Siena men’s basketball opens MAAC play with OT loss to Manhattan

Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello's team lost 77-72 in overtime to Manhattan on Friday night.

Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello's team lost 77-72 in overtime to Manhattan on Friday night.

ALBANY — Siena and Manhattan opened their MAAC men’s basketball regular season on Friday as if they had fast-forwarded straight to the conference tournament.

In a tight, ferocious battle all the way, the Jaspers took advantage of a choppy Siena offense in overtime and made their free throws to pull out a 77-72 win before 4,988 at the Times Union Center.

The Saints were denied a chance to tie it trailing 73-70 with 21.6 seconds left when a Manhattan turnover was overturned on video review by the officials, leading to two free throws by Samir Stewart.

Ant Nelson, who made five of 6 from the line in the final 58 seconds of OT, clinched the win with 12.2 seconds left for a 77-70 Manhattan lead.

The game got to overtime with a wild sequence to end regulation that was punctuated by a three-pointer by Nelson to tie it at 64-64 with 2.2 seconds left.

As first impressions go, Siena’s newcomers got a proper — and salty — taste of what to expect from MAAC games. It was the Saints’ first overtime game to open conference play since Siena joined the MAAC 33 years ago.

“Hopefully, it won’t be like that every time,” freshman guard Jared Billups said with a rueful grin. “Like coach was saying, every game’s going to be a battle, and I think that’s what I saw tonight. We had fight, but we had a couple mental errors down the stretch. But we’ll fix it.”

“I was having lunch with one of our freshmen, and they were asking what conference play was like,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said. “I told him every game’s a battle, it’s physical, every possession matters. That’s a a credit to our non-conference [schedule], as well, to get used to it.

“I thought we ran out of gas. I thought we played tired basketball. Was that playing too many games? We’ve been mindful of their legs. Now they know what the taste of conference play is and how physical college basketball is, especially in the MAAC. Credit to Manhattan.”

Siena fell to 2-6 overall and 0-2 in overtime games this season, having lost at Bucknell 65-56 last Sunday.

Another echo to that Bucknell loss was that North Carolina transfer Andrew Platek injured his left Achilles tendon again against Manhattan. After a productive first six minutes starting against the Jaspers, he hobbled off and did not return.

Siena took a 69-67 lead early in overtime on a Billups three, but the Jaspers scored the next six points, five from Nelson, who led all scorers with 24 points.

The Saints came up empty on two possessions during that stretch when Colby Rogers’ kickout pass intended for Jackson Stormo was picked off, leading to Stormo fouling Nelson, and Aidan Carpenter’s drive rimmed out.

With the Saints trailing 73-70 and pressing out of a timeout inside the final half-minute, the Manhattan inbounds pass was kicked out of bounds as Anthony Gaines guarded Nelson on the sideline, and the ball was awarded to Siena with 21.6 seconds left.

The replay showed the ball off Gaines’ foot, though, and possession went back to Manhattan. Stewart made two free throws, and after another Siena turnover, Nelson made two for the 77-70 lead.

“I don’t think it was one particular possession, but I think late we had costly turnovers,” Rogers said. “Part of that’s on me. Bu we’ve got to execute better down the stretch. We’ve got be able to close out games. We were up double-digits on them, and can’t let them come back like that, especially in MAAC play.”

“I thought we played well enough to win the game,” Maciariello said. “We’ve got to be able to finish the job. We built a lead, kind of let them creep back in, but I thought we made some tough, big plays, got on the glass, and both of these guys made some tough, huge shots. We’ve got to know that, late, we’ve got to get every rebound. We’ve got to make our free throws.”

The Saints went up 47-34 in the first five minutes of the second half after an 8-2 run in which Billups scored all eight of Siena’s points.

Samba Diallo made a three to put the Jaspers (6-1, 1-1) up 59-57, their first lead since it was 16-15 early in the first half. Rogers responded with a three at the shot clock buzzer and another jumper that just beat the buzzer to put Siena up 62-61.

A big blocked shot by Gaines on Nelson in the closing moments of regulation preserved that and led to a tough double-pump scoop reverse by Carpenter for a 64-61 lead with 28 seconds left.

On Manhattan’s ensuing possession, Jose Perez, who scored 20 of his 23 points after halftime, badly missed a corner three, then missed a follow-up attempt, but the rebound was swatted out to Nelson on the left wing, and he buried the three to tie it at 64-64.

Carpenter had a look from inside halfcourt, but his shot banged off the backboard without coming close to the rim.

“We wanted to get a stop and take them off the line and shoot a contested two,” Maciariello said. “We’ve got to get the rebound. They missed a three from a guy we wanted to shoot a three, even though we didn’t want to give him one then. And then they missed a two and tipped it out. The tip-out … we wanted that two-point basket to go in.”

Siena comes right back in the MAAC with a game at Saint Peter’s on Sunday.

Maciariello said he didn’t know how long Platek would be out.

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