ALBANY — Jalen Pickett was still closer to his own team’s basket when he saw Siena men’s basketball teammate Elijah Burns start motioning for the guard to prepare to toss an alley-oop to the big man.
At that point, as Pickett motored forward on the fast-break that followed a missed Marist layup he’d rebounded, the sophomore was lucky he didn’t turn the ball over.
After all, he was a bit shocked.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God — is he actually going to go up and get one?’” Pickett said after the Saints’ 70-57 MAAC win Friday at Times Union Center.
“Honestly,” Burns said of his teammate’s reaction, “I understand why.”
But the fifth-year senior who has battled through injuries throughout his college career perfectly executed the play, throwing down a thunderous jam off the pass from Pickett to highlight one last Siena run in a game in which the Saints used three of them to snap a three-game losing streak. That dunk from Burns, which forced a Marist timeout with the Red Foxes trailing 60-47 with 5:17 to go, was part of a 19-point night for the 6-foot-8 forward.
“He threw a great pass and I was able to finish it,” Burns said.
Siena (4-4, 8-9) finished strong, too, as the Saints topped Marist (3-6, 4-14) to stay perfect at home this season. The only team left in the country that’s undefeated at home and winless on the road, Siena never trailed Marist and received significant contributions from a number of players ahead of Sunday’s home matchup with Quinnipiac.
“I thought we took some steps to get better. Obviously, we’re still improving,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said. “Just happy for these guys. I thought they locked into the game plan. I thought there were times where they could have taken a bad shot, they could have tried to . . . ad-lib, and we brought the ball out and we executed. We listened.”
Siena had a lull in the first half and a sloppy stretch early in the second, but did more than enough during three key stretches to mostly breeze past Marist. The Saints started the game on a 9-0 run, later had a 16-0 run in the opening half, then put the game away with a 14-2 run in which Burns offered up his emphatic jam off a feed from Pickett.
“Soon as he got the rebound, I just started sprinting as fast as I could,” Burns said. “I knew I was going to be open and, like [Pickett] said, I started pointing from half court.”
Burns added six rebounds to go along with his 19 points, while Pickett contributed 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Meanwhile, junior Manny Camper had 13 points and eight rebounds, and freshman Kyle Young had 10 points in 13 minutes.
Young, and fellow freshmen Gary Harris and Jordan were major factors during Siena’s 16-0 run. During that span, Young had eight points and King had five.
“Just communicating. Working hard,” Burns said of what went right during the Saints’ three significant runs. “That’s what we’ve been working on all week and all year, honestly. It’s coming to fruition now. We’ve just got to keep working hard together.”
For Marist, freshman Tyler Sagl had 17 points, but head coach John Dunne’s squad only made 21 of 64 shots from the field. Dunne received a technical foul, too, late in the game that never saw his team lead.
Down 38-27 at halftime, Marist pulled within 45-42 of the Saints early in the second half. The teams played within a few possessions of each other for a few minutes from there, but then Siena started up its 14-2 run.
“We kept counter-punching,” Maciariello said.
Jones 2-5 2-2 6, Sagl 6-16 1-1 17, Cubbage 1-8 4-4 6, Herasme 4-12 0-0 9, Saint-Furcy 4-9 2-2 10, Tordoff 0-2 0-0 0, Bell 4-10 0-0 9, Cavanaugh 0-0 0-0 0, Sjoberg 0-1 0-0 0, Makeny 0-1 0-0 0, Carmello 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-64 9-9 57.
Burns 6-8 7-7 19, Carey 0-5 2-2 2, Harris 2-5 3-4 7, Camper 5-9 2-3 13, Pickett 5-11 1-2 12, King 2-7 0-0 5, Hein 0-3 2-2 2, Young 3-4 4-4 10, Friday 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-52 21-24 70.
Halftime score: Siena 38, Marist 27. Three-point shooting: Marist 6-22 (Sagl 4-10, Cubbage 0-2, Herasme 1-5, Saint-Furcy 0-2, Bell 1-3), Siena 3-14 (Carey 0-3, Harris 0-1, Camper 1-3, Pickett 1-4, King 1-3). Rebounds: Marist 35 (Herasme 8), Siena 37 (Camper 8). Assists: Marist 5, Siena 14. Turnovers: Marist 15, Siena 14. Total fouls: Marist 21, Siena 17. Technical fouls: Marist coach. Attendance: 6,693.