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Friday, April 19, 2024

Siena Men’s Basketball: Saints Struggling to Gain Momentum for Tournament as Time Runs Out

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ALBANY — Following a‍ narrow 70-68 defeat to Manhattan on ⁤Friday, ​Siena men’s basketball head coach Carm Maciariello reiterated a sentiment he has expressed before: the Saints’ room for mistakes in games is extremely limited.

The gap between Siena and Manhattan for the ‍bottom spot in​ the MAAC standings, with just three games remaining, is even narrower: it’s non-existent.⁤ Both teams are currently tied at 3-14 and are unable to⁢ climb higher than the No. 10 seed among the 11 teams that will ‌participate in the MAAC Tournament, set to kick off on Tuesday, March 12, in Atlantic ⁣City, New ​Jersey.

One team will end up with the⁣ 11th seed,​ the other with the⁣ 10th, and based on the remaining fixtures, Manhattan seems to have the upper hand in terms of schedule.

The Saints’ challenging final stretch commences at 2 p.m. ⁤on Sunday against 12-5 Quinnipiac, the current league leaders, who are locked in a four-way tussle⁤ with Fairfield, Marist‌ and Saint Peter’s for the ⁤top seed.

In addition to Quinnipiac, Siena also has to face Niagara (10-7) and Iona (8-9), making⁢ their three remaining opponents a combined 30-21 in⁢ the MAAC, ‍compared to a 26-25 record for Manhattan’s last three.

One key difference between being the 11th seed versus the⁣ 10th is that the 11th seed is scheduled to play⁤ the 9:45 p.m. game that Tuesday. This game rarely starts on time due to the packed schedule of games throughout the day.

“It would be preferable to play in the 7:30 game, allowing for a win and some rest before Wednesday’s game,” Maciariello said after⁢ the loss to ⁣Manhattan. “However, coaching these guys tonight, I felt their commitment and their‌ passion,​ and it was⁢ a positive feeling.

“I empathize with them because we couldn’t secure the win,⁤ but it’s fantastic for Gio and Mason to demonstrate their⁤ capabilities.”

Redshirt sophomore center Giovanni Emejuru had a career-best performance, ‍scoring​ 30 points and recording nine rebounds​ and two blocks. Meanwhile, ​walk-on point guard Mason Courtney, a former Shenendehowa star, had a well-rounded stat‌ line, with 10 points, eight assists (against⁣ just two turnovers), seven rebounds, one steal and one block in 38 minutes.

More than the impressive stats, Siena demonstrated great teamwork despite missing four of its top five scorers due to injury (Sean Durugordon, Michael Evbagharu, Zek Tekin) and illness (Michael Eley).

Emejuru was a dominant ⁣force ⁣against⁤ the Jaspers, scoring ⁤on ⁣four powerful dunks in the first half alone and accumulating 19 points ​as Siena took a 35-25 lead.

Manhattan gradually reduced the deficit in the second half and was more effective on offense in the closing stages to secure the win. Siena had ⁣a chance in the final seconds, but Bralyn Smith’s last-ditch jumper missed, and Michael Ojo’s attempted layup after grabbing the rebound also failed to find the net. Emejuru’s follow-up dunk came just after the buzzer.

“The loss hurts‌ more because we made a lot ⁤of avoidable mistakes,” Emejuru said.⁤ “I felt I did a good job on⁢ [Daniel] Rouzan, but ‍then he​ ends up hitting those two shots, and that’s ​unacceptable.”

“Every game is a new opportunity, and I will do my best in whatever role the coach assigns me. Today, the game ⁤plan was ​to feed ‍Giovanni,” Courtney⁢ said. “When he performs like he did today, he’s‍ unstoppable. I had eight assists, but they’re not really impressive assists. I pass to Giovanni and he dunks it. Just stick to the game⁤ plan, and it shows in the⁢ eight assists. But that’s all Gio.”

Despite the thrilling game on Friday,‌ Siena fell to 4-24 overall, equalling the program record for most losses ⁤in a season. Siena had previously recorded 24 losses under Rob Lanier ⁣in 2004-05, Mitch Buonaguro in 2112-13 and Jimmy Patsos in 2017-18.

The game was exciting, for a change, because the Saints found a winning formula — Emejuru, and more Emejuru — and stuck to it. However, when the ⁢game was hanging in the balance at the end, the Jaspers were efficient on offense, and Siena wasn’t.

“Our determination and fight were commendable. However, we had too many mental lapses, which ultimately cost us the‍ game,” Maciariello said. “We may not be the most talented team,‍ but when we execute and stick to the game plan … they couldn’t stop Giovanni. With our margin for error being so small, every possession is crucial.

“So we can’t afford to squander a four-point ‍lead with ill-advised‌ passes and turnovers. That four-point lead needs to grow to six or eight,‍ because when it‌ comes down to the wire, we have ​to play almost ‍perfect positional basketball, against teams with talented guards and ⁢bigs.”

Tekin was dressed for the Manhattan game, but didn’t get past a brief warm-up to test his leg, and Siena was still awaiting an⁢ MRI result.

The Saints have ​been dealing with roster uncertainty since the start of the season, so Maciariello has no choice but to make do with‍ whoever is available.

“It might not be a ⁢bad thing​ that we have ‌to play‌ a game on a Tuesday where we’re just going and playing, as opposed to overthinking. That could potentially give us some​ momentum,” he said.

“I sensed a lot of unity and toughness, ⁤so we’ll just have ⁤to maintain that,” Emejuru said.

“Losing is never fun,” Courtney said. ‌“Especially on a night like this where Gio kind of took over. We should have won that game.

“But there⁢ are lessons to ⁤be learned. And I agree with the coach, ⁢I definitely felt⁣ the connectivity he was talking about, ⁣and that’s always a good thing, especially going into the end of the season and into Atlantic City. You want all the guys to be on the same page and‌ feel ⁤like a ⁤unit on the floor⁢ no‍ matter who’s out there.”

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Jack Sullivan
Jack Sullivan
Jack Sullivan, an informed and passionate sports reporter, is a former college athlete with a degree in Sports Communication from Ithaca College. Go Bombers!
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2 COMMENTS

  1. Agree – The team needs to come together and work on their defense and teamwork if they want a chance in the tournament.

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