CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Tuesday offered a glimpse at what the Siena men’s basketball could be, and want to be, this season.
Thursday provided a reminder that Siena, with three of its starters playing their first minutes as Saints earlier this month and with several freshmen seeing time off the bench, have a long way to go before they’re a finished product.
“It’s only our fourth game,” Siena fifth-year senior Elijah Burns said. “We’ve got a long season to go, so I’m excited to see where it goes.”
Thursday’s 59-56 loss against Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion featured plenty of excitement in the final minutes, but Siena couldn’t capitalize on a solid chance to score a solid-looking road win for its resume against the Ivy League’s preseason favorite that was missing three of its top players because of injury or illness. Siena had the ball down a point in the final minute, but the critical possession for the Saints ended with a lot of dribbling and a well-contested 3-pointer from redshirt sophomore Don Carey that missed its mark.
“Moving forward, I probably should have called a timeout,” Siena first-year head coach Carmen Maciariello said of the play that started with sophomore Jalen Pickett using a pick from senior Sammy Friday before finding Carey. “I believe in those guys. Jalen had it, he went, he couldn’t get anything. Don had it, he went. I should have called timeout right then, or maybe someone on the floor should have called timeout.”
Instead, after Carey made an initial move toward the basket, he passed to freshman Jordan King, who delivered the ball right back. From there, Carey went through a series of dribbling maneuvers to try to free himself from Harvard junior Rio Haskett before taking a step-back 3.
“I just wanted to get two eyes on the rim,” said Carey, who scored 15 of his game-high 17 points before halftime. “I think it was a good shot. It’s a shot I hit any other time, so I think that was a good shot, a good look, for me.”
Pickett, who only played seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble and didn’t score until there was 5:18 left in the game, agreed with both his coach and his backcourt partner.
“He’s a great player. He had it going a little bit tonight, and he can create off the dribble for us,” said Pickett, whose four points on 2 of 10 shooting matched a career-low total. “Might want to call a timeout there and maybe set something up, but he got a good look at the basket.”
A couple of Harvard (3-1) made free throws and a Siena (2-2) timeout later, the game’s final play saw Pickett nearly bank in a half-court shot to send the game into overtime.
Siena, though, didn’t lose Thursday’s game because of a couple missed late shots. The Saints had an early nine-point lead, then saw it evaporate with Pickett in foul trouble and went into halftime down 37-30. Beyond that, Siena’s offensive execution was sloppy and far from sound enough to win at Lavietes Pavilion where Harvard has won 31 of its last 35 games. The Saints shot 4 of 22 from 3-point territory, only attempted eight free throws and had 17 turnovers.
“You can’t beat a team of the caliber of Harvard, on the road, with 17 turnovers and shooting 18% from 3. Guys that come in off the bench have to be ready,” Maciariello said. “There’s going to be nights where [Burns] is hurting and can’t go 100%. There’s going to be nights where Jalen picks up two fouls. Who is going to step up?”
After Siena relied so heavily on its top-four players — Burns, junior Manny Camper, Carey and Pickett — in its 13-point win against St. Bonaventure on Tuesday, Siena’s reserves played 57 minutes against Harvard, but only produced 18 points on 8 of 20 shooting. Seven of those points came from Friday, who made 3 of 6 shots and had five rebounds in 11 minutes.
Besides Friday, freshman big Kyle Young played five minutes as Burns was only used for 24 minutes two days after playing 29 minutes against the Bonnies. Burns battled several injuries during his career at Notre Dame prior to transferring to Siena last season, and the 6-foot-8 forward struggled a bit playing his second game in three days.
“He didn’t have any lift. He didn’t have any speed,” Maciariello said. “He didn’t have any bounce.”
“It is what it is,” Burns said. “I’ve just got to keep competing whenever I get out there. I’ve got to make the most of my opportunities.”
Siena trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half, but the final 1:42 was played as a one-possession game.
Freshman Chris Ledlum had 14 points to lead Harvard, while Camper with 10 points was the lone Saint besides Carey to contribute double-digit scoring. Camper also had eight rebounds.
In the young season, Siena has won its home games, and lost its road games after starting well in both. Maciariello said the Saints need to show better discipline going forward.
“I think our guys relax when it’s easy,” said Maciariello, whose team next plays Wednesday at Yale. “When they’re able to have some success early on, they take for granted all those little things and they don’t continue to execute.”
Burns 2-5 1-1 5, Camper 4-6 2-6 10, Carey 7-14 0-0 17, Hein 1-4 0-0 2, Pickett 2-10 0-0 4, Harris 1-3 0-0 2, Young 2-3 0-0 4, King King 1-7 0-0 3, Ratliff 1-1 0-0 2, Sutherland 0-0 0-0 0, Friday 3-6 1-1 7. Totals: 24-59 4-8 56.
Lewis 1-3 0-0 2, Baker 3-4 0-0 7, Haskett 3-6 0-0 9, Bassey 4-9 0-0 9, Juzang 0-6 2-2 2, Sakota 2-5 0-0 5, Tretout 2-4 0-0 4, Ledlum 5-12 1-1 14, Forbes 0-1 1-2 1, Djuricic 2-6 0-0 4, Welsh 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 23-57 4-5.
Halftime score: Harvard 37, Siena 30. Three-point shooting: Siena 4-22 (Burns 0-2, Camper 0-1, Carey 3-6, Hein 0-1, Pickett 0-5, Harris 0-1, King 1-6), Harvard 9-26 (Baker 1-2, Haskett 3-5, Bassey 1-4, Juzang 0-4, Sakota 1-4, Tretout 0-1, Ledlum 3-4, Djuricic 0-2). Rebounds: Siena 36 (Camper 8), Harvard 36 (Lewis 11). Assists: Siena 10 (Carey 5), Harvard 8 (Bassey 3). Turnovers: Siena 17, Harvard 20. Total fouls: Siena 13, Harvard 12. Attendance: 1,269.