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Siena’s Pickett scores 25 in a losing effort

LJ LaFiura

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Siena guard Jalen Pickett (#22) drives to the basket in a loss to Lehigh. Photo: Robert Dungan/Upstate Courier.

ALBANY — The Siena Saints men’s basketball team came back for their first home game of the season at the Times Union Center against Lehigh. Although freshman guard Jalen Pickett starred, the Saints came up short and lost 80-69.

Freshman guard Jalen Pickett of Rochester, New York put on a show in front of the home crowd. Pickett clearly showed no nerves playing in front of 4,908 fans in the Times Union Center as his aggressiveness kept the Saints in the game through 20 minutes. At halftime Pickett had 13 points on five of eight shooting and five assists. He remained consistent in the second half and finished the game with 25 points and seven assists. Pickett also had three steals and a block by the end of the game.

Pickett said, “I can take away some confidence and that I know how to lead the team a little better.”

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The first half saw a controlling effort by the Saints early on. Siena got off to an early lead and held on for the first nine minutes of the first half. Despite this effort by Pickett and the Saints, a tandem of Lehigh’s Kyle Leufroy and Jordan Cohen combined for 25 points to take a five point lead before the half ended. Siena came back out of halftime and made several runs to make the game as close as one point at 52-51 but each time they got momentum cold shooting allowed the Mountain Eagles of Lehigh to regain a comfortable lead.

“We just got cold there for a second. Coach made some great calls and we just needed to execute,” said Pickett.

The shooting was a problem on both sides of the ball. On offense the Saints couldn’t buy a basket. Their shooting percentage managed to digress in the second half and go from 46.7% to 35.3%.

Siena head coach Jamion Christian said, “I think we are getting pretty good outsides shots and Jalen was outstanding from outside. So I think we need to put in lineups that allow us to put more shooting out there and that will allow Jalen to play a little faster and downhill.”

Lehigh had the hot hand tonight and especially from beyond the arc. The Mountain Eagles made 12 three-pointers on 19 shots, that’s four more threes on 11 less shots than the Saints.

“We just gave them too many threes. The difference in the game are the threes. We have to push people off of the line so then we can use our size,” said Christian.

Siena’s real problem tonight was their bench. Only seven of Siena’s 69 points came from players on their bench. Lehigh’s bench out scored the Saints bench by 17.

“I feel like it’s been a little uncharacteristic. The first couple of games we had great bench scoring. But I though Sammy (Friday) gave a great lift off of the bench tonight and he has a chance to continue to grow in his role which is huge for us. But they will continue to get better as the year goes on.”

Now on a two game losing streak, the Saints are desperate for a win against Colgate this Saturday. The 4-2 Raiders are just coming off of a 21 point loss to Syracuse.

LJ LaFiura is a general assignment sports reporter at the upstate Courier. A Fort Edward native, he attends Saratoga Central Catholic High School.