Siena men’s basketball plays Friday at Quinnipiac; McCollum a ‘game-time decision’
With its non-conference schedule in the rear view, the Siena men’s basketball program is primed for MAAC play.
The Saints (1-0 MAAC, 7-5 overall) got a brief taste of conference play earlier this month when they beat Canisius 74-70 at MVP Arena in Albany, but the MAAC schedule begins in earnest Friday at 4 p.m. :00 with a trip to Hamden, Connecticut to face Quinnipiac (0-2, 9-4) before a Sunday afternoon game against Fairfield (1-1, 5-7) in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
“We’re 1-0 in the MAAC and we have a chance to go on the road and take it one game at a time,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said Wednesday. “Obviously, two very good opponents. They are both tough, physical teams.”
It’s been an up-and-down first dozen games for the Saints, with some notable wins and some odd losses, but returning to MAAC play after last week’s wins over St. the program is going in the right direction.
“We’re learning,” Stormo said. “We have an interesting team, a mix of older guys and young guys. I feel like it’s been a journey so far, bringing everyone together, but we’re getting there.”
UPDATES ON JOHNSON, McCOLLUM
Maciariello said Thursday night that sophomore Javian McCollum, the team’s leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, will be a “game-time decision” against Quinnipiac.
McCollum, who missed Siena’s last game, suffered an ankle injury in the Saints’ Dec. 19 win against St. Louis. Bonaventure. McCollum finished that game with a game-high 23 points before sitting out the Saints’ Dec. 22 win against American. The guard underwent X-rays and an MRI last week and was cleared Thursday to return to practice.
When McCollum missed Siena’s win against the American, fifth-year senior Jayce Johnson — usually a wing player — was replaced as the team’s point guard. Johnson is with the Saints in Connecticut after rejoining the team later than expected following a holiday trip home to his hometown of Buffalo, which was hit by a massive winter storm last week.
“Jayce didn’t get power until Christmas night, so they were using the stove and going in and out of their cars to stay warm, obviously stocked with blankets and jackets,” Maciariello said Wednesday, before Johnson’s return. “So, obviously, a tough Christmas. I wanted to make sure we were trying to do everything we could, but there was a driving ban so there was nothing anyone could do.”
Johnson is averaging 8.4 points per game, but has picked up his production in recent games. The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 14.7 points per game in Siena’s last three contests.
Rookie Michael Eley has made the most of the expanded opportunities of late, especially late in games.
Eley, a 6-foot-4 guard from Fort Wayne, Indiana, was honored Monday with his second MAAC Rookie of the Week award after averaging 13 points in Siena’s wins over St. Louis. Bonaventure and American. He scored a career-high 16 points against the American, a contest during which he played a career-high 25 minutes.
Eley has been especially important for the Saints late in games. He scored eight of his 10 points against St. Louis. five in the final seconds.
“I’m maturing a little bit,” Eley said, “understanding the shots I can make and understanding my spots.”
While Eley’s offensive repertoire has blossomed recently, Maciariello said it’s the freshman’s defensive versatility that makes him so valuable in late-game scenarios.
“He’s really athletic,” Maciariello said. “When we need some rebounds late on defense, we know he’s going to crash the glass. . . . When you have that and [Jared] Clever on the floor together, you have two really good athletes who can also defend.”
Eley is the first Siena player to win multiple MAAC Rookie of the Week awards since Jalen Pickett won the award a record 11 times in 2018-19.
Since an impressive 7-0 start to its season, coach Baker Dunleavy’s Quinnipiac club has taken a step back. In the team’s last six games, the Bobcats have lost four times, including the last two and both league games.
Graduate student Ike Nweke leads Quinnipiac in scoring with 11.1 points per game and the 6-foot-7, 245-pound forward also leads the Bobcats in rebounding with 6.7 per game. A transfer from Colombia, Nweke is one of four double-digit scorers for Dunleavy’s squad.
One of those double-digit scorers is junior Luis Kortright, but the versatile 6-foot-3 guard did not play in the Bobcats’ last game. Serving primarily as a reserve this season, Kortright is averaging 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Quinnipiac ended Siena’s 2021-22 season in the MAAC quarterfinals. Prior to this upset, Siena had won the last four meetings between the programs.
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