LOUDONVILLE — The answer came quickly Sunday, with no hesitation.
“No,” Siena men’s basketball sophomore Kyle Young said, responding to a question regarding if that day’s win eased pressure on the Saints heading into Monday’s rematch with Monmouth. “I think we’ve still got to work hard. We’re not done yet.”
And Siena, which didn’t waste energy feeling sorry for itself during the nearly six weeks of the Division I men’s basketball season it missed, took care of that work Monday with a 76-62 MAAC win at Alumni Recreation Center against a well-regarded Monmouth team.
It was an impressive showing, for sure.
“But,” Siena senior Manny Camper said after Monday’s win, “I think there’s still a lot of growing that we need to do.”
And, that’s pretty scary for the rest of the MAAC, because the Saints looked more than capable of living up to their preseason hype during their opening two games — especially during Monday’s second half when Siena (2-0, 2-0) pulled away from Monmouth (3-3, 3-4).
“That,” Monmouth head coach King Rice said, “was a good, old-fashioned whupping.”
Siena trailed 35-34 at halftime, but pushed ahead early in the second half and took complete control with a 23-6 run that pushed its advantage to a game-high 18 points at 66-48 with 5:30 to go. From there, Siena maintained at least an 11-point lead the rest of the way.
Siena junior Jalen Pickett had a career-high 14 rebounds, while the game-high 18 points he scored left him three shy of 1,000 for his college career. Camper contributed 14 points and 12 rebounds, sophomore Jordan King added 15 points and graduate student Nick Hopkins scored 11 for head coach Carmen Maciariello’s squad.
“Carm outcoached me,” Rice said. “Their players outplayed my players. And, they were way more of a team than we are right now.”
So the preseason-favorite Saints are 2-0, and already own as many or more conference wins this season than four other MAAC teams despite only just starting to play because of the three pandemic-related pauses that kept delaying them from getting on the court. They’ve won a dozen games in a row going back to last season, a campaign cut short with the Saints two wins away from securing their first bid to the NCAA tournament since 2010.
Siena’s King said he knows it’s likely “definitely a shock” for some to see the Saints with a perfect start to their season after all the delays they experienced, pauses that robbed them of on-court practice time.
“But we’re not shocked,” King said.
Siena debuted its black uniforms Monday. The Saints will wear those uniforms for select games this season, they’ve said, as one of their efforts to raise awareness of social-justice issues.
“We were glad we were able to go out and get a win in them,” Camper said.
For Monmouth, senior George Papas scored 16 points.
Siena next plays Friday, back at Alumni Recreation Center, against Canisius to start a two-game series with head coach Reggie Witherspoon’s program. Canisius is 3-3 on the season after sweeping Saint Peter’s to start 2021.
Maciariello said he’s “optimistic” that freshmen Aidan Carpenter and Colin Golson could make their Siena debuts against Canisius after both players missed the Saints’ opening games. Carpenter missed the opening two games with a “minor injury,” while Golson had not yet cleared COVID-19 protocols.
“It will make us faster,” Pickett said of when Carpenter and Golson join Siena’s rotation, which relied heavily on its starters in both games against Monmouth.
Regardless of how much depth the Saints bring into their upcoming games, though, the goal will stay the same.
“We’ve got to stay the course,” Camper said. “Get better every day.”