It was, as Siena senior Manny Camper put it, an “unfortunate opportunity.”
But it was one that the Saints made the most of Sunday.
Playing without its best player — and with nothing definitive as to when reigning MAAC Player of the Year Jalen Pickett (right hamstring) will be able to return — the Siena men’s basketball team kept on winning, taking a 75-68 win at Fairfield.
It was the second road win in as many days for the Saints, and the second MAAC sweep in as many tries for head coach Carmen Maciariello’s team this season. Four Saints offered double-digit scoring, including freshman Aidan Carpenter, who started in place of Pickett and did a lot to make up for the junior guard’s absence.
“I knew I had to come in and perform, for us to win,” Carpenter said after scoring a game-high 19 points a day after he made his college debut with seven points.
Siena (4-0, 4-0) had some shaky moments in Sunday’s first half at Fairfield (2-6, 2-11), but led for all of the second half at Alumni Hall. The Saints committed nine of their 13 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, but settled down in the second 20 that saw Carpenter score 15 of his points.
“Aidan was great,” said Camper, who starred with 17 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. “We knew going into the game [that] he was more than prepared.”
“No pressure,” Carpenter said of replacing Pickett in Siena’s starting lineup. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. This was my moment to take it, and I took it.”
Pickett exited early from Saturday’s win at Fairfield after a non-contact injury in his right leg. Maciariello didn’t provide much detail during Sunday’s post-game teleconference regarding Pickett’s ailment, which the second-year head coach labeled an “upper hamstring” injury.
“I don’t know how long he’s going to be out. I don’t know,” said Maciariello, whose team next plays Friday at Rider.
Pickett averaged 17.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in Siena’s first three games, a stretch during which the Saints outscored opponents by 33 points with Pickett on the floor — and were outscored by two points in the seven minutes he didn’t play.
On Sunday, though, the Saints showed they had enough talent to win without their top star. Besides Camper’s and Carpenter’s production, the Saints received 18 points from sophomore Jordan King and 10 from junior Jackson Stormo. While Siena never ran away from Fairfield, the Saints maintained at least a two-possession advantage for the final eight minutes.
“Obviously, Jalen couldn’t play — and that’s fine,” Maciariello said. “We’re a program here.”
And one that’s approaching a program record. Siena won a program-best 15 consecutive games during the 2009-10 season, and Sunday’s victory was the Saints’ 14th consecutive win going back to last season.
“We’ve got nothing but the present we’re talking about,” Maciariello said of his team’s mindset. “I know nothing about streaks. I know nothing about history. I try not to even look at it.”
Siena lost the only game it played last season without Pickett. The Saints don’t want to play too many games without their top player, but Sunday’s victory offered additional confidence that Siena can weather however long of a stretch Pickett needs to miss.
“We were able to pull through,” Camper said.