Double-digit win sends Siena men’s basketball into second place in MAAC standings

Siena’s head coach Carmen Maciariello during a game at MVP Arena in Albany on Sunday, January 30, 2022.

Siena’s head coach Carmen Maciariello during a game at MVP Arena in Albany on Sunday, January 30, 2022.

ALBANY — Off a performance the Saints wanted to leave in the past, the Siena men’s basketball program delivered one it hopes to replicate as it moves forward.

In an 84-70 win against Saint Peter’s, Siena used a start-to-finish effort to push itself into second place in the MAAC standings with five games left in its regular season. In moving past Saint Peter’s in the standings, the shorthanded Saints had six players score at least nine points — and that was despite Colby Rogers, the team’s leading scorer on the season, only playing 10 minutes before exiting following a hit to the face that left the junior guard watching from the bench with an ice pack covering his right eye.

Siena also played without Aidan Carpenter and Jayce Johnson, as the Saints only dressed nine scholarship players for the game. Despite that, Siena never trailed and grew its lead to as many as 17 points in the final minutes of Sunday’s win at MVP Arena.

“I think the best medicine for these guys after Friday night was to play in 36 hours,” said Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello, whose club had won three games in a row before losing 62-53 Friday to Marist. “We had a nice film session [Saturday] and went over some things, and I had a good feeling we’d be ready to play. These guys have always been resilient and [good at] having that next-play mentality.”

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That loss to Marist, one that saw Siena fall after leading by as many as 10 points in the second half, provided ample motivation for the Saints heading into Sunday’s game.

“We just needed to bounce back. We felt like Marist just outplayed us. They just played harder. We didn’t show up,” Siena freshman Jared Billups said. “That’s not the team we want to be at all. The team you saw [against Saint Peter’s], that’s the team we want to be.”

Graduate student Anthony Gaines and freshman Javian McCollum each scored 15 points to lead Siena (10-5 MAAC, 13-10 overall), with McCollum’s output representing a career-high total for the rookie. Senior Jackson Stormo produced 14 points, graduate student Nick Hopkins added a dozen, junior Jordan Kellier scored 11 and Billups had nine. 

The last time Siena had five players record double-digit scoring in the same game was the team’s 2020-21 opener against Monmouth.

For Saint Peter’s (10-6, 12-11), Daryl Banks III scored a game-high 16 points in Sunday’s loss.

Overall, Siena made 28 of 53 shots, including 10 of 22 from 3-point territory and 18 of 19 from the foul line. Saint Peter’s made 28 of 57 shots, 4 of 13 from 3 and 10 of 19 from the foul line.

Siena started strong and finished that way in the first half. The Saints opened the game with an 11-3 run, then scored 16 of the period’s final 22 points to take a 42-29 lead into halftime. After the break, Siena’s lead never dwindled to fewer than seven points and the Saints held a double-digit advantage for all of the final 13:52 after a three-point play from Stormo.

Playing Sunday, Stormo said, was a positive for the Saints since it didn’t allow them to “have time to feel sorry for ourselves” after Friday’s loss.

“But I think that we just kind of came together and realized that we have to be the team that we can be, every single game, for the rest of the season,” Stormo said. “We stepped up, had freshmen playing great; Javian played out of his mind, it was awesome. So it was a great team effort.”

Also working in the Saints’ favor? Simply playing a game after one day off. On one day of rest this season, Siena is now 7-0.

The victory completed the regular-season sweep of Saint Peter’s for Siena, and Sunday’s victory didn’t include any of the late-game drama that the teams’ first matchup this season did back in December. In that 60-58 win, Siena led 57-34 with less than eight minutes to go, then committed 10 turnovers before scoring again to snap a 21-0 Saint Peter’s run.

At MVP Arena, Siena didn’t suffer through any of those late-game struggles. Against Saint Peter’s pressuring defense, Siena calmly worked the ball up the court, then found open shots to help grow its lead.

“We just know each other better,” Billups said of the difference in how Siena handled the Saint Peter’s pressure. “Props to Coach because he put in different press breaks, and we knew what was going to come; we were prepared for it.”

Sunday’s game was the second in a stretch of five games over 10 days for Siena, which plays Tuesday at fourth-place Monmouth (9-6, 17-9) for its next game. Maciariello said Carpenter, Johnson and Rogers are all day-to-day with their various injuries ahead of the Saints’ trip to Monmouth. 

For Siena, the 10-day stretch it’s in could end with the Saints in firm control of the conference’s No. 2 spot behind first-place Iona (14-2, 22-5), or leave more up to Siena’s regular-season-ending trip to western New York to play Canisius (4-12, 8-19) and Niagara (7-9, 12-13) than there needs to be for Maciariello’s group.

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Siena’s third-year head coach, though, said he’s still not spending much time evaluating the standings. The Saints’ focus, Maciariello said, is on making sure they continue to improve. 

“There’s so many scenarios that could still happen. So, for us, every game is important. It doesn’t matter the seeds or the rankings right now,” said Maciariello, whose team has won 11 of 15 games since starting 2-6. “We’ve got to continue to play good basketball because things are going to happen [that are] out of our control. In the last two years, since I’ve been a head coach, it’s all been about controlling our own destiny, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Categories: College Sports, Siena College, Sports

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