For 31⁄2 minutes of Tuesday’s road matchup with Kansas University, the Siena men’s basketball team looked like a world-beater.
Unfortunately for the Saints, the traditional collegiate basketball game spans 40 minutes.
After building a quick 9-5 lead over the heavily-favored Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse, Siena fell victim to a devastating 25-1 run that put the Saints in a 30-10 hole with just under 10 minutes to play in the half and set the tone for a disheartening 91-84 loss.
“We wanted to stay away from the run,” Siena guard Ronald Moore said. “And they went on a (big) run in the half, which definitely hurt a lot.”
Seven players scored during the Jayhawks’ run, which was aided by five Siena turnovers and lasted nearly seven minutes, until Clarence Jackson hit a three-pointer with 9:31 left in the half to stop the bleeding.
The Saints (10-5) are not exactly immune to the occasional rough stretch. In losses to Tennessee and Pittsburgh this season, the team suffered similar setbacks that put it in a hole early on.
But against a Kansas team coming off an encouraging 92-85 victory over Tennessee on Saturday, the Saints endured arguably their ugliest stretch of the season.
“They were finding people, they weren’t settling, they were moving the ball really well,” Siena coach Fran McCaffery said. “A number of different people made threes for them. It wasn’t just one player. And that’s what makes them hard to guard. We didn’t keep the dribbler in front of us, and now we’re rotating, and we’re not finding people.”
To the Saints’ credit, they were able to battle back in the second half. Behind Moore’s 18-point, eight-assist performance, Siena pulled within five with 48 seconds left when Ryan Rossiter converted a three-point play to make the score 87-82.
The first-half damage proved too much to overcome, however, as Kansas connected on 12 of 14 free throws down the stretch, and the Saints fell for the first time in their past six games.
Despite Tuesday’s setback, however, McCaffery could take solace in the fact that his team rebounded from a horrid first half to make a game of it late.
“We’ve at least been able to show our resiliency,” he said. “And the fact that we’re able to maintain our composure on the road, in obviously a very difficult environment (was encouraging).”