Siena men’s basketball jumps right back into MAAC play, at Saint Peter’s

Siena’s Aidan Carpenter drives to the basket during an Oct. 25 exhibition game against Saint Rose at the TU Center.

Siena’s Aidan Carpenter drives to the basket during an Oct. 25 exhibition game against Saint Rose at the TU Center.

For the first time this season, the Siena men’s basketball team hopped on the rollercoaster that is MAAC basketball on Friday.

Instead of moving on to a different ride, they’ll get right back in line for this one, as they travel to Jersey City, New Jersey, for a 2 p.m. MAAC game on Sunday against Saint Peter’s at the Yanitelli Center.

Actually, that gym has been a House of Horrors for the Saints in recent years. Siena hasn’t won at Yanitelli since Jan. 28, 2010, a stretch of 10 losses on the road to the Peacocks, and it won’t get any more welcoming on Sunday, as Siena will have to find a way around KC Ndefo, a 6-foot-7 senior who has won the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year the last two seasons and led NCAA Division I in shot blocks (3.6 per game) in 2020-21.

While Siena (0-1, 2-6) was losing a wild one 77-72 in overtime at home to Manhattan on Friday, Saint Peter’s (1-0, 2-3) opened MAAC play with a 69-59 win over Quinnipiac in which Ndefo played as complete a game as you can, with 16 points, a career-high seven assists, seven rebounds and two blocks.

So in a quick turnaround from Friday, the Saints have their work cut out for them against a team that, for what it’s worth, was picked No. 2 in the MAAC preseason coaches’ poll.

“It’s going to be similar to this game,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said after the Manhattan game. “They’ve got some good shooters, they’re physical, they’re tough. KC Ndefo is the defensive player of the year. They’ve got a bunch of guys that are going to play hard and give it up every single second they’re on the court, and we’ve got to be able to match and exceed that. That’s MAAC basketball.”

It didn’t help Siena’s cause on Friday that North Carolina transfer Andrew Platek went down with an injury to his left Achilles tendon, which he had also injured against Bucknell last week, six minutes into the game and spent most of the second half on the bench with his lower leg in a boot and elevated on a chair.

Platek came up hobbling after changing directions to get back on defense off his own missed drive.

He pushed himself off the floor while trying to flex his left foot, took a few ginger steps, then was helped off by teammates while not putting any weight on his left leg.

Maciariello said Friday night he wasn’t sure when Platek would be available again.

The 6-4 guard from Guilderland tweeted “Appreciate the well wishes. I’ll be back before you know it” with flexed biceps and red heart emojis Friday night.

“It gives you another ballhandler, a guy that’s pretty cerebral, can make an open shot, can make his free throws. So, yeah, it hurts, and I hope Andrew’s well,” Maciariello said. “He was playing well, too. I think he’s starting to get comfortable and understanding how we want him to play, so I hope he’s OK.”

“Definitely unfortunate that he got injured, but like coach said, we’re a deep team, and I trust the fact that guys will step and take what he left and pick up from there,” junior guard Colby Rogers said. “Kind of a next-man mentality. We still have to go out there and play hard, and I think we’ve got the guys that can do that.”

At 13.9 points per game, Rogers is Siena’s leading scorer, but the Saints have been getting offense from a variety of sources lately, and spread it around about evenly after Platek left the Manhattan game.

It took until past the midway point of the second half for anyone to have double digits in points, while 10 players were in the scoring column of a game Siena nearly pulled out in regulation, until the Jaspers’ Ant Nelson made a three-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to send it into overtime.

Rogers and Aidan Carpenter each scored 12 points to lead Siena, and freshman Jared Billups scored 11.

“It’s so early on, and we’re still meshing and building together,” Billups said. “I feel like early in the season, that would’ve went a different way, but the fact that we kept fighting, kept fighting, kept fighting, it really could’ve went either way. But I think it’s good for us to have this game early.”

“We do have a deep team, and that’s what I like about it,” Maciariello said.

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