Siena bounced back Sunday with a 62-56 MAAC men’s basketball win at Fairfield, as the Saints registered a regular-season sweep of the Stags for the fourth consecutive season.
The teams were tied with less than four minutes to play Sunday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but Siena closed the game on a 10-4 run. Jackson Stormo put the Saints up for good at 54-52 with a layup off an offensive rebound of his own miss, while Siena received a key jumper from Colby Rogers during crunch-time minutes, and Jared Billups and Stormo combined for a perfect showing on six free throws in the final 90 seconds.
“It’s never easy to win on the road, especially after a tough home loss, but I think we were focused,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said in a video clip shared after the win on the team’s social-media account. “Didn’t take care of the ball — three assists, 13 turnovers — but I thought our grit, our toughness, our fortitude, and the guys’ love for one another showed, and we were able to get a sweep.”
In all, five players scored at least eight points for Siena (7-4 MAAC, 10-9 overall) in its road win against a Fairfield (4-7, 10-12) squad that has lost nine of 11 games since starting 8-3. Anthony Gaines led Siena with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Rogers scored a dozen points, and Stormo produced 10 points and eight rebounds. Gaines and Rogers each added three steals. Billups and Nick Hopkins — the latter back after missing the Saints’ last game with an injury — each scored eight points, while Siena’s bench players combined for nine points.
For Fairfield, Taj Bennings led with 10 points.
Siena led for nearly the entire game, but never by very many points. The Saints’ largest lead was nine points and the game’s final 13:35 was played within a two-possession margin. A shot from Benning tied the game at 52 with just more than four minutes to go, and Stormo’s go-ahead bucket followed on Siena’s next possession. After a couple scoreless minutes, Billups and Benning exchanged successful trips to the foul line, then Rogers — with the shot clock winding down — swished an off-the-dribble jumper to put Siena up 58-55.
Fairfield’s Chris Maidoh split a pair of free throws on Fairfield’s ensuing possession, and Billups followed with a strong drive to the basket that netted him another trip to the foul line. Billups made both free throws with 31.4 seconds to go, and Stormo made another pair of free throws for the Saints with 4.9 seconds left after Fairfield failed to convert on its possession. Fairfield missed one final desperation shot, as the game ended with Billups collecting his sixth rebound.
“That was a fun game to coach,” Maciariello said.
Siena, along with the other MAAC teams that won Sunday, did something that hadn’t happened yet this season: gained a game on Iona in the league standings. On the road at Niagara (6-7, 11-11), Iona (11-1, 19-4) was upset 80-71. Iona had won its first 11 MAAC games this season, and maintained a multiple-game cushion in the conference standings despite its loss in Lewiston.
Iona’s next game is Friday at MVP Arena against Siena. The two teams previously met this season in New Rochelle, a game that head coach Rick Pitino’s Gaels won 74-57.
Siena is tied with Monmouth (7-4, 15-7) for third place in the MAAC. Saint Peter’s (9-3, 11-8) is in second place behind Iona. Besides those four teams, no club in the MAAC has a winning record in conference play.
Sunday’s victory was Siena’s fourth in five games. The Saints had lost Friday to Rider (4-7, 8-13), as the Broncs thwarted Siena’s attempt to put together a perfect 4-0 homestand.
Siena is 5-4 at home this season and 5-5 on the road.