First-place Siena goes for western New York sweep at Canisius

First-place Siena goes for western New York sweep at Canisius

BUFFALO – Siena men’s basketball coach Carmen Maciariello didn’t need to hear it.

He was not interested in the past struggles of the saints at Canisius. He found it irrelevant with his current team on a seven-game winning streak, including Friday night’s 70-64 victory at Niagara.

“I don’t want to know the story,” Maciariello said after Saturday’s practice. “I don’t think our story was good in Niagara either.”

Siena has lost eight of its last nine trips, including the last five at Canisius’ Koessler Athletic Center. But if these Saints can snap that streak Sunday afternoon, they’ll complete just the second tough road trip opener in Western New York since 2008. They last accomplished it in 2016.

When: noon Sunday

Where: Koessler Athletic Center, Buffalo

Radio: ALT 104.9 FM

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Saints point guard Javian McCollum, who tied his career-high with 27 points against Niagara, said the all-encompassing trip would provide more evidence than the top-seeded Saints (12-5 overall, 6- 0 league) have what it takes to win a Metro Atlantic. Athletic Conference Championship.

“Everybody knows this is a tough trip, so if we can get here and go 2-0, I mean, it shows we have that mental toughness and we’re willing to put everything on the line for it achieved. dub (win),” McCollum said.

McCollum said his back felt “fine” Saturday after returning from a one-game absence to play 35 minutes against Niagara. He went to the hot tub after the game. Several times he came out of the game against the Purple Eagles, he stood at the end of the bench to avoid straining his back.

Siena graduate forward Michael Baer said he was exhausted after Friday’s game. The former Iowa football player matched his career high by playing 33 minutes against the Purple Eagles.

Siena must rely more on Baer with forwards Jayce Johnson (knee) and Jordan Kellier (foot) both out. Kellier will undergo foot surgery Monday morning and Siena hopes to have him in time for the MAAC tournament.

Baer also had to guard Niagara’s Noah Thomasson, the MAAC’s scoring leader, because Siena defensive back Jared Billups was in foul trouble. Siena outscored Niagara by 14 when Baer was on the court.

“That’s what I wanted to do, come here and play a lot,” Baer said. “So I’m excited about that and I’m glad my coaches believe in me.”

At Iowa, Baer played for former Siena coach Fran McCaffery, who coached the Saints the last time Siena started 7-0 in MAAC play. The Saints won their first 14 conference games in 2009-10, McCaffery’s final season in Loudonville.

Siena can get to 7-0 with a win on Sunday.

“We’re really focused on this road trip,” Baer said. “We know a lot of teams stumble when they come out here. We think we have a special team and if we want to do something special, you have to win on the road. You saw that night (Friday). We were all super excited after the win. We’re a big, tight-knit group and everyone’s really bought in now. We just want to keep it moving.”

On Sunday, Siena will try to complete a regular-season sweep of Canisius (4-12, 2-5). The Saints defeated the Golden Griffins 74-70 on Dec. 2 in the MAAC opener at MVP Arena.

While McCollum scored 27 in that game despite being sick, Canisius made 11 of 25 3-point attempts. The Golden Griffins still lead the league with 9.1 three pointers per game.

Canisius lost 76-58 at home to Marist on Friday. The Golden Griffins played without guards Jordan Henderson, their leading scorer, and Xzavier Long.

A Canisius spokesman said Henderson (injury) and Long (illness) are both day-to-day. He added that Henderson is close to returning. Siena expects him to play.

The Golden Griffins are just 2-5 at home this season, but two of those “home” losses were played at Niagara’s Gallagher Center because of the storm that hit Buffalo.

“They’re a good team and they’re really good here (in Buffalo),” Maciariello said. “We have to be ready and able to guard and defend. You’re always getting tired, regardless, but this is the second game of a road trip. So that’s it.”

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