If the early going is any indication, the Siena men's basketball team is going to live on the edge this season. The Saints lost a hard-fought 68-64 decision to undefeated Cal State Northridge Friday night in their first game in the NUCDF Basketball Challenge in San Diego. All three Siena games this season have been decided by five points or fewer.
Siena (1-2) led 58-57 after two Evan Hymes' free throws with 3:07 left, but Northridge scored the next six points, including a game-changing 3-pointer by Josh Greene with 1:45 left that put the Matadors up for good. Greene had missed his first seven tries from distance.
Siena cut the lead to two points twice in the final 20 seconds, but Greene made four straight free throws on the other end to secure the victory. The Matadors are 4-0 on the season after winning just seven games a year ago.
The loss spoiled a career high 19 points from Siena sophomore Rob Poole. Poole made four of his career high five 3-pointers in the first half, helping the Saints stay within 34-31 at the half.
After intermission, Siena turned to workhorse O.D. Anosike, and Anosike responded in a big way. The senior scored the Saints' first 15 points of the second half, and posted his third double-double in as many games this season with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Point guard Evan Hymes added 14 points and five assists, but committed a career-high 11 turnovers.
Siena's defense was stout as it has been all season. The Saints dictated tempo with their zone, and limited Northridge to 40% shooting and 15 points below its season average.
Stephen Hicks led Northridge with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Stephen Maxwell added 19 points and 10 boards.
The Matadors enjoyed a huge advantage at the free throw line, converting 21-28 opportunities compared to just 11-15 for Siena.
Despite the loss, the Saints took plenty of positives away from Friday night's performance. The team's offense was much improved over its first two games of the season, and with red-shirt sophomores Rakeem Brookins and Trenity Burdine set to rejoin the active roster tomorrow Siena fans have plenty to look forward to.
Tomorrow's game with Northern Kentucky will tip at 10:30 p.m. Eastern time (7:30 local) from Jenny Craig Pavilion.