LOUDONVILLE — With two games left in their regular season, the focus is not changing for the Saints.
“No better time than right now to keep improving,” Siena College men’s basketball head coach Jamion Christian said before Wednesday’s practice.
Siena has won its last two games to keep itself in the race for the MAAC regular-season title. After Sunday’s win against Marist, Siena was one of five MAAC teams with six losses in conference play.
Ahead of the Saints are road games against Canisius and Niagara, played over a three-day span starting Friday at Canisius. Tiebreakers are likely to play a major role in determining the bracket setup for the MAAC tournament, but sophomore Manny Camper said the Saints aren’t as worried about that as they are finishing off their regular season with two more wins.
“We want to be the best at what we do,” Camper said.
Early this season, Siena relied on its offense to carry itself. As the Saints have progressed through conference play, their defense has ranked as the best in the MAAC as their offense has often struggled. Christian described his team’s play as a “tale of two seasons,” but that the Saints need to pair increased offensive production with their strong defense to have a chance to win a conference championship.
“The great thing is we know we have the capability on both ends,” Christian said.
TIME TO REGROUP
Camper said the extended gap between games for the Saints offered a welcome break.
“Absolutely. It gave us time to rest, to catch up, to hydrate, to take care of stuff in the training room,” Camper said. “We’re feeling good and we’ll be at our best on Friday.”
Before playing last Sunday vs. Marist, Siena had four full days without a game. The Saints again have four full days without a game before Friday’s matchup, which Canisius will play to conclude a four-games-in-eight-days stretch.
Christian said that packed schedule could benefit Canisius.
“They’re going to be in a great rhythm from playing,” Christian said. “That’s one of the biggest things I worry about when we have a lot of rest: are we in a great rhythm to play?”
Christian said sophomore Denzel Tchougang (illness) is likely to play in this weekend’s games.
Meanwhile, freshman Georges Darwiche (lower-leg) is still termed as “day-to-day,” but Christian suggested Darwiche will need minimal time practicing before he makes a return to game action.
Away from Albany’s Times Union Center, Siena freshman Jalen Pickett should have plenty of supporters in the crowd at Canisius and Niagara.
Pickett went to high school at Aquinas Institute in Rochester, and said he’s already heard from a lot of hometown friends that they plan to be at one of Siena’s upcoming games.
“A lot of my schoolmates go to Canisius, Niagara, Buffalo State and other schools around there,” Pickett said. “It’ll be special.”
Pickett tied the conference record Monday for most MAAC Rookie of the Week honors in one season with 10, matching Derek Needham of Fairfield (2009-10) and Lionel Simmons of La Salle (1986-87).