Jan. 11, 2013
The streak is over.
Is it ever.
Rakeem Brookins beat the buzzer with a running, off-balanced 3-pointer from the left wing sending Siena to its first win since November - a 57-54 triumph over stunned Canisius Friday night in Albany.
"That's by far the biggest shot I've hit in my life," Brookins, who beat Northern Kentucky in the final seconds earlier this year, said.
The Saints snapped an 11-game losing streak despite playing without their second leading scorer, Rob Poole, who was sent back to campus with the flu. They also rallied from a 13-point second half deficit against a Canisius team that beat Atlantic 10 power Temple by 10 back in December.
Brookins' buzzer-beater almost didn't happen.
After Billy Baron misfired on a 3-pointer with eight seconds left, Brookins took the outlet pass from Ryan Oliver and raced toward the Siena bench anticipating a timeout. But Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro green-lighted him, violently waving toward the basket as time ticked away. It was the right call.
"I had a gut feeling Rahk was going to do something," Buoanguro said. "My instinct told me not to call timeout."
As Brookins' shot swished through the net, the Times Union Center erupted, led by Buonaguro who thrust his hands in the air in unfiltered exuberance.
"A coach should be able to do that once in a while," Buonaguro said. "It was a great win."
The shot will be talked about for a long time, but Siena was in position to win thanks to its trademark zone defense which crippled Canisius in the second half. The high-powered Griffs entered the game averaging 74.5 points per game, but managed just 20 after intermission tonight.
"That's the best defensive game we've played since I've been here," Buonaguro said. "Tonight, I thought we put a clinic on with our zone."
The Saints also got plenty of help from their other backcourt starter, Evan Hymes. Hymes scored a game-high 20 points on 8-12 shooting despite missing the first 10 minutes of the second half after getting poked in the eye.
Hymes was more than up for the challenge that Rhode Island transfer Billy Baron, a leading MAAC Player of the Year candidate, figured to provide. Baron got 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds, but Hymes made him work for every bit of that.
It was Siena's ninth straight win over Canisius at Times Union Center, with none of the previous eight approaching Friday night's drama.
Canisius hounded O.D. Anosike, Siena's leading scorer and the nation's leading rebounder, limiting him to just nine points and seven rebounds in 40 minutes. Anoskie deferred to his teammates, and they responded. Outside of Poole, Siena had struggled from long range all season, but Hymes led a 6-11 performance from distance in the second half.
The game was the 10th Siena has played decided by six points or fewer, and the third home contest decided in the final 10 seconds.
For a change, this time it was the Saints celebrating.
Siena will look to start a new streak Sunday against Saint Peter's.