Juan'ya Green came up a rebound shy of a triple-double, finishing with 19 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds as first place Niagara turned back determined Siena 78-69 Friday night in Albany. Evan Hymes equaled a career-high with 30 points for the Saints, who trailed by just one with two minutes left.
Niagara dominated the first meeting between the two teams, 87-64, eight days ago, but Siena played like a different team in this one; partially because they were. Rob Poole and Trenity Burdine didn't play in Lewiston, and the pair combined for 25 points (21 in the first half) Friday. Rakeem Brookins (back), Imoh Silas (ankle) and Ryan Oliver (knee) did not dress.
Niagara led 42-40 after and exciting first half that featured seven ties and 10 lead changes. They extended the lead to 59-47 with 11:16 to play before Hymes scored eight straight Siena points, igniting a 12-2 run that cut the lead to 61-59 with 8:21 to play.
Hymes made 7-11 field goals, 4-5 3-pointers and 12-13 free throws to account for his 30 points.
"Honestly, I don't think he could have played much better," Siena coach Mitch Buoanguro said after the game.
"I couldn't see where he was shooting from, because they were on the other end, but I could tell he was getting a lot closer to me," Niagara coach Joe Mihalich added in reference to Hymes' range.
The 5-8 sophomore also added six assists, the last coming on a dazzling behind-the-back dish to O.D. Anosike who flushed the ball to make it 70-69 with 2:04 left. But Devon White answered with a dunk on Niagara's next possession, and Poole misfired on an open 3-pointer from the left corner to tie the game off another brilliant Hymes' feed, and Niagara made all six of its free throws in the final minute to pull away.
As good as Hymes was, Niagara's dynamic backcourt of Green and Antoine Mason proved up to the challenge. Green led an offense that finished with 18 assists and just three turnovers, and Mason contributed 17 points. Ameen Tanksley chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds, and the Purple Eagles limited Anosike to eight points and 10 rebounds by fouling him on nearly every touch he had in the second half.
Siena was in the bonus with 15:03 to play, and the double bonus with 13:31 left, but Niagara extended its lead over that critical stretch at the start of the second half.
The Saints will try to build on the positives from their 16th loss in 20 games when they face archrival Marist Sunday afternoon in Poughkeepsie.