LOUDONVILLE — They know the coach’s style.
They know the players, too.
Now, 7 p.m. Friday on the road, members of the Siena College men’s basketball program get to see up close how Marist head coach John Dunne — formerly of the MAAC’s Saint Peter’s — is utilizing a veteran cast of Red Foxes he previously coached against.
“Coach Dunne’s teams at Saint Peter’s, I’ve always had so much respect for them,” Siena senior Evan Fisher said before the Saints practiced Wednesday. “Just the way they played defense and how good they’ve been in my four years here, and even before that.”
Dunne coached at Saint Peter’s for a dozen seasons before taking over at Marist last offseason. At 6-8 on the season, Marist has already matched its win total from last season. Four of Marist’s five leading scorers this season are seniors, and Dunne said his experience coaching against the Red Foxes has helped him lead them.
“You have a little bit of a head start,” said Dunne, whose team topped Manhattan on Tuesday to improve to 1-1 in MAAC play. “You know their talent level because you’ve seen them play a lot already, but you don’t know exactly what it’ll be like to coach them until you’re going through the daily grind with them.”
Losses don’t change @SienaMBB approach https://t.co/xZwkcdWFfj #MAACHoops pic.twitter.com/YaDg29YxyX
— Daily Gazette Sports (@dgazettesports) January 10, 2019
At Saint Peter’s, Dunne’s teams often had success against Siena with their slow-it-down style. This season, Siena is actually playing at a slower tempo than Marist under the leadership of Dunne, who said the Saints’ efficiency on offense could create headaches for the Red Foxes.
“I think [freshman Jalen] Pickett is the engine that makes them go because he scores and sets up scores for them,” Dunne said. “Clearly, you don’t want to let him have a banner night, but, at the end of the day, you can’t let their shooters get open looks. They’re good offensively, and they’re dangerous because of how they shoot that 3.”
Evan Fisher, on the challenge of playing a Marist team with personnel the Saints are familiar with, but in a system Siena is used to seeing used at Saint Peter’s#MAACHoops pic.twitter.com/TOqKMG6VTH
— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) January 9, 2019
Siena brings a 5-10 overall mark into its road trip to Marist, while the Saints are 0-2 in MAAC play. Dunne said he knows it’ll be a challenge for the Red Foxes to protect their home court against a Siena squad needing a win.
“But we’re coming off a win, and we hadn’t had one in a while,” said Dunne, whose team had lost its previous three games. “We need to keep our momentum. You want to win every game, but especially your home games.”
Asked if Siena became predictable down the stretch in its 70-66 loss Saturday against Canisius as the Saints centered their offense around pick-and-roll actions with Pickett and Fisher, Siena head coach Jamion Christian said he’d continue to rely on that pair in crunch time of future games.
“I’m taking the best point guard in the league [and] I’m taking the best big man in the league,” Christian said, “and I’m putting them in a two-man game all night long and making the defense have to make a decision on that.”
Fisher had 21 points in that loss and Pickett paired 14 points with 11 assists, but Canisius had success in the game’s final minutes defending Fisher’s and Pickett’s two-man game.
“We missed a couple opportunities,” Pickett said.
Christian said decision-making on some plays could have been better, but the coach blamed missed opportunities on the Saints still developing familiarity with Christian’s system.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence that as the year goes on, you’re going to see some of the same combinations and you will have a different result,” Christian said.
Asked if @SienaMBB became predictable down the stretch against Canisius with constant Pickett/Fisher pick&rolls, Jamion Christian said that’s the combo he wants deciding games for the Saints. #MAACHoops pic.twitter.com/t7HBzHC6AW
— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) January 9, 2019
READY TO GO
After missing his team’s last four games, Christian said the Saints are “expecting” sophomore Manny Camper to play at Marist.
During Camper’s absence because of a “stress reaction” in his left foot, Siena has often missed Camper’s versatility and defensive prowess. Christian, though, pointed out Wednesday that Siena needs an infusion of scoring from Camper, too.
On the season, Camper is averaging 6.6 points per game on 56.6 percent shooting. Camper has made 69.2 percent of his 2-point attempts, and said he observed during his time inactive that the Saints need more players heading to the basket to pair with their 3-point shooting.
“We need some drivers,” Camper said. “We’ve been kind of conservative, shooting shots maybe we shouldn’t take.”
STOP THE SKID
It’s been a while.
Siena hasn’t won a MAAC road game since Feb. 11, 2017. That victory, which came at Marist, was the final one in a four-game road winning streak for the Saints in league play — and has been followed with 11 consecutive MAAC road defeats in the 23 months that have followed.
In that 84-77 win at Marist in 2017, the only current Saint to score was Kadeem Smithen. Now a redshirt senior, Smithen had four points in that game, while then-senior Marquis Wright led Siena with 21 points.
Fisher, who played three scoreless minutes in Siena’s last road win, said keeping their drought from reaching a dozen games is a goal for the Saints.
“I think we definitely have the guys to do it,” Fisher said.
Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.
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