Team Profile: Siena – Northern Iowa Recap
Siena 81, Northern Iowa 75
These Saints don’t come marching in–they run in, and they don’t stop.
Siena (22-6) got its 18th win in a row at the Times-Union Center by making a lesser-athletic team play its style and adjust to its pace of play.
While waiting for the Buffalo-Vermont contest to end, basketball fans might have missed the crucial point of this game when the Saints exploded out to a 17-4 run to start the game.
UNI fell into a trifecta of bad habits, taking quick shots, failing to stop the ball in transition, and allowing a smaller, quicker team to out rebound them.
“I think people were able to see how good this team was that we were able to beat,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said in the post-game press conference. “I think they were able to see how good we are. I certainly think it’s going to help our RPI, and I think we made a strong case.”
Northern Iowa could get little going on offense in the first 20 minutes mostly because of their backcourt being unable to dribble-penetration, which led to contested three-point looks.
The Panthers did not break double-digits until 7:50 remained and shot only 22.7 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, thanks largely to an alarming 1-of-10 statistic from 3-point range.
To add insult to injury, Siena point guard Ronald Moore hit a jumper at the halftime buzzer to put the Saints up 40-19.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t play better in the first half and give Siena a little bit better basketball game,” Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. “But they’re very good. They deserve credit for doing what they had to do in the first half.”
Even after a late Panthers run that made the score more respectable on paper, Siena was never seriously challenged. Northern Iowa (18-10) scored 56 points in the second half, but the Panthers scored 22 of those in the final 2:21 with Siena comfortably in control.
The Saints made their point in the first half that they can play an up-and-down system against even a deliberate team that would rather play in the 60s.
“This is an NCAA Tournament team,” Jacobson said of Siena. “Some people may say, ‘Well, Northern Iowa didn’t play very well in the first half,’ but this game isn’t the one. They have all the firepower they need.”
UNI has one of the most passionate mid-major fan bases in the country but this game marked the end of any at-large discussion involving the Panthers. There can be no complaining on Selection Sunday if UNI doesn’t win three in a row in St. Louis next week to get the Missouri Valley Conference automatic bid. Northern Iowa should be commended for coming back in the second half but they must find a way to counter teams who try to beat them down the floor other than shooting the three-point shot.
Bracket prognostication and analysis is always fluid from year to year but keep this stat in the back of your minds if Siena (RPI of 26) loses in the MAAC Tournament – only Missouri State, in 2006, hasn’t gotten an at-large with an RPI in the 20s.
Fran McCaffrey’s bunch certainly passed the “eye test” for being an NCAA Tournament at-large team, and had seven players with at least eight points–balance which makes for a very attractive NCAA Tournament quality.
The good news for both the Saints AND the power conference bubble teams is in order to lose the MAAC’s automatic bid, Siena most do something they haven’t done all season – lose at home.