Siena men’s basketball cruises past ACC foe Florida State

Siena’s head coach Carmen Maciariello during a MAAC basketball game in Albany on Friday, February 11, 2022.
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Siena’s head coach Carmen Maciariello during a MAAC basketball game in Albany on Friday, February 11, 2022.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It was a “confidence boost,” for sure, but Andrew Platek saw the Siena men’s basketball program’s double-digit Thanksgiving win as an example of how seriously the Saints should be taken this season.

“Any team who is on the court with us, has to play us,” Platek said. “They’ve got to play the Siena Saints.”

On Thursday, Florida State of the ACC could not keep up with those Saints, who started their stay in the ESPN Events Invitational with a resounding 80-63 win to advance to Friday’s semifinals. Siena will play Mississippi, which won 72-68 Thursday against Stanford, at 11 a.m. Friday.

Coming off losses in back-to-back games against Army and Harvard, Siena never trailed Thursday and led by as many as 20 points in recording its first win against an ACC opponent since it defeated Georgia Tech — led by former Saints head coach Paul Hewitt — in 2010 in Albany. Platek scored a career-high 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting, which included making 5 of 6 from 3-point territory, to lead Siena, which also received 18 points and a career-high eight assists from Florida native Javian McCollum against Florida State.

Up 17 points at halftime, Siena’s lead never dwindled to fewer than nine points after halftime. Siena maintained at least a four-possession advantage for the final 17:25 after a layup from Zek Tekin, one of several Saints to make a strong contribution off the bench.

“This,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said, “is the team we can be.”

Florida State (1-5) has struggled so far this season, with its first win coming on Monday against Mercer after head coach Leonard Hamilton’s program lost games to Stetson, Central Florida, Troy and Florida to start its 2022-23 season.

Still, the way the Saints (3-2) handled Florida State throughout their Thanksgiving victory at State Farm Field House was unexpected. Siena started fast Thursday, weathered a Florida State comeback surge in the opening period and ended the half on a 21-6 run to lead 43-26 at halftime. Siena built an early 16-5 lead before Florida State fought back to pull within 22-20 midway through the half, and the Saints’ half-ending run included the period’s final 10 points. 

“At the beginning of the game, we made an emphasis on moving the ball, keeping our motion offense flowing,” Platek said. “I think we did a really good job of that. Javian kept the ball from sticking; as soon as we’d get it to him, he’d reverse it one more, and we got all of our guys in a rhythm.”

McCollum scored a dozen points in the first half, while Platek added 10. Jared Billups scored seven points and recorded two blocks — including one of Florida State’s 7-foot-4 Naheem McLeod — in the opening stanza, which saw eight Saints score.

The end of Siena’s half-closing surge came on free throws from McCollum with 1.8 seconds to go after McLeod was ejected following a hit to Siena freshman Killian Gribben’s head. McCollum made the foul shots resulting from the flagrant foul.

“It was a nice little elbow there,” Gribben said.

Prior to Thursday’s win, Gribben had only played several seconds during his young Siena career. Foul trouble for starting center Jackson Stormo — who ended up scoring 10 points in 20 minutes before fouling out — initially helped Gribben, a 6-foot-10 freshman from Ireland, get onto the court against Florida State.

Quickly, though, Gribben earned additional minutes with his production. In 13 minutes, Gribbin scored nine points, grabbed three rebounds and blocked a shot. The Saints outscored Florida State by a dozen points during Gribben’s time on the court.

“I’ll definitely have some more confidence [next game] because when I stepped on the court [against Florida State], I was kind of nervous, a wee bit,” Gribben said. “But as long as I stay the course, I should be all good.”

Florida State made its only meaningful push in the second half right after halftime. Florida State scored the half’s first eight points, as Siena posted four turnovers before recording its first shot attempt of the period. Maciariello called a timeout 63 seconds into the second half to settle the Saints after the first two turnovers and back-to-back Florida State dunks.

“It was actually Jared Billups [who] came over to me, and he wanted the timeout, too,” a smiling Maciariello.

A basket from Tekin ended Florida State’s 8-0 run, then the freshman guard from Turkey found Stormo for a layup to give the Saints a 47-34 lead. From there, Siena never lost control in its most-lopsided win since a 77-55 victory in March 2020 against MAAC opponent Niagara. 

Matthew Cleveland’s 14 points led Florida State, which Siena out-rebounded 31-29.

For McCollum, the victory doubled as a bounce-back performance following the sophomore scoring two points in Siena’s loss Sunday at Harvard. 

“I was just focused on winning the game with my teammates,” said McCollum, who averaged 20.3 points per game in Siena’s first three contests. “I mean, that’s in the past. . . . I got to grow as a player. I can’t let that bother me. So we came into this game focused on FSU and just getting the win as a team.”

Next up for Siena is the chance to become the first MAAC program to make the championship game of the ESPN Events Invitational. Maciariello said he planned to “enjoy the moment” of preparing the Saints for another tournament contest.

“Meaningful games are great,” Maciariello said.

Categories: College Sports, Siena College, Sports, Sports

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