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Shooting struggles hurting Siena men's basketball

Shooting struggles hurting Siena men's basketball

Saints misfiring too often
Shooting struggles hurting Siena men's basketball
Siena lost 57-52 to Iona.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

LOUDONVILLE — He liked the number of attempts.

Now, the number of makes?

That was a different story.

“Earlier in the year,” Siena College men’s basketball head coach Jamion Christian said after Wednesday’s loss to Iona, “we’re making 10 of those.”

The “those” being 3-point shots, of which the Saints made 7 of 26 on their home court in Albany.

All those misses bothered Christian, but didn’t shock him.

“That’s just where it is,” Christian said of his team’s shooting ability.

Even as Siena turned around its season with an eight-game stretch in which it won seven times, it did so despite its offense — the team’s strength early in the season — significantly falling off. Only twice in the Saints’ last eight games have they averaged 1.00 points per possession or better, according to kenpom.com, after they reached that benchmark in 10 of their first 15 games.

Siena was well on its way to a strong offensive night against Iona, as the Saints pushed to a 51-38 lead with 8:00 to go. From there, though, the Saints shot 0 of 8 and had three turnovers as Iona ended the game on a 19-1 run to win 57-52.

Losing in such remarkable fashion stung the Saints, but Christian said his post-game focus was more on Siena’s 52 than Iona’s 57.

“I’m more shocked that we only scored 52 points,” Christian said. “We’re a much better offensive team than that. We’ve just got to start making shots.”

Siena hasn’t made 10 3s in any of its last nine games, a stretch in which the team made 31.2 percent of its downtown attempts and averaged 6.6 made 3s per game. Prior to that, the Saints shot 34.7 percent from 3-point territory and averaged 9.7 made 3s per game.

The most frustrating part?

“We’re just missing shots,” Christian said. “I think we’re executing offensively better. I think we’re just missing shots, quite honestly.”

Another issue, Christian said, is the way Siena’s supporting cast has responded to the way opposing defenses are focusing attention around senior Evan Fisher and freshman Jalen Pickett. Despite Iona sending extra defenders at those two Saints, Fisher and Pickett combined to take half of Siena’s 56 shots. Freshman Sloan Seymour took 10 shots, leaving the other five Saints that played responsible for 18 combined attempts.

Christian said there are Saints “not being aggressive enough” in looking for their own shot, and that over-passing was on display several times Wednesday. Often, those instances led to turnovers for the Saints.

“We have to get the shots that are there,” Siena redshirt senior Kevin Degnan said.

Still, the picked-to-finish-last Saints are in a good position as they approach their final five games of the regular season. At 8-5 in MAAC play, Siena is a game out of first place and remains on track to earn a bye in the first round of the conference tournament. 

Increasingly, the Saints have relied on their defense to win games, but they need to use the closing stretch of games before the MAAC tournament to regain their shooting touch.

“We’ve got to be able to turn around and do that,” Christian said.

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

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