LOUDONVILLE — The defensive effort was one head coach Carmen Maciariello labeled as the Siena men’s basketball team’s “worst” of the season.
For a long stretch, too, the offense nearly sunk to that level in Sunday’s 81-69 MAAC loss at Manhattan that saw the Saint commit 17 turnovers in the contest’s opening 31 minutes.
What was seemingly most disappointing, though, for Maciariello with how his team played was that he could see something like Sunday’s loss coming for the Saints.
He didn’t love how his Saints allowed a struggling Holy Cross team to hang around with them in late December, and was less than thrilled with how they “made it harder on ourselves” in their opening two MAAC wins by falling behind by double-digit margins in the first half of those games.
Maciariello viewed Siena’s second-half struggles in a loss at Rider as an example of his team being “happy” with a strong first half. The next game, Siena’s win vs. Saint Peter’s, the Saints started strong before they allowed the Peacocks back into the game and to stay in it until the Saints surged in the final minutes.
After that one, Maciariello cautioned that the Saints couldn’t make a habit of relying on their talent.
“My job is to make sure we don’t come out complacent,” Maciariello said. “We think we’ve accomplished something, and we haven’t accomplished anything.”
So when Siena went to Riverdale last weekend and played one of its worst games — if not its worst — to drop to 0-7 on the road and 7-7 overall, Maciariello said he had been “a little bit” concerned his team could turn in an effort like that one, and that it “was evident” in recent weeks that his team’s ability to focus for a full 40 minutes hadn’t consistently been there.
“And we haven’t done anything yet,” Maciariello said after Sunday’s loss, nearly repeating his line from after the Saints’ previous win. “This program hasn’t won anything in 10 years.”
Maciariello doesn’t have concerns about his team’s heart or resiliency, which he has routinely praised throughout his first season leading the Saints. Attention to detail, though, needs to be better if the Saints are going to build off what is their program’s best start through 14 games since Siena started 9-5 in the 2015-16 season.
“I think this team plays for us. I think they have heart,” said Maciariello, whose team next plays Friday at Canisius. “I think they battle. . . . I just don’t want any complacency in our program.”
And that is a reasonable, legitimate concern for the Saints this season, a team that is both built around four players in fifth-year senior Elijah Burns, junior Manny Camper, redshirt sophomore Don Carey and sophomore Jalen Pickett that arguably make up the MAAC’s most-talented quartet, but also includes four true freshmen still trying to learn the ins and outs of college basketball.
A promising sign from the weekend? Each of those four freshmen — Gary Harris, Jordan King, Luke Sutherland and Kyle Young — had stretches of strong play. Harris scored all 11 of his points in the first half, while King, Sutherland and Young were prominently involved in the Saints’ 16-0 run in the second half to get themselves withing striking range of Manhattan.
“I thought those three freshmen answered the challenge, competed and gave us some great energy during that run,” Maciariello said. “So I’ve got to evaluate that some more.”
SAINTS VISIT AREA SCHOOLS
Members from both Siena basketball programs visited area schools Tuesday as part of the National Grid Foundation Hoops For The Stars program.
Players and coaches visited Shaker Road Elementary School and Albany School of Humanities in Albany, North Albany Academy in Menands and Van Corlaer Elementary School in Schenectady.
During the visits, the Saints answered questions, participated in games and drills, and signed autographs.