Albany

Siena men’s basketball starts 1-0 in MAAC play

Siena's Javian McCollum takes a shot over Jordan Henderson of Canisius Friday, December 2, 2022.
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Siena's Javian McCollum takes a shot over Jordan Henderson of Canisius Friday, December 2, 2022.

ALBANY — The Saints knew what to expect.

“MAAC games are always battles,” said graduate student Jackson Stormo, Siena’s starting center.

“No possessions off,” added sophomore wing player Jared Billups. “Everyone’s trying to win, so you can’t really relax at all.”

Siena’s conference opener Friday at MVP Arena against Canisius lived up to the typical MAAC men’s basketball talking points, as the teams battled through a tightly contested, and occasionally tense, matchup that saw the Saints prevail 74-70 after Stormo secured the game’s final meaningful possession with a dive to the floor following a missed Canisius free throw with seconds to play.

“It’s always a dogfight. It’s always a battle,” said Stormo, who made two free throws after that final rebound to net a double-double performance with 11 points and 10 rebounds. “And we just don’t give up. We keep playing all 40.”

Fresh off scoring two high-major wins in the ESPN Events Invitational, Siena brought plenty of momentum into its MAAC opener. More importantly Friday, the Saints were the more composed team, as visiting Canisius was called for four technical fouls — including three in a span of 19 seconds — to Siena’s one. The free throws Siena received from Canisius’ technicals loomed large, as they helped fuel a 12-0 run that put the Saints ahead 68-61 with 3:39 to go. Canisius answered those dozen Saints points with six of their own and the teams played within a single possession of each other for most of the last three minutes, but Siena never trailed after it moved ahead with its longest run of the night.

Sophomore guard Javian McCollum starred for the Saints, despite playing with an illness that left him vomiting at halftime. The reigning MAAC Player of the Week, McCollum scored a career-high 27 points, including 21 after halftime.

Graduate student Michael Baer added 10 points off the Siena bench, which outscored Canisius’ 25-17. Billups and freshman Michael Eley each scored six points for Siena, while Billups added 10 rebounds to match Stormo for the game-high total. Stormo also blocked five shots.

For Canisius, graduate students Jordan Henderson scored 18 points and Jamir Moultrie had 17. Redshirt freshman Tahj Staveskie, Canisius’ leading scorer on the season, had eight points on 3 of 12 shooting.

Henderson and Staveskie each received technical fouls during the quick stretch that saw Canisius net three. Henderson and Siena’s McCollum were called simultaneously for technical fouls after battling to a jump ball, while Staveskie’s technical came after the redshirt freshman tossed the basketball into McCollum’s face after a made basket.

Canisius’ Xzavier Long earned the game’s first technical foul and its last, as the sophomore was ejected from the game with 5:27 to go. 

Siena (1-0 MAAC, 5-3 overall) led 31-27 at halftime after a rough start. Canisius (0-1, 2-5) scored a dozen of the game’s first 15 points, but the Saints answered with a 9-0 run and led by as many as seven in the first half. While Moultrie scored 10 points and Henderson had nine for Canisius, eight Saints scored in a half that saw no Siena player score more than McCollum’s six.

Siena entered MAAC play after winning two of three games in Florida against high-major foes. The Saints defeated Florida State of the ACC and Seton Hall of the Big East, but fell to Mississippi of the SEC. Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said he was pleased to see the Saints not relax after those wins.

“It’s a credit to all of them because they know what’s at stake,” Maciariello said.

KEY MOMENT

With the Saints clinging to a 68-67 lead and a half-minute to go, McCollum missed a 3-pointer, but Stormo was able to tip the offensive rebound into the basket for a needed two points.

While the game ended with a double-double for Stormo, it wasn’t an easy night for the center who came into the game making 56.3% of his field-goal attempts. He made 3 of 10 shots against Canisius, and had several inside chances end with frustrating misses.

“I mean, I just went for the ball. It’s pretty much as simple as that,” Stormo said of the tip-in basket that grew Siena’s late lead from a point to three. “That’s just basketball, you know? Having one of the worst offensive games in my career, but just keep fighting, and keep playing and keep trying to do anything you can to win — and, you know, it ended up going in. Big play for us down the stretch. Just trying to do anything I can do to help our team.”

GOOD START

The last time Siena was better than .500 through the first eight games of a season that included non-conference games was the 2015-16 season.

Coached by Jimmy Patsos, that club started 5-3 on its way to a 21-13 campaign that concluded with a loss in the College Basketball Invitational to Morehead State.

Siena had seven wins through eight games in the 2020-21 season, but all of those games were MAAC contests during a season played amid numerous pandemic-related restrictions.

WHAT’S NEXT

Siena doesn’t play again until Wednesday when it visits Georgetown in Washington, D.C., for the second year in a row.

Georgetown is off to a 4-4 start this season, and plays South Carolina this weekend before preparing for the Saints.

A season ago, Georgetown defeated Siena 83-65 to improve to 2-1. Head coach Patrick Ewing’s Hoyas finished the 2021-22 non-conference season at 6-5, then lost all of its Big East games on the way to finishing 6-25.

Contact Michael Kelly at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMichaelKelly.

Categories: College Sports, Siena College, Sports, Sports

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