Siena basketball falls to Canisius 73-63

The Siena men’s basketball team is just too quiet.

That’s the observation sophomore guard Jalen Pickett made after the Saints’ latest road loss, a 73-63 setback at Canisius on Friday night that dropped Siena to 0-8 away from Times Union Center.

“We’re probably one of the silent-est teams I’ve ever been on on the defensive end,’’ said Pickett, who led the team with 21 points. “We really need to pick it up and talk to each other and communicate and get on each other a little bit.”

Canisius shot 50 percent (28-for-56) from the field, including 24-for-34 inside the 3-point arc. The Saints failed to hold in check the Golden Griffins’ best player, guard Malik Johnson, who finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-for-10 shooting with seven rebounds and six assists.

Saints head coach Carmen Maciariello switched to zone defense early in the game because of his team’s inability to guard Canisius man-to-man. While Siena did limit Canisius to 4-for-22 from 3-point range, it still wasn’t good enough.

“We couldn’t guard anybody,’’ he said of the defensive switch.  “Let’s be honest … There’s one thing to know a game plan, and it’s another to live it and breathe it and attack the game plan. You have to stop teams. It’s not enough to know what they’re going to do.”

It wasn’t much better on the offensive end. Siena shot 9-for-30 from 3-point range, and that included Pickett’s 5-for-11. Siena shot 38.6 percent (22-for-57) from the floor overall.

“This ballclub’s not built to shoot 30 3s,’’ Maciariello said. “I’ve got to find answers with guys that want to play hard for 40 minutes or however long they’re on the court.”

The Saints fell behind 57-42 with 7:08 left and Maciariello went deep into his bench to find a spark. He played sophomore guard Georges Darwiche for the first time this season and threw walk-on sophomore Robert Mahala into the action.

Siena (7-8 overall, 3-3 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) responded with a 12-2 run and climbed within 59-54 on Manny Camper’s two foul shots with 4:05 remaining.

“I want guys that play hard all the time, that don’t just think they’re deserving of minutes without earning it every single day,” Maciariello said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with anything but our guys just having some complacency.”

For the second straight game, sophomore guard Don Carey sat as the Saints made a late comeback. He didn’t play for the final 8:09 and finished with three points on 1-for-7 shooting.

Siena’s rally stalled after graduate forward Elijah Burns was called for fouling Johnson on a long missed jumper with 3:32 left. Johnson made both foul shots to make it 61-54 and the Saints never got closer.

“The ref made a call,’’ Burns said.  “I wasn’t happy with it, but got to move on from it and try to get the next stop.”

Now Siena will try to rebound against Niagara, which beat Rider at the buzzer on Friday.

Maciariello said “we’ll see Sunday” if there are any changes in the starting lineup. He said he had a calm meeting with his team after Friday’s loss. He said he didn’t throw anything because it’s not his nature and the players must find their motivation from within.

“To Jalen’s point, there is no Evan Fisher on this team,’’ he said.  “He anchored our defense (last season). We need that fire … We’ve got too nice a guys. We’re just happy. We’re just enjoying the ride. There’s no one that’s going to jump in someone’s face and scream at them.”

Canisius (7-10, 2-4) outrebounded Siena 41-29 and outscored the Saints 30-20 in the paint and 35-15 off the bench. Camper, in foul trouble much of the first half, fell just shy of another double-double with nine points and eight rebounds.

“We’ve all got to do some soul searching,’’ said Burns, who had 13 points. “We’ve got to band together as one and get a little more fiery with each other, and it’s going to start in practice tomorrow.”

Pickett compared this year’s team to last year’s edition, which wasn’t as gifted athletically but had the gift of gab.

“We helped each other out and talked a whole lot,’’ Pickett said.  “That’s what’s going to help us win the next game on the road at Niagara.” • 518-454-5509 • @MarkSingelais

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