Siena men’s basketball improves to 6-0 in MAAC with win at Niagara

Siena men's basketball head coach Carm Maciariello's team won at Niagara on Friday night.

Siena men's basketball head coach Carm Maciariello's team won at Niagara on Friday night.

LEWISTON — Siena’s experience was the difference Friday night, as the Saints overcame a slow shooting start to defeat Niagara 70-64 at the Gallagher Center, while posting their seventh straight win.

Trailing for most of the night, the Saints finally went ahead on an Andrew Platek 3-pointer with 3:20 to play. The 6-foot-4 guard from Guilderland finished the game strong, making a key block and adding another 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Saints up by seven with 1:25 to play.

Niagara came out in a tenacious man-to-man defense early in the game and led by as many as 10 in the first half, forcing the Saints into bad shots and misguided passes. The Saints started out 3-for-11 from the floor and 0-for-5 behind the 3-point line, as the Purple Eagles swarmed them from the opening tip.

The Saints stayed unbeaten in the MAAC at 7-0 and improved their overall record to 12-5, handing second-place Niagara (9-7, 4-3 MAAC) its first home loss of the season.

Trailing 37-30 at halftime, Siena coach Carmen Maciariello encouraged his team to put the bad half behind them.

“That was probably our worst first half of basketball, but yet we were only down seven at halftime,” Maciariello said. “So that was the positive, I told the guys to forget about that.

“We have a saying that Javian [McCollum] talks about, we say ‘Here we go.’ We’re going to get locked in to that next possession, to that next twenty minutes. I thought Jackson [Stormo] established the inside and Javian established the outside.”

The Saints were led by McCollum, who returned from a two-game hiatus due to a back injury. McCollum had a big night with 27 points, eight assists and five rebounds, leading the Saints to a win on the first game of their Western New York road trip.

McCollum was excited to get back on the court, and he kept them in the game in the first half, scoring 14 points before the break. 

“I missed it so much, it felt really good,” said McCollum. “Especially playing with my teammates like we do, we’re a tough-minded team, we just want to come out and win every night, that’s the goal.”

Stormo was steady inside for the Saints, with 20 points and five rebounds in the victory on Monteagle Ridge. His determination and toughness inside the paint on both ends of the court made a big difference as the Purple Eagles struggled to handle him in the second half.

“We preach to let mistakes go, we move on and play in the moment,” said Stormo. “We focus on the next play. We’re a good defensive team. We know if we go out there and we do what we do every day in practice and work hard, teams are going to have a hard time scoring on us.”

Maciariello credited the defense, specifically the effect that two role players had on Niagara’s leading scorer as a big reason for the comeback.

“Mike Baer and Jared Billups did yeoman’s work on Noah Thomasson,” Maciariello said. “Noah’s one of the better guards on the lead, us being able to get the ball out of his hands really helped us.”

Thomasson was held to six points in the second half and was visibly frustrated. He was called for an untimely technical foul with 1:48 remaining for a flop after a 3-point miss. McCollum nailed the technical, and Platek followed with a 3 to extend the lead to seven and put the game on ice for the Saints.

“I understand they make calls like that, I just need to be better,” said Thomasson on the flop call.

Niagara coach Greg Paulus was quick to give Siena accolades for their comeback.

“I thought Siena played really well. They made a couple winning plays down the stretch,” he said. “Some timely offensive rebounds, some big time plays from their experienced guys there.”

Siena returns to the hardwood on Sunday afternoon for a noon start at the Koessler Center to face Canisius and wrap up its swing through Western New York.

Forward Jordan Kellier did not make the trip due to a fracture in his foot suffered in practice. Maciariello reported after the game that Kellier will undergo surgery on Monday and hopes he can be back for the MAAC Tournament.

Categories: -Sports-, College Sports, Siena College

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