Two teams that posted wire-to-wire wins to open the ESPN Events Invitational will square off in the first semifinal on Friday when the Siena Saints take on the Ole Miss Rebels in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The Saints (3-2) shot 51.9 percent from the floor in knocking off Florida State 80-63 on Thursday. It was their first win over a Power 5 school since 2014 and their first over an ACC team since 2010.
The Rebels (5-0) had a decidedly harder time. Despite leading Stanford by 10 points with 2:59 to go, they had to hold on for a 72-68 win. Led by Amaree Abram’s 26 points on 12-of-18 shooting, Ole Miss shot 50 percent from the floor.
Siena’s Andrew Platek scored 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 5 of 6 on 3-point attempts, and Javian McCollum posted 18 points and eight assists. The Saints had 19 assists on their 27 field goals.
Siena jumped on Florida State, building an 11-point lead in the first eight minutes and then fending off the Seminoles when they cut the deficit to two midway through the first half.
“I think at the beginning of the game, we made an emphasis on moving the ball, keeping our motion offense flowing,” Platek said after the game.
McCollum is averaging 16.2 points and 5.2 assists per game and Platek is at 15.6 points per game, shooting 58.3 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from long range.
The Saints quickly built the lead back to double digits, only to see Florida State score the first eight points after the break to get the deficit back to single digits. Siena answered again, this time with an 8-2 spurt to lead by 15 five minutes into the half. Florida State got no closer than 11 the rest of the way.
“This is the team we can be. Other than the lull at the start of the second half, I thought we were able to kind of dictate the game. That’s what you want to do. You want to be the aggressor,” said Siena coach Carmen Maciariello.
Ole Miss got a welcome boost from Abram. The freshman had scored a combined 28 points in the team’s first four games.
“I’m very effective in practice, and practice translates into the game. I just keep playing with confidence,” Abram said.
The Rebels heated up after intermission, shooting 60.7 percent from the floor.
Coach Kermit Davis said his team “ran really good offense in the second half. We really got what we wanted in some key areas. They’d make a play, we’d come down and run good offense.”
Jae Brakefield went 5 of 6 from the floor, including hitting both of his 3-point attempts, to score 17 points for Ole Miss. He also hit four straight free throws in the final 16 seconds. Jayveous McKinnis scored 15 on 7-of-10 shooting.
–Field Level Media
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