DAYTONA BEACH, FL (NEWS10) — Siena Basketball whittled a 19-point second-half deficit to as little as three before Central Michigan held on for a 70-56 decision over the Saints in the Sunshine Slam presented by Discount Tire at the Ocean Center.
Siena (1-3) will play Milwaukee in the Ocean Bracket third-place game Tuesday at 8:30 p.m., while Central Michigan (2-3) advances to take on Stetson in the Championship Game at noon.
Anthony Pritchard scored 18 points on 8-11 shooting and added seven rebounds, nine assists, and four of 14 total steals for Central Michigan, which forced 21 Siena turnovers. The Chippewas capitalized with a 26-4 advantage in points off turnovers, fueled in part by a 17-0 margin in fast break scoring. Brian Taylor scored a game-high 21 points for Central Michigan.
Giovanni Emejuru posted collegiate career-highs of 20 points (9-12 shooting) and eight rebounds for the shorthanded Saints, who were without their top-two scorers and starting guards. Reigning MAAC Rookie of the Year and Preseason All-MAAC selection Michael Eley (ankle) sat out a third straight game while starting point guard Zek Tekin was ruled out (concussion protocol).
The Chippewas jumped out to an 18-6 start midway through the first half while holding Siena scoreless for 6:30. The Saints shot just 29% (7-24) from the field in the opening stanza, including only 1-10 from three, while trailing 30-19 at the half.
The Central Michigan lead ballooned to as much as 19 at 42-23 at the 15:48 mark, before Siena embarked upon a valiant rally.
The Saints responded shortly thereafter with 13 unanswered points spanning just 3:18, rallying within just a single possession at 47-44 with 8:45 to go. Emejuru scored seven of his points – highlighted by a pair of key put backs – while freshman Michael Evbagharu, who made his first collegiate start, added a pair of clutch threes to account for the scoring run.
But the Chippewas, who shot 56% in the second half including 6-10 from three, answered back with a decisive 10-2 spurt to push the lead back to double digits down the stretch.
Sophomore Mason Courtney, making his first collegiate start in place of the injured Tekin, scored a career-high 13 points for Siena which shot 62% (16-26) in the second half while dishing out 11 assists in the stanza. Evbagharu added all eight of his points in the final stanza, while classmate Max Frazier chipped in eight points of his own on a perfect 4-4 shooting to go along with three assists while posting a plus-minus of +9 in 16 spirited minutes off the bench.