NEW ROCHELLE — The Siena Saints don’t have to answer questions anymore about when they will win their first road game of the season.
They earned their first road win by blowing out the four-time defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Iona Gaels, 87-64, on Friday night at Hynes Athletic Center. This was Siena’s second straight win at Iona’s home court, and Iona suffered its worst home loss since Feb, 11, 2007 in a 79-53 loss to Marist.
“Extremely proud of this group,” first-year Siena basketball coach Carmen Maciariello said after watching his team improved to 10-9 overall, and most importantly, 6-4 in conference play. “The power of belief is special. I thought we did a great job. I thought our staff got these guys ready. My offensive coordinator wasn’t here, his son was getting married, so obviously family first. But you know he got us ready two days before, and I just kinda carry the torch for him. Super proud of executing a great game plan, not settling for open shots and deep into professions to get what we want. I thought we did a great job, and Manny Camper led the way rebounding. We had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, and we almost double him off on the glass and we made more free throws than attempted, and then I thought Jalen (Pickett) had a great floor game just kinda running the offense and taking charge out there on the floor and doing what he is supposed to do, and he did a great job so super proud of these guys.”
Pickett not only scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds, but he dished out seven assists. He played a role in the Saints boasting six other scorers in double figures by facilitating the offense.
Elijah Burns and Gary Harris Jr. scored 11 points apiece. Manny Camper and Kyle Young each scored 12 points, Donald Carey added 10 points, and Jordan King led the Saints with 13 points.
“Jalen played a role by sharing the ball and playing with poise,” Maciariello said of his sophomore point guard. “If we do this often, we are going to win.”
Pickett expressed more satisfaction in getting everyone involved than him scoring.
“I love our team,” he said. “We have great players, and everybody is really working hard. Everybody understands the game plan, and you know getting out in the transition game. Manny and Gary running the wings. Backs is another great player, all-MAAC player. Elijah Burns dominate down-low, so I mean we have a whole bunch of players who can really score and be effective. Kyle Young and Jordan King come a long way. Matt Hein is a great grad transfer, and he’s playing hard for us. Everyone just really growing, and now we are getting some cohesiveness together as a team.”
The Saints took off by going on a 24-9 run after starting the game with a 12-10 lead. They entered halftime with a 45-29 lead, and they never relinquished it. In fact, they never trailed at all in this game.
“We just executed,” Maciariello said. “We did not want to settle for any early 3s if we did not need to take them. We wanted to get them kinda you know change them from zone to man-to-man, and then just have Jalen pick and choose what he wanted to do against ball screen. I thought we did a great job of sharing the ball, but I also think Manny, Jordan, Don and all those guys made shots, so that helps when you get late into a possession and taking what defense give you, and you are not really forcing it. I thought Elijah started it off getting inside. We attacked couple of those switches and got post-ups for Elijah, and then you know E.J. (Crawford) is a big part for them, and he got in foul trouble.”
Young spurred this run in the middle of the first half when Maciariello inserted him into the game. From there, Young pushed through Iona’s defenders and scored from the paint. Others such as Camper, Carey and Harris followed his lead. Iona couldn’t do anything about it despite calling timeouts several times to halt Siena’s momentum.
“He’s worked,” Maciariello said of Young earning his minutes. “His physicality I think also shows these guys how hard he plays, and he does a great job of setting great screens and rolling hard. He got really good hands, and also with E.J. (Crawford) in foul trouble, we were able to rest Elijah a little because we got a big game (Siena plays St. Peter’s at Jersey City) on Sunday.”
Siena’s strategy of driving to the hoop helped them attempt 21 free throws. Overall, they hit 16 of 21 free throws.
“That’s our mindset,” Maciariello answered when asked if he was surprised about Siena having its way on Iona in the paint. “We want to come in and we want to be aggressors on all we want to do. We want to be aggressors on how we live our life, on how we care for people in our community and how we play the game of basketball.”
Siena took its biggest lead of the game at 71-40 with 9:04 to go in regulation.
Iona acting coach Tra Arnold can do nothing about it.
“This was embarrassing,” he said of Siena’s 42-24 out-rebounding advantage over Iona. “We were outplayed and outmuscled. It carried over in the second half, and that’s why we had the outcome we have. Siena was the tougher team.”
Crawford served to be Iona’s only bright spot by leading all scorers with 22 points in this contest.
This season has been a rough go for the Gaels. Tim Cluess has yet to coach them this season because of his health issues, and it does not appear he will be coaching this season. This may explain why the Gaels are 5-11 overall, and 3-6 this season.
Iona will play Manhattan at Riverdale on Super Bowl Sunday.
“We are going to find out how tough we are tomorrow (Saturday in practice),” Arnold said.
Meanwhile, the Saints will attempt to win two in a row on the road and three in a row overall Sunday against St. Peter’s in Jersey City.
“I just think we are a different team today than we were three, four weeks ago,” Maciariello said of Siena winning its first road game. “Teams grow, teams get better. I think I am coaching them little differently. After that road loss at Niagara, I told these guys I was going to hold them more accountable, even with the smallest details and not let anything slide by. We also kinda shortened our practices to 90 minutes where we are getting real efficient with our time and making the most out of it, and these guys have came in and understood the mental aspect of the game is just as important, coming in and watching extra film on E.J. Crawford, coming in and watching extra film on Tajuan Agee, so I think it’s a credit to the staff and the program and all these guys that they have to do more. We have enough to get the job done, and these guys are seeing that now and it’s coming to fruition.”