ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — How you like them Saints? Siena men’s basketball opened the second half with a decisive 20-2 run to rout reigning MAAC regular season champion and preseason favorite Iona 70-53 in front of a raucous crowd of 7,801 in the annual Gold Rush Game at MVP Arena.
On Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Night, Michael Baer, who lost his father, John, to bladder cancer just five days ago, had a storybook performance. The one-time manager turned walk-on at Iowa led Siena (14-7, 8-2) with a career-high 18 points on 7-11 shooting and added 12 rebounds for his first collegiate double-double.
Trailing 36-33 at the break, the Saints received some divine intervention to soar past their archrivals. It felt almost like Siena was playing 7-on-5 in the second half with John Baer and Evan Franz, the Saints’ honorary team member who himself passed away just four days ago to brain cancer, leading the charge from above. Siena came out gangbusters to open the final stanza, embarking on their definitive 20-2 run spanning the first 6:22 to claim a commanding 53-38 lead at the 13:38 mark. The Saints shot 8-11 from the field including 4-6 from three during the spurt and never looked back, ultimately growing their advantage to as many as 20.
Siena outscored Iona (13-7, 6-3) by a 37-17 margin in the second half, shooting 54% in the frame while limiting the Gaels to just 27%. The Saints held the Gaels’ two leading scorers – Daniss Jenkins and Walter Clayton, Jr., who entered play combining to average 31.9 points – to just two total second half points. Andrew Platek joined Baer in scoring 18 points of his own for Siena, who persevered in the absence of leading scorer Javian McCollum (back). Jackson Stormo added 17 points on 7-11 shooting and four blocks for the Saints who held a commanding 42-30 rebounding advantage.
Nelly Junior Joseph posted his 11th double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds for Iona whom Siena held to a season-low in scoring as well as their second worst shooting performance of the campaign (38%). The Gaels had entered play leading the MAAC in both scoring (76.4) and field goal percentage (.455). The Saints will look to build upon tonight’s statement victory when they head out on the road for the first time in two weeks to take on I-87 rival Marist Sunday at 2 p.m. in Poughkeepsie.