LOUDONVILLE — From the start, the urgency that Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello craved to see from his Saints was present Friday night.
After three consecutive MAAC series that saw the Saints lose the first of back-to-back contests, Siena played its game from the start at UHY Center against Manhattan. Six Saints scored at least eight points apiece in their 74-69 victory, which pushed Siena into a first-place tie with Monmouth with three games left on its regular-season schedule.
“I thought we had a business approach,” Maciariello said during a post-game teleconference.
The win, though, didn’t come without issue for the Saints. Already short-handed without graduate students Harrison Curry (COVID-19 protocols) and Nick Hopkins (leg) available to play, a Siena program with only 10 scholarship players this season had to play most of the second half without freshman Aidan Carpenter — starting in place of Hopkins — who appeared to hurt his right ankle/foot.
Maciariello said he had “no idea” on Carpenter’s health status coming out of Friday’s game.
“But, you know what, it’s a fact of the business we’re in,” Maciariello said, “and it’s going to be the next man up.”
Maciariello doesn’t expect Hopkins to play Saturday in the Saints’ 7 p.m. rematch with Manhattan, and it didn’t sound likely Curry will be available. That means Siena, which controls its path to securing the MAAC tournament’s top seed because no other team can win as many games as the Saints’ potential 13, could only have seven scholarship players available for Game 2 with Manhattan. Among those seven players is freshman Bennett Kwiecinski, who logged three scoreless minutes Friday in his first appearance since the Saints’ sixth game of the season.
“We’ve just got to be ready,” Siena sophomore Jordan King said of the Saints’ second meeting with the Jaspers.
Siena (10-3 MAAC, 10-3 overall) led 37-29 at halftime after Manhattan (5-10, 6-10) scored shortly before the intermission to snap a 7-0 Siena run highlighted with a 3-pointer from King. The Saints made their first five shots of the first half, and started strong after halftime, too, as their lead ballooned to a dozen points within the first two minutes of the second half.
Manhattan, though, never let Siena run away with Friday’s game. Led by a game-high 27 points from Anthony Nelson, Manhattan stayed within striking distance of a Siena squad that received highlight-worthy dunks from senior Manny Camper and freshman Colin Golson — off a lob from Camper — in the second half.
“Sophomore year Manny came back out a little bit,” Camper said of his jam, which came as he was fouled by Manhattan’s 6-foot-9 junior Warren Williams. “My legs felt good, I jumped and I was able to finish the play.”
Siena wasn’t perfect down the stretch, but did enough to close out the win. Up 70-64 heading into the final minute, Siena only made half of the eight free throws it took, but the Saints never lost their multiple-possession lead. Still, Maciariello wanted to see his team close out the win in more convincing fashion, especially after the team’s strong play for much of the game’s first 39 minutes.
“We’ve got to make free throws down the stretch,” Maciariello said. “We’ve got to be able to execute down the stretch.”
King scored a team-high 16 points for Siena, while Camper added 14, junior Jackson Stormo scored 13 and junior Jalen Pickett contributed a dozen. Golson scored eight points, while sophomore Kyle Young — limited to 13 minutes because of foul trouble — had nine points and eight rebounds.
Hopkins was using crutches Friday night as he missed his second consecutive game. Maciariello said the Saints “don’t know if we’ll have Nick back or not” at this point.
“Could he be out for the year? Sure,” Maciariello said. “Could he be playing in a week? Probably. Can he play [Saturday]? I’m not sure if he’s playing [Saturday].”
Leading into Saturday’s game, Maciariello said the Saints won’t allow their roster issues to be an excuse.
“You know what,” Maciariello said, “we’ll figure out what we’ve got to do, and we’ll get it done.”