Short bench no problem for Siena as Canisius drops ninth straight

Canisius has pointed to its lack of depth all season as the reason it can’t stay in games. A short bench didn’t seem to slow down the Siena Saints Saturday afternoon, who brought only eight players to Buffalo and still worked over Canisius, winning its first road conference game of the year, 60-50.

Fatigue never seemed to set in to the same six-man rotation Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro also used Thursday night against Niagara and has employed much of the season. Senior guard Kyle Downey played the entire game and scored 15 points while MAAC Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Hymes didn’t check out until the final minute and finished with 12 points. Siena big man OD Anosike logged 36 minutes and picked up his 19th double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Everyone's role changes depending on the availability of Gaby Belardo, who herniated two discs in his back.

Canisius had Gaby Belardo back and Reggie Groves saw his first action since coming off suspension, but none of the 12 Griffs who got into the game could keep pace with the Siena Six.

“I looked across at the national anthem and I’m like, ‘where’s the rest of their team?’ ” Canisius coach Tom Parrotta said. “They are very, very in-tune, those six guys, what they do as individuals and what they do as a team. Because everyone is in their role. That’s where it’s different from where we stand. We have depth issues, absolutely … but [everyone’s] role is shifted now.

“Their roles are unbelievably defined and they know exactly what to do and they play the right way for what they got. But if you take one of those guys out of there and someone else has to do some different things (like Canisius has to do when Belardo can’t go), it becomes a much different team.”

Siena, faced with both injuries and eligibility issues, has had limited depth all season. That benefited some players, like freshman Evan Hymes, who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten off the bench. Those who would have started either way say the team’s issues are forcing them to become better players.

“It’s kind of the ultimate teacher. If you play bad defense you’re going to go sit on the bench and the scoreboards going to run up pretty quickly because we don’t have that many guys,” Downey said. “We could run for days right now.”

Belardo started on the bench but gave his team a spark midway through the first half. Siena led by as many as five early on before Belardo hit four shots in a row – three 3-pointers and a layup – to put Canisius up 23-22 with 8:14 left in the first half.

But that would be the Griffs’ last lead of the game. They hit only one field goal the rest of the half while the Saints closed the period on a 15-3 run to take a 37-26 lead into the locker room.

The run reached 30-10 midway through the second half as Canisius struggled to put a comeback attempt together. Siena pushed its lead to 19 at several points and only a 9-0 run to close the game brought the score within 10 points.

Harold Washington had difficulty getting through Siena’s zone much of the first half but found his way in the later stages, finishing with 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Alshwan Hymes took advantage of the zone with back-to-back 3-pointers early but struggled overall, going 3 of 11 from the floor for eight points.

With the loss, Canisius falls to 4-21 on the year and has lost to ever team in the conference by double-digits.

“It’s not fun,” Parrotta said, “it really isn’t. But we have to stick to our guns. That’s all we can do … It stinks, and it’s not okay – it’s not okay – but this is what it is.

“We have to continue to build and get better every day … I want this team to be as good as they possibly can be when we get to Springfield (site of the MAAC Tournament) … But if we let frustration come into what we’re doing here, we might as well not even show up for practice. But that has not been the case with these guys. They’re in there chomping at the bit and will continue to do so. We just don’t have the wins to show for it.”