Everything seems to be going Siena basketball’s way right now.
The Saints have won seven games in a row, including the 52-50 win at Marist on Friday, thanks to Jalen Pickett’s shot that bounced in at the buzzer. A team that couldn’t buy a road victory for the first three months of the season has won three straight and four or five away from Times Union Center.
The news got even better after Friday’s victory, when the Saints found out they’d locked up at least a top-two seed in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament, courtesy of Monmouth’s loss at Rider. Siena will play a quarterfinal game on Wednesday, March 11 in Atlantic City, N.J with a day’s rest before the semifinals.
All that said, there are warning signs for the Saints. They struggled this week to put away three opponents who are among the bottom four in the MAAC standings. Siena had to sweat out a tying 3-point attempt by Fairfield last Sunday and frittered away leads of 13 points against Quinnipiac on Wednesday and 15 points against Marist.
“Guys have to do a better job with the details and staying connected,”https://www.timesunion.com/” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said. “We’ve talked about it before and had long film sessions and addressed it after Quinnipiac and addressed it after Fairfield. I’m glad we’re done dodging bullets on the road and get to go home to Albany and play Niagara on Senior Night.”
They’ll face the Purple Eagles on Wednesday with a chance to complete a 14-0 season at Times Union Center. But the tournament isn’t on South Pearl Street. It’s at Boardwalk Hall for the first time. Even if the Saints do clinch the No. 1 seed this week, it would be hard to say they’ll be a decisive favorite to win the tournament on a neutral court.
“You’re in first place right now,”https://www.timesunion.com/” Maciariello said. “It doesn’t matter. The season’s not over. There’s two (regular-season) games left. And we’ve still got work to do. We’ve still got to prove. Anything can happen in Atlantic City. … You just talk about winning that first game and getting hot, and that’s what the MAAC’s about.”
In fairness to the Saints, fatigue could have been a factor (only 19 second-half points) in their second-half slump against Marist on Friday. They were playing their second road game in three days and third in six days. But they’ll also have to win three games in four days to capture the MAAC title next month.
“I mean, the way we play, we just get up and down the floor,”https://www.timesunion.com/” Siena sophomore guard Don Carey said. “But we also have a deep bench. Sometimes if we do get tired, we just give Coach a fist and he makes the right substitutions.”
Carey and teammate Manny Camper were involved in the play that allowed Marist to tie the game at 50. They failed to make a switch on a baseline out-of-bounds play, leading to Matt Herasme’s tying 3-pointer from the corner.
But Maciariello said it was a valuable lesson.
“This group’s just growing every day,”https://www.timesunion.com/” he said. “I think every experience is helping this team grow.”
Maciariello said the Saints need to put 40 minutes together. Pickett, after his game-winning shot, was already turning his attention to Niagara.
“Get ready for the next one,”https://www.timesunion.com/” Pickett said. “We’ve got practice (Saturday) and get ready for the next game.”
Maciariello said he didn’t even want his players watching Niagara’s victory over Saint Peter’s on Thursday that gave Siena sole possession of first place in the MAAC. He shouldn’t have worried, if Carey’s comments are any indication.
“We don’t really pay attention to the standings,”https://www.timesunion.com/” Carey said. “The goal is just to improve every day in practice and in the games, so I think we’re doing a good job of that so far.”
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