Siena lives to play another day. O.D. Anosike made sure of it with a season-high 24 points as the Saints improve to 6-0 all-time in Tournament play against archrival Marist with a 70-64 win Friday night in Springfield, Mass. Siena advances to play top-seed Niagara Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
"Just a great basketball game," Siena coach Mitch Buoanguro said. "I'm elated for the kids. I thought we played really well down the stretch.''
Marist took its biggest lead of the night, 56-52, when Chavaughn Lewis converted a 3-point play off a fast break with 5:53 to play, but Rob Poole answered with one of his five 3-pointers to put the Saints right back in it.
Anosike took a career-high 21 shots, but he also equaled a career-best with five assists after Marist started sending double and triple teams. Behind Poole, his teammates responded.
"They understood that if we didn't play with a sense of urgency, we were going home," Anosike said. "I'm real proud of these guys."
Siena led 64-61 after a Poole jumper with 2:01 left, but failed to switch on the ensuing possession, leaving Jay Bowie open for the game-tying 3-pointer with 1:43 on the clock. It was the last point the Red Foxes would score.
After a Rakeem Brookins turnover, Trenity Burdine made one of the key plays in the game, stripping Lewis who then fouled him with 1:01 to play. Burdine made 1-2 free throws and he pushed the lead to 67-64 with a hard-driving layup through traffic with 29 seconds left. The Saints got two more stops, and Anosike answered with a free throw and an emphatic dunk to account for the final margin.
Poole scored 19 points, and Davis Martens had all 10 of his points in the first half to join Anosike in double figures for the Saints.
Lewis had 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes played for Marist. Bowie scored 16 and Adam Kemp added 13 after torching the Saints for 24 points and 14 rebounds in Marist's 76-74 win in Albany last week.
It marks the third straight year Siena's won its first MAAC Tournament game in dramatic fashion. It was the Saints 29th MAAC Tournament win since the league expanded to 10 teams in 1997-98. Win number 30 would put the Saints in the semifinals for the 18th time in their 24 years as a league member. Regular-season champ Niagara stands in the way.
"If we can defend and make (Niagara) use all 35 seconds of the clock, we'll have a pretty good chance of beating them," Anosike said.