Mid-Major Watch: Siena Survives a Trip to Marist—Make Your Free Throws!

Travis MillerAnalyst IJanuary 16, 2009

Never in my life has such an exciting game been so hard to watch.

The Marist/Siena men's basketball rivalry is one of the premier ones the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference has to offer. These two schools hate each other.

Ryan Schneider pitted against Edwin Ubiles is the most legitimate matchup between forwards the conference has to offer.

Siena (13-5, 7-0 MAAC) won 91-85 in overtime. It was the third straight time the two teams have gone to overtime when playing in Poughkeepsie.

Holy crap, though. Make a free throw (I'll keep you waiting).

Tied at 32 apiece going into the locker room, neither team had momentum. It was just a back and forth dogfight the entire first half.

Neither team was at its best, featuring poor shot selection and a few dumb turnovers. The officiating was solid, though the refs were having no tolerance for lazy dribbling. They called four carries in the first half. I believe two were called on each team.

Siena fans traveled ridiculously well for this game. Though there were only two chunks of them, they made a ton of noise, which was important down the stretch.

At the start of the second half, Marist (7-12, 3-4) came out on fire. The team went 6-for-6 from long range in the first five minutes to the tune of a 19-4 run. Ryan Schneider was responsible for half of them, finishing with 19 points and 13 boards.

Marist led 51-36. Siena had yet to hit a field goal, and was surviving on free throws (ironic).

With eight minutes and change left in the game, Dejuan Goodwin led the Red Foxes in transition. He drove into the lane and floated up a pass for Kaylen Gregory, who slammed down the alley-oop.

Rather than taking a timeout, the Saints panicked, ran down the court, and missed a three-pointer. For all intents and purposes, the game was over.

Marist fans started leaving, Siena fans started leaving. The obligatory "start the buses" chants began.

Siena began poking away at the lead, but it stayed above double digits until less than four minutes remained left in the game. Even then it was around eight or nine.

This is where I lecture you on why foul shots are so important.

The final two minutes of the game. Make your free throws.

Marist went 8-for-17 from the stripe in the last two minutes of regulation. As much as Siena "won" this game, Marist lost it, three-fold.

The Red Foxes shot 16-for-30 (53.3 percent) for the game, and the Saints didn't do much better, shooting 27-for-48 (56.3 percent). Ridiculous.

Before giving complete credit to Marist for losing this game, Siena did have to earn the win. Kyle Downey gave it to them.

His only shot in the first half was a three-pointer to tie it at 32 going into the intermission. He hit two clutch triples down the stretch to bring his team within striking distance. He also came up with an offensive rebound/putback and a huge block of a Marist three-point attempt down the stretch.

He finished with 15 points (career high) in 18 minutes. He averaged 4.5 points and 9.6 minutes per game before last night. He was 2-for-6 from the line, but he's the only one who gets a pass.

Ryan Rossiter (16 points) hit all four of his free throws, and Alex Franklin was 10-for-15. Nobody else on Siena was better than 50 percent.

For Marist, Schneider was 3-for-4 but didn't get to the stripe down the stretch when he needed to. He's by far the Red Foxes' best free throw shooter at over 85 percent.

The Red Foxes put the ball in R.J. Hall's (21 points) hands the most during the waning minutes. He went 6-for-10, but being at the game, the four misses seemed more like 40.

Goodwin was 1-for-5 from the line, Devezin (15 points) 3-for-5, and so on and so forth. It wasn't pretty.

Siena started overtime on a 9-1 run and didn't look back. Marist was crippled by the collapse.

For the Saints, Ubiles only finished with eight points. Rossiter had 16, Franklin scored 19 to go with 10 boards, Kenny Hasbrouck scored 13, and Ronald Moore had 11 points and six assists. Siena shot 41 percent from the floor and 50 percent from long range.

Marist had similar numbers, with a 46 percent field goal percentage and 42 percent from three-point land. Decent, but the free throws negated everything.

Conference teams could have breathed a sigh of relief if Marist finished off the upset last night, but instead, Siena carries on its merry way at 7-0 in the MAAC.

Though the Saints aren't the best five-loss team in the country (Tennessee, Boston College, and I'm purposely leaving Wisconsin off this list), they certainly have the potential to make some noise in March. The five losses are to Kansas, the aforementioned Tennessee, Wichita St., Oklahoma St., and Pittsburgh. Not bad.

Keep an eye on this team. Siena needs improve its free throw shooting (64 percent), ball distribution (only 13 assists on 29 field goals last night), and roster depth (four of five starters average over 30 minutes per game) before we really start talking, but they can certainly hang with the big boys.