There was one long tale of Canisius woe to be spun following the Griffs' 84-75 overtime loss to Siena Saturday night at the Koessler Athletic Center.
Might the outcome have been different if fouls hadn't deprived the offense of Brian Dux? If Clive Bentick had been playing on two legs? If two weeks off with an injury hadn't stripped Dale Sawyers of his stamina? If the bench hadn't been shortened to the point that Damon Young, watching in street clothes while suffering from the flu, was sent to slip into uniform late in regulation?
Maybe the outcome would have been different. But to harp on the maybes would be to discredit the perseverance of Siena, which came from 18 points down in the second half, shrugged off a power shock at the end of regulation and finally won in a building where it almost never wins -- and Canisius almost never loses.
The Saints (14-6, 8-2) had talked all week that this was a game they had to have, not so much because of its implication in the standings, but because their confidence has been on a teeter-totter. They had lost two of their last three since winning five straight. They hadn't beaten Canisius in Buffalo in six years. The Griffs, although struggling in a year of transition, were 4-0 in the KAC on the season, 109-28 there all-time.
"It was a big game for us," said Marcus Faison, the Saints all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference guard.
Faison, a senior, and sophomore forward Dwayne Archbold were instrumental in bringing the Saints back from the depths. They combined for 22 points as Siena, down, 51-33, with 14 minutes left, nosed in front, 69-66, on a Faison free throw with 3.8 seconds remaining in regulation. A second free throw would have closed the Griffs out, but Faison missed for the third time in a span of six seconds.
The Griffs' Bentick took a handoff off the rebound, dribbled furiously down the left sideline and heaved the ball from just over halfcourt. It pounded off the backboard and through the net, stirring the crowd of 1,256, forcing overtime -- and prolonging the inevitable.
Dux had fouled out with 6:03 left in regulation. Toby Foster (16 points) would foul out with 2:59 left in overtime. Cramps were hampering Bentick's mobility before finally finishing him off. Sawyers was spent.
"We ran out of bodies," said Canisius coach Mike MacDonald.
The overtime belonged to Faison, who was upset for not putting the game away in regulation. While the Griffs celebrated their temporary survival, Faison told the Siena player huddle, "It was my fault and I'll step it up in overtime."
Limited to one point in the first half, Faison was impossible to contain after intermission. The Saints took the lead for good, 77-75, on Faison's 17-foot jumper with 2:11 remaining in OT and led by four when he followed up with a 13-footer one minute later.
Faison finished with a game-high 24 points. Archbold and senior forward Corey Osinski had 15. None of the Saints' other three starters had more than five, which is why MacDonald was praising his team's defense. It was the Griffs' second-half sloppiness that upset him.
After playing a textbook first half after which they led, 33-21, the Griffs turned the ball over 15 times in the second half. Darren Fenn finished with 19 points, 16 boards and eight turnovers. Bentick totaled 17 points and seven turnovers.
"I don't think we did a real good job taking care of the ball," MacDonald said. "And it wasn't because of their full-court pressure. We handled that. It was their halfcourt pressure."
The Griffs host Manhattan Monday night; Siena is at Niagara.