The Siena basketball team began final exams on Wednesday, a day after weathering a difficult test of another sort, playing six games from Nov. 27 to Dec. 9, and spending nine straight days on the road.
Under the circumstances, give the Saints a grade of “B” for winning the last three of those games to improve to 5-3 overall and 2-0 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Head coach Fran McCaffery gave the team off Wednesday and today, then the Saints will begin to prepare for a game at No. 3 Pittsburgh next Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.
“I’m really proud of our team, and this win in particular,” McCaffery said after beating Marist at the Times Union Center. “When we put this schedule together, we all realized its difficulty, and we put it together because we thought our team could handle it. What people focus on is the teams that are on it, but there are other factors that make a schedule difficult.”
Like leaving for Florida on Nov. 25,
playing Tennessee, Wichita State and Oklahoma State over the course of four days at the Old Spice Classic, then flying to Baltimore to open the MAAC season at Loyola. Siena took a bus home right after that game, got back on campus at
3 a.m. Dec. 4, and had one day to get
ready for UAlbany on Saturday.
“I’m feeling it, especially that long road trip we had, but that’s what we have great trainers for, to get our bodies back to normal,” said junior forward Alex Franklin with a laugh, after scoring 22 points against Marist.
“Every game’s a battle,” sophomore center Ryan Rossiter said. “I honestly can say we didn’t have one easy game this whole trip.
Tomorrow [Wednesday], we have the next two days off, we can worry about school and it’ll be nice to just get down in the training room and rest up and get our bodies ready for Pittsburgh.”
Some of the Saints had exams as early as 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, although Scotia native Josh Duell was not one of them.
“Noooo way,” he said. “That’s the beauty of being a fifth-year senior.”
McCaffery said before the Old Spice trip that the coaching staff had made sure everyone was caught up with schoolwork.
He said Tuesday night that the players would be given whatever time they needed to study for
exams, with an eye on maintaining the fitness they’ve established for the season.
After the Pitt game, Siena doesn’t play again until a home game against Buffalo on Dec. 23.
“We’ll set up practices to not
interfere with finals, but if they need more time, they’ll be given that,” McCaffery said. “Then it comes down to, really, conditioning. That’s an aspect we don’t want to lose. We don’t have to be out there on the floor as long, but we will be, usually with most of the team. I think we’ll get [Cory]
Magee back. And then, obviously, we have a very stiff challenge in our next game.”
Magee, a junior forward, has not been in uniform yet this season
because of a concussion he suffered in the preseason.
He was able to get on the stationary bike on Monday, which was an encouraging sign, and he might be able to make the Pittsburgh trip.
Duell said he’s continuing to make progress after having most of his preseason wiped out by an Achilles’ tendon injury. He scored six points on two three-pointers in 17 minutes against Marist, by far the most he’s been on the floor in a game this season.
That means more help up front for Franklin and Rossiter, who have been playing great, but could use the help.
Rossiter, who missed the second half of the UAlbany game after getting hit in the back of the head, shook off a sub-par first half against the Red Foxes to be a real presence inside in the second half, when Siena used a 16-0 run to break the game open.
“At halftime, I asked him, ‘Are you OK?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m fine, coach,’ ” McCaffery said. “He just didn’t play particularly well. He had a couple roll out on him, but, boy, did he play well in the second half. I was really impressed with him. He’s really a tremendous competitor, and I think we’ve all seen him blossom right before our eyes.”
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Categories: College Sports