On the road, playing once again without its best player and after turning in what Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello said was the team’s “worst half of basketball” since he became the program’s leader 22 months ago, Siena did what good teams do.
The Saints found a way.
“Our group’s connectivity is at an all-time high right now,” Siena senior Manny Camper said after the Saints’ 78-69 MAAC win Friday against Rider at Alumni Gymnasium in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
With junior Jalen Pickett (right hamstring) missing another game, the Saints still managed to tie their program’s Division I record for wins in a row with their 15th consecutive victory. That winning streak goes back to last season, and matches the mark set by the 2009-10 Saints — Fran McCaffery’s final Siena squad — and leaves Maciariello’s Saints one shy of matching the program’s overall winning streak record of 16 that Siena achieved in 1950.
Rider (3-6, 3-9) gave Siena (5-0, 5-0) all it could handle for the game’s first 34
minutes. But after Rider tied it at 59, the Saints put together an 11-0 run that featured six points from Camper and five from sophomore Jordan King, and Siena maintained at least a two-possession advantage for the final four minutes.
“I thought Jordan and Manny did a great job settling us,” Maciariello said.
Siena and Rider were tied at 31 at halftime. After making 12 of 25 shots and only attempting four free throws in the first half, Siena made 15 of 25 shots and attempted 19 free throws during its 47-point second half.
“The team in the second half, I was proud of their effort,” said Maciariello, whose program also matched a Siena record with its seventh consecutive road victory.
King scored a career-high 21 points, while Camper — the reigning MAAC Player of the Week — contributed 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Graduate student Nick Hopkins and junior Jackson Stormo each had 10 points, while freshmen Colin Golson and Aidan Carpenter each had seven.
Golson made his Siena debut after missing the Saints’ first four games because of COVID-19 protocols. The 6-foot-7, 222 freshman forward from Detroit demonstrated the athleticism and skills that impressed Siena’s coaching staff during the preseason, with a 3-pointer and an alley-oop dunk — off a pass from Camper — among his debut’s highlights.
“He’s just an all-around player,” Camper said of the freshman. “I think he’s going to be great for us.”
For Rider, junior Dwight Murray scored a game-high 25 points.
Rider and Siena will meet again Saturday at 7 p.m. During Friday’s post-game teleconference, Maciariello didn’t rule Pickett out from playing in Saturday’s game, but the second-year head coach said he was “not really even thinking about that, to be honest” and noted the “short turnaround” between games.
Maciariello, though, said that Stormo — who left Friday’s game in the final minute, bleeding from above his right eye — should be available for the series’ second game.
“He’ll be fine,” Maciariello said. “He’s a warrior.”
Among the 345 Division I men’s basketball teams that have played a game this season, Siena is one of seven undefeated teams remaining. Siena hasn’t lost since its defeat at Saint Peter’s last February.
And, if the Saints are able to wrap up another MAAC sweep at Rider, Siena will head into its Jan. 22-23 matchups against Saint Peter’s on a new record winning streak for the program at the Division I level.
“The record, hopefully, we can get it [Saturday],” King said. “But, you know, we have to watch some film. We’ve got to get some things right so that we can come through and get the win.”