a triple from the right wing before Billy Baron came off a ball screen for a trey.
Josiah Heath chased down a loose ball, gave it up to Billy Baron and got it back for a deuce and the eight-point edge.
Sosa gave Canisius its largest lead of the first half at 20-10 with a long three from Baron.
Hymes kept the Saints close with a pair of catch-and shoot treys, but the 5-8 sophomore left the game after he was inadvertently struck in the eye going for a loose ball.
Josiah Heath chased down an offensive rebound and fed Washington for a three and the largest Griffs’ lead at 45-32 12:18 remaining in the game.
The Saints whittled away at the lead from there.
Brookins took an outlet from Oliver before dribbling up the left side of the court for the game-winning basket.
“By far that’s the biggest shot I’ve hit in my life,” Brookins said.
Hymes led all with 20 on eight-of-12 including four-of-six behind the arc.
Brookins added 20.
Anosike, who entered play as the second-leading rebounder in the nation (12.5) and tops with 11 double-doubles, was held to one field goal, nine points and seven rebounds.
The Saints were playing without second-leading scorer Rob Poole.
Manhertz pulled down a game-high 10 boards.
Sosa paced the Griffs with 13 points. Billy Baron and Washington added 12 apiece. Baron led all with eight assists.
Siena improves to 1-4 in the MAAC and 3-13 overall.
The Griffs fall to 3-2 and 10-6.
Canisius travels to New Rochelle for 2 p.m. tipoff Sunday with the Iona Gaels.