Sharpshooting Saints outlast Harvard for first win

Sports

Albany, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Siena Basketball shot 57% in the second half – including 7-10 from three – and withstood a desperation three-point barrage in the final minute to defeat perennial Ivy League power Harvard 72-69 at the Times Union Center. Nick Hopkins tied a Siena career-high with 16 points on 6-7 shooting including 4-5 from three to lead the Saints to their first victory of the season.

Colby Rogers added 15 points and seven rebounds for Siena (1-4) which capped its challenging season-opening five-game stretch with a quality win over the Ivy League’s preseason No. 2. The Saints had started their 2021-22 campaign with three straight games against conference preseason favorites – including nationally ranked St. Bonaventure – with a fourth at defending BIG EAST Champion Georgetown.

Luka Sakota led four in double figures for Harvard (3-2), scoring 14 of his game-high 19 points in the second half. Chris Ledlum added 16 points and six rebounds for the Crimson.

Harvard led for virtually the entire first half, but Siena scored the final six points to claim a 26-25 lead at the break. The Saints ultimately held the Crimson scoreless for 7:16 bridging the two halves while scoring eight unanswered points.

Each side pulled ahead in a see-saw second half, with Harvard taking its final lead at 51-49 with 7:39 remaining. But Siena dug deep down the stretch and responded with a late 16-4 run spanning 5:36 to break through.

The decisive play began with a Jared Billups block at one end, and was capped by a Hopkins go-ahead three at the other to put the Saints back in front for good 54-51 at the 5:57 mark. Javian McCollum and Rogers then capped the run with back-to-back threes of their own to stake Siena to its biggest lead of the night at 65-55 with just 65 seconds left.

The Crimson wouldn’t go down without a fight, however, as Harvard scored on five straight possessions including four threes to make things interesting in the waning moments. But the Saints converted 7-9 free throws in the final minute, and Sakota’s look at a game-tying three at the buzzer was off the mark, as the home team has now won all three meetings between the programs by exactly three points in a tightly contested series spanning just the past four seasons.

McCollum contributed 10 points on 4-5 shooting in 16 minutes off the bench for Siena, which shot 53% (24-45) overall including an even 50% (10-20) from three to overcome 20 turnovers. Fellow reserve Andrew Platek added nine points in 17 minutes in his home debut for the Saints, who held a 27-9 advantage in bench scoring.

After having three days in-between each of its last four games, Siena will now get to enjoy a six-day Thanksgiving Week respite before returning to action Sunday for a 2 p.m. contest at Patriot League foe Bucknell.

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