Following long wait, Saints pick up where they left off to open season

Sports

Loudonville, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Better late than never. Following three separate COVID-19 related pauses over the past two months, and playing for the first time in 298 days, reigning MAAC Champion Siena Basketball picked up right where they had left off when last winter’s magical season was abruptly cut short. MAAC Preseason Player of the Year Jalen Pickett poured in 20 points as the Saints extended the nation’s fifth longest active win streak to 11 straight with a 78-77 season-opening triumph over fellow conference contender Monmouth at the Alumni Recreation Center.

Pickett led a balanced offensive attack which featured five players in double figures for Siena, which opened the program’s milestone 80th season on a high note. The junior moved within just 21 points of 1,000 for his illustrious career, while also adding six assists to become just the eighth player in program history to eclipse 400.

Sophomore forward Kyle Young registered his first collegiate double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Saints, and teamed up with frontcourt mate Jackson Stormo to create a formidable one-two punch. The duo combined to shoot 10-13 from the field, as the Pepperdine transfer Stormo contributed 11 points in 16 minutes off the bench.

Preseason First Team All-MAAC selection Deion Hammond scored 20 points to pace Monmouth (3-3, 3-2), but shot just 4-11 from the free throw line in the one-point defeat. George Papas added 15 points for the Hawks.

The battle between two of the MAAC’s perceived contenders lived up to its billing, with neither side ever leading by more than two possessions in a showdown with featured 17 lead changes and nine ties. However, Monmouth shot 52% in the opening half to open its biggest lead of the day at the break, albeit at just 37-31. The Hawks held 18-8 advantages in both points in the paint and bench scoring in the opening stanza.

A seesaw second half saw Monmouth rattle off nine unanswered to reclaim a 66-62 lead with 5:16 to play. However, Siena counterpunched with the next five points to go back in front and set up a race for the finish.

The teams exchanged leads seven times over the final five minutes, with the Saints reclaiming the lead for good on an emphatic Young dunk to take a 74-73 lead with 62 seconds left. Hammond missed a pair of potential game-tying three-point looks in the waning seconds for the Hawks, while senior captain Manny Camper sealed the deal with two clutch free throws.

Belmont graduate transfer Nick Hopkins made a major impact with 14 points including 4-7 shooting from distance in his Siena debut, while Camper added 12 points, eight rebounds, and five assists for the Saints who emerged victorious in the first game on campus in 24 years to run their home win streak to 15 straight.

Siena will look to complete its second straight season sweep of Monmouth tomorrow at 5 p.m. The game will once again be televised locally in the Capital Region on My4 Albany, in addition to being accessible on ESPN3.

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