LOUDONVILLE — When pressed Friday afternoon, junior transfer Colby Rogers revealed — humbly — that “I can speak for myself, I haven’t lost in [NBA] 2K since I’ve been here.”
Sequestered within the boring walls of a hotel or in the ghost town of a campus on a holiday break expanded by COVID-19 schedule disruption, the Siena men’s basketball team naturally has been engaged in “a little War Zone, a little Call of Duty, a little 2K, Madden, all those games,” Rogers said with the eyes of a grin above his face mask on Friday.
As fun as that may be, a dose of real-world gaming would be even better, and Siena gets that at 2 p.m. Sunday at home against Fairfield at MVP Arena.
For the first time in 29 days, the Saints will play what they’re built for: Actual basketball.
Siena resumes play after three games since Dec. 11 were canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and they’ll do it against a team that has dealt with the same issues, making this a time of flux for everyone.
The Stags played for the first time since Dec. 23 on Friday night, losing 60-51 at home to an even more depleted Marist team to fall to 2-1 in the MAAC and 8-6 overall.
Siena (1-1, 4-6) will hit “reset” with a lineup that may not have its full complement of scholarship players, as some were approaching various stages of “return-to-play” COVID medical and testing benchmarks as of Friday afternoon.
“You make the most of your time and play the hand your dealt, and there’s no excuses,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said.
During the strange 2020-21 season that included multiple COVID-induced pauses that limited Siena to 17 games, the last of which was a MAAC quarterfinal loss to Iona, the Saints swept games against Fairfield on consecutive days during the regular season, just about a year ago to the day.
Unlike Siena, which experienced substantial roster turnover through the transfer portal, the Stags are relatively intact from last year.
Before Siena had the benefit of drawing observations and conclusions from Fairfield’s loss to Marist on Friday night, the Saints expected to see an experienced, cohesive team on Sunday with a balanced offense that chooses to play a slower tempo than Siena would like.
“They’re a good team, they’ve got everybody back,” Siena graduate guard Nick Hopkins said. “I know the chemistry’s going to be there, so we’ve got to make sure we lock in and execute.”
“They’re a tough team,” Siena senior center Jackson Stormo said. “They want to guard, they want to wear you down, get good shots, so we’ve got to execute our scout, know our personnel and execute the game plan.”
“They’re big, they’re physical,” Maciariello said. “They’re probably one of the slower tempo teams in the country, so they’re going to be real deliberate. They value the ball in the halfcourt, they don’t turn it over. So it’s going to be about playing how we want to play and wanting to make it our style of game as opposed to their style of game.”
Much has changed over the course of the past year, but Stormo, then in his first season with Siena after having transferred from Pepperdine, was extremely efficient against Fairfield a year ago.
He was a combined 12 for 13 shooting from the field, playing 22 minutes off the bench in both games.
“I tried to get post position early, seals, duck-ins, make the right reads . . . at the end of the day, it’s pretty simple,” he said.
The 2021-22 version of Fairfield has been scoring by committee, with seven players averaging over seven points per game, but no one scoring better than Taj Benning’s 10.5.
On Friday, Fairfield made just 28% from the field and 19% from 3-point range, letting the game slip away from a 35-35 tie when Marist went on a 22-1 run.
Perhaps it was evidence of rust that Siena needs to be wary of themselves, coming off a much longer layoff.
“We still want to be opportunistic and break and get in transition when we can and push the ball,” Maciariello said. “I think that’s one of the areas where we still haven’t been great in this year. But it won’t be the worst thing if we have to strategically sub before medias [timeouts] and whatnot. But for the most part I think these guys will be ready to go, condition-wise.”
UPDATED ATTENDANCE RULES
Siena announced on Friday that fans attending the Fairfield game and other home games through Feb. 1 will be required to wear a face mask at all times (except when actively eating or drinking) to comply with New York State’s mask mandate issued by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Dec. 10 and adopted by Albany County effective Dec. 13. The mandate was recently extended through Feb. 1.
MVP Arena spectator policy will continue to include proof of vaccination required for fully vaccinated individuals and proof of a negative test for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals. Accepted tests include an FDA- or DOH-authorized negative PCR test result collected within 72 hours of the game, or a negative antigen test result collected within six hours of the game.
The Fairfield game will mark the return of the annual food drive, the CDPHP-sponsored “Donate For Hunger” program that collects non-perishable food items to benefit the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.
Fans who bring at least three non-perishable food items to donate at the game will receive a voucher good for two free tickets to a future Siena men’s home game this season.
The collection will take place on the arena concourse outside sections 104 and 105.
Attendees are encouraged to bring ethnically diverse items to reflect the needs of the 23-county geographical area covered by the Regional Food Bank, which ramped up distribution to 55.8 million pounds of food in 2020.
The needs of the hungry have been compounded by inflation and supply chain shortages, making the food drive even more important.
“Food insecurity is a year-round challenge; it doesn’t stop after the holidays,” said Molly Nicol, Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York CEO.