Siena men’s basketball turns to freshman Zek Tekin in victory
ALBANY – Siena men’s basketball point guard Zek Tekin got a rude introduction to St. Peter’s physical style of play when he entered Friday night’s game against the Peacocks at MVP Arena.
“When I first got into the game, their point just hit me and I was like, ‘Wow, they’re tough,'” Tekin said with a smile. “But I got used to it when I played a lot.”
Tekin, a freshman from Turkey, played much more than usual. He scored a career-high 25 minutes in the 70-60 victory. He started the second half in place of Javian McCollum and was out for just 1 minute and 22 seconds.
Siena coach Carmen Maciariello said McCollum, who sat at the end of the bench in a jacket and sweatpants in the second half, was dealing with back problems.
Siena vs. Knight
When: 14:00 Sunday
Where: MVP Arena, Albany
TV/radio: My4 Albany, ALT 104.9 FM
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Maciariello called McCollum’s status “day to day,” meaning the Saints could lean heavily on Tekin again at 2 p.m. Sunday against Rider in another Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game at MVP Arena.
“Nothing has changed,” said Tekin. “I’m saying that I will do my best every time.”
Tekin finished with six points, three assists, two steals and a block against Saint Peter’s. He committed four turnovers but was consistent enough to help lead the Saints (10-5 overall, 4-0 MAAC) to their fifth straight win.
“The fans were crazy,” Tekin said. “I didn’t expect this. Javian is one of the best teammates and I tried to do my best. My teammates helped me. Thanks to them. It was a crazy experience.”
Once again, Siena had players step up to make up for a player who was out. When the Saints opened at Holy Cross, backup center Eduardo Lane had 13 points and 11 rebounds when Jackson Stormo was hurt. The Saints won in the American with McCollum out with an ankle injury.
They’ve also won two straight without starting point guard Jayce Johnson (knee).
“I think we have a lot of really good basketball players, so somebody can step into different roles,” senior forward Michael Baer said. “We have guys that are versatile and can play different positions. When Javian got hurt against American, Jayce started at (point guard). Obviously, Jayce is not available right now and Zek Tekin stepped up, which nobody was anymore happy for him. The whole team is very happy for him. Everyone is stepping up at the right time.”
Baer got through his emotional experience Friday night when his terminally ill father, John, attended the game in a wheelchair. John Baer visited the Siena locker room and spoke with the Saints after the game. John Baer, diagnosed with bladder cancer last March, flew home to Iowa on Saturday.
Baer had five points and a career-high 13 rebounds and six assists.
“I definitely felt (the energy) when my dad was around and I could feel it from the rest of the team because they were feeling it for me,” Baer said. “Once you get on the court, you get sweaty, you forget about it and you’re just playing basketball. Other than that, just being out on the floor has helped.”
Siena, tied with Iona for first in the MAAC, moves into Sunday’s contest against Rider. The Broncs (6-8, 3-2) could also be shorthanded. Guard Dwight Murray, the team’s leading scorer at 16.4 points per game, missed Friday’s home loss to Quinnipiac with a concussion.
Rider coach Kevin Baggett told The Trentonian that Murray will be a game-time decision on Sunday. The Broncos still have a talented group that upset Iona in last year’s MAAC quarterfinals. Senior forward Mervin James is averaging 12.8 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds.
If Tekin is forced to take more action Sunday, Maciariello said the St. Peter’s game was a valuable learning experience.
“I thought he did a good job,” Maciariello said. “I thought he had a big performance. He was able to get used to the pressure. I think this is a growing moment for him.”