LOUDONVILLE — Saturday’s win against Harvard snapped a four-game losing streak.
That’s a fact, a real thing that happened for the Siena College men’s basketball team.
It also wasn’t too much of a concern, or reason for celebration, for Siena head coach Jamion Christian and his players as they got ready for Wednesday’s 7 p.m. Franciscan Cup matchup at St. Bonaventure. Christian said he didn’t spend much time, if any, thinking about how his team avoided a losing streak lasting any longer. Instead, the focus stayed on finding ways to improve a 3-5 Saints squad still largely inexperienced and finding its way with less than a month to go to MAAC play.
“The reality of it is, the team that grows the most . . . has the opportunity to hang that banner up at the end of the year,” Christian said Monday. “That’s no different for us than it is for Duke.”
Siena showed growth in topping Harvard, but also plenty of areas where more is needed. The Saints turned a semi-comfortable late-game lead into a 67-64 final that saw Harvard miss a last-second 3-pointer, made only 9 of 17 free throws, and had their defense go through stretches where it — again — struggled to avoid leaving 3-point shooters open.
“We played well for stretches,” said Siena freshman Jalen Pickett, who swept the MAAC’s top rookie and player honors this week. “We still have some things to tune up.”
“We didn’t play perfect for 40 minutes,” Siena redshirt senior Kevin Degnan said, “but we played tough and that really matters.”
Siena will need that toughness when it takes on a 3-5 St. Bonaventure squad coming off back-to-back wins. A year ago, St. Bonaventure coasted past Siena 75-55, but each team brings a much different roster into this year’s matchup.
“I mean, we definitely remember it,” Degnan said. “But we’re not angry about it or anything.”
“So we’re not too focused on that,” Siena sophomore Manny Camper said. “We have a new team, a new coaching staff and a new system. We’re going there with a fresh mindset and a new slate. It’s zero to zero, and we’re just going to play hard.”
Siena could be without senior Evan Fisher who suffered a “lower-leg injury” late in Saturday’s win. If Fisher cannot play, Christian could insert junior Sammy Friday into Siena’s starting frontcourt, but the coach also allowed he could make a more significant lineup change to make up for a potential Fisher absence.
“We’ve been trying some new groups — smaller lineups, bigger lineups, some with people who haven’t played,” Camper said. “So we’ve worked on all that, but we’ll see Wednesday.”
After playing St. Bonaventure, Siena will return to campus before traveling again to play Saturday at Robert Morris. That makes for a grueling travel week, and one that should test the mental toughness of the Saints.
“But we embrace challenges here. We love challenges,” Christian said. “Challenges allow you to be at your best. You can’t be at your best when it matters the most unless you challenge yourself.”