Billups letting his play speak this time, as Siena men’s basketball wary of a motivated Marist team

Siena’s Jared Billups reaches to save the ball from going out of bounds against Iona at MVP Arena on Friday, Feb. 11.

Siena’s Jared Billups reaches to save the ball from going out of bounds against Iona at MVP Arena on Friday, Feb. 11.

LOUDONVILLE — If the lead-up to the last Siena-Marist men’s basketball game was a spicy bowl of chili with some extra bite to it, it’s a scoop of vanilla ice cream this time.

Prior to the Jan. 14 matchup, Siena freshman Jared Billups provided the Red Foxes with some motivation when he characterized Marist as a team with “a lot of players that just want to score the ball.”

Given the opportunity for a repeat performance on Wednesday afternoon heading into the 7 p.m. game on Friday at MVP Arena, Billups laughed and said, “Nothing. I got nothing.

“I mean, they just came off three straight wins, and I think it’ll be a good game.”

Marist won’t lack for motivation, anyway, based on how the Jan. 14 game went down.

The Red Foxes led by 18 in the first half and by 17 with 12:28 left in the game at McCann Arena, but Siena closed the game by outscoring Marist 34-10 to pull out a 67-60 victory.

Siena head coach Carm Maciariello had counseled Billups during that week against giving an opponent any reason to have a chip on its shoulder, and Marist may still have a chip this week, with or without any more inflammatory comments from the Saints.

After the Jan. 14 game, Marist freshman Jao Ituka, who knows Billups from their AAU days, said, “I’m not saying we had to prove anybody wrong, but I really wanted him to eat those words. Unfortunately, we came up short.

“But we’ll see ’em again. There’s no mistake, we’ll go there [Albany] and get a ‘dub’ [win] there and keep pushing.”

Siena senior center Jackson Stormo chuckled when reminded of Billups’ quotes leading into the Jan. 14 victory.

“You can chalk that up to being a freshman,” Stormo said. “He learned from it, and he’s been laser-focused the last couple weeks. He’s been playing really good basketball, and that’s what we need from him.”

Billups is coming off his first college double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds in a 76-75 overtime victory at Rider on Sunday.

At 9-4, Siena is in second place in the MAAC and 12-9 overall.

With victories over Iona and Rider last weekend, the Saints achieved 1-1 regular-season splits against two teams that handled Siena convincingly in the previous matchups.

The Marist victory can also serve as a useful reference point, that the Saints are capable of such a comeback, but also about maybe not getting behind by 18 points in the first place,.

I think a lot of our grittier wins showed how we can overcome things as a team, overcome adversity,” Billups said. “Even before we beat them, we had it in the back of our minds we can beat anybody. I think, also, it’s hard to beat a team twice. Going into this game, that’s also our mindset, to keep our foot on the gas, because I know it’s going to be difficult to beat a team twice.”

“I thought we played awful that game [at Marist], so there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from that game,” Maciariello said. “We were down against Iona double digits, and we didn’t fold. So I think each game you’re able to build on some memorable moments and take those as steppingstones to get to where you need to get. And I think this group is still growing before our eyes. We haven’t reached our ceiling.”

“They’re a tough, hard-playing team, so I know that it would be a hard game already, but I definitely know there’s a target on our backs, for them, for the way we handled them back at their place, so I know they’re coming ready to play on Friday,” Stormo said. “So we have to be more ready.”

Asked if he had been in contact with Ituka this week, Billups chuckled again and said, “I have not.

“I still remember what he said [after the game], but I think it’ll be a good matchup, a fun matchup.”

Categories: College Sports, Siena College, Sports

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