POUGHKEEPSIE — The difference between its previous game, a disappointing 70-66 loss against Canisius, and Friday’s 71-66 win at MAAC rival Marist?
Siena College men’s basketball head coach Jamion Christian pinpointed it after his program’s first conference win of the season came in comeback fashion.
“Everyone,” Christian said, “that had an opportunity stepped up and made the right play.”
Over and over, that was the case for the Saints down the stretch as they picked up their first MAAC road win in 23 months. Down 51-44 with 8:08 to go after an 8-0 Marist run, Siena answered with an 11-2 burst to pull ahead with 4:46 to go. Marist tied the game at 55, but Siena pushed back ahead for good on a jumper from freshman Jalen Pickett and the Saints never relinquished the lead in the final 3:38.
“It’s just awesome,” Siena senior Evan Fisher, who scored a game-high 23 points, said of the victory. “It’s just good to have this feeling.”
“They just had tremendous poise,” Christian said of his group. “Tremendous understanding of the moment.”
Briefly in the second half, it looked like the moment would again be too big for the young Saints to handle, just as it was in their loss to Canisius in which they squandered a double-digit lead in the second half. Helping along Marist’s go-ahead 8-0 run was a technical foul on Fisher, Siena’s senior leader. After that call went against the Saints, though, they rallied around each other.
“Our emotional toughness was in the right place in the huddles,” Christian said. “We weren’t coaching emotional things. We were coaching basketball.”
And in the game’s final minutes, Siena shot the basketball with great success as it made some adjustments to Marist’s game-long trapping of Pickett each time Siena screened for its star freshman. As a result, the Saints made one shot after another after falling behind 51-44; Siena scored 38.0 percent of its points in the final 7:03.
“Coach is a great coach,” Pickett said. “He saw some things in the first half that he wanted to wait [to use] in the second half.”
“They were a little clever,” Marist head coach John Dunne said of the adjustment Siena made to attacking his team’s defense late in the game. “They did something new to battle against it, and I think they hit two 3s doing that.”
It helped, too, that Siena had balance after relying so much recently on Fisher and Pickett. While Fisher led Siena (1-2 MAAC, 6-10 overall) in scoring against Marist (1-2, 6-9) and Pickett contributed nine points, six rebounds and eight assists, four other Saints made significant contributions. Freshman Sloan Seymour scored a dozen points, while sophomore Manny Camper, freshman Georges Darwiche and redshirt senior Kevin Degnan each added nine.
In his first game back from a foot injury that cost him four games, Camper added four rebounds in 18 minutes. Down the stretch, Camper converted a pair of three-point plays, too.
“Just bringing energy on both ends — offensive and defensive end,” Camper said of his focus. “Trying to provide that spark.”
“He looked good,” Christian said, “but I expect him to be good.”
Siena next plays Monday at home against Monmouth, and brings momentum with it into that matchup.
“It’s a heck of a win for them on the road,” Dunne said.
“It’s a great road win for us,” Christian said. “Just thought we outlasted them a little bit tonight.”
Seymour 4-11 0-0 12, Fisher 8-10 5-5 23, Degnan 3-8 0-0 9, Pickett 2-6 5-7 9, Darwiche 3-7 2-2 9, Bayer 0-1 0-0 0, Camper 3-4 3-3 9, Smithen 0-0 0-0 0, Tchougang 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 23-48 15-17 71.
Lamb 5-8 3-7 13, Knudsen 3-7 2-2 10, Sjoberg 3-3 1-1 7, Hines 1-2 2-2 4, Parker 6-14 0-1 12, Herasme 0-1 0-0 0, Dozic 3-14 0-0 6, Nedrow 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 3-4 3, Funk: 4-8 0-0 11. Totals: 25-57 11-17 66.
Halftime score: Marist 22, Siena 22. Three-point shooting: Siena 10-22, Marist 5-22. Rebounds: Siena 28 (Pickett 6), Marist 33 (Lamb 8). Assists: Siena 15 (Pickett 8), Marist 11 (Parker 6). Turnovers: Siena 11, Marist 9. Total fouls: Siena 16, Marist 17. Technical fouls: Fisher. Attendance: 1,678.