LOUDONVILLE — It’s a long stretch without a home game.
Within that span, the Saints don’t play many away games, either.
The Siena men’s basketball team plays Yale at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the second of four straight games away from its home Times Union Center in Albany, a season-long streak of road games for the Saints.
That matters for a team that’s 2-0 at home and 0-2 on the road — but what’s more daunting for the Saints during their current stretch is figuring out how to maintain sharpness during weeks in which they rarely play games.
“We have to be mature and understand it’s a long season,” Siena fifth-year senior Matt Hein said at Monday’s practice. “We have to do our daily things consistently.”
Siena lost last Thursday at Harvard, then had five full days before its next game. After visiting Yale, the Saints won’t play again until 10 days later at Colgate. Following that contest, Siena will play a week later at Cal Poly before not playing again until two weeks later against Bucknell in Albany.
Starting with the day after the Saints’ game at Harvard and concluding with the day before the Saints play Bucknell, that’s three games in 36 days.
Last season, Siena had two different stretches in which it went at least a full week without a game. Those breaks, though, came a month apart.
So after the Saints play Yale Wednesday, how do they fill the time?
“It’s going to be a lot more of focusing on ourselves,” Siena junior Manny Camper said. “Timing with our offense. Things like that.”
After its three-games-in-36-days stretch, Siena will play three games in nine days to close out the 2019 portion of its schedule. One of those final three games will see the Saints play Canisius, a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference matchup shifted to Dec. 23 from Feb. 9.
MAAC play helps explain why the Saints are now playing so sporadically after opening the season with four games in 10 days. The MAAC shifted from an 18-game schedule to a 20-game slate this season, and all the Saints’ league games were originally scheduled for January, February and March. Plus, Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello wanted to use part of his non-conference schedule to try a two-games-in-three-days situation, something Siena will encounter several times during MAAC play.
“I wanted to make sure we played a back-to-back like we would in MAAC play, and that’s what the [St. Bonaventure and Harvard games] simulated for us,” said Maciariello, whose team beat St. Bonaventure Nov. 12 and lost to Harvard Nov. 14.
That experience against St. Bonaventure and Harvard did prove to be valuable for the Saints. Siena’s coaching staff has been cautious in its use of fifth-year senior Elijah Burns, who has dealt with several injuries throughout his college career, and Maciariello said it was important for the Saints to see how Burns could handle two games in three days. The answer was not encouraging — “He didn’t have any lift” — but the Saints at least got an answer.
“So, for me, right, the idea is [to] test that out, right?” Maciariello said after that loss at Harvard. “We don’t want to get into MAAC play and not know how we’re going to be on a one-day prep on a Friday-Sunday.”
Yale was picked to finish third in the Ivy League this season and is coming off a 64-57 loss at Oklahoma State. Junior Paul Atkinson leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 18.5 points per game.
Freshman August Mahoney, an Albany Academy graduate, has appeared in all four games for Yale. He’s averaged 2.8 points per game.
Without another game until Nov. 30, Camper said the Saints need to use their game at Yale to take a positive step. The Saints have had stretches of strong play during their first four games, but also spells in which their attention to detail has been questionable.
“We’ve had spurts where we’ve shown the kind of team we can be,” Camper said. “The biggest thing is just playing hard and playing our basketball for a full 40 minutes. We haven’t played a full game yet.”