POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Siena Basketball overcame a quick 10-point hole and went on a decisive 16-3 run down the stretch to pull away from I-87 rival Marist 70-55 at McCann Arena. Sophomore guard Jared Billups scored a career-high 24 points for the Saints who, at 9-2 in the MAAC, are off to the program’s best 11-game start in conference play in 13 years.
Billups nearly doubled his previous career-high in scoring while adding seven rebounds for Siena (15-7, 9-2), which is off to their best conference start since winning 14 straight to open the 2009-10 MAAC Championship docket. The Saints also completed an impressive 7-2 January, matching their most wins in any calendar month since going a perfect 10-0 in January 2010.
Freshman reserve Killian Gribben – who had totaled just 27 points all season– stepped up with a career-high 12 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting, and was a game-high +23 in 20 minutes off the bench for shorthanded Siena who was down two starters. Two-time MAAC Player of the Week and leading scorer Javian McCollum (15.8 points per game) missed his second straight game (back), while Michael Baer was back home in Iowa to attend services for his father who passed away last Sunday.
Patrick Gardner scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Marist (7-13, 3-8) which has now dropped four straight following a three-game win streak. Kam Farris added 14 points off the bench for the Red Foxes who shot just 38% from the field including only 2-18 from three. Marist had entered play averaging 7.8 made threes per game.
The Saints spotted Marist an 11-1 start out of the gate, going 6:57 before making their first field goal. After misfiring on their first five field goal attempts, Siena settled in from there by making 12 of their next 16 to close out the first half. The sharpshooting fueled an 11-4 spurt to reclaim the lead for good and take a 31-25 advantage at the break.
The Saints went cold again from the field in the second half – shooting just 30% in the stanza – which allowed Marist to hang around and rally back within as close as a point at 40-39 with 11:08 remaining. But, as has become a trademark for the 2022-23 squad, Siena responded down the stretch.
The Saints went on a 16-3 run spanning 4:53 which was capped by a Gribben three to take a commanding 56-42 lead with 5:50 to go. Gribben, who had entered play just 2-13 all season from distance, finished a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc Sunday.
Siena cruised from there, connecting on 20 of their 25 (80%) second-half free throw attempts – highlighted by a 10-11 performance by Billups who was 12-15 overall – to secure their eighth win in their last 10 meetings with the Red Foxes, and 26th victory in the past 33 matchups. After 12 of the previous 13 encounters in Poughkeepsie had been decided by single digits and by an average of just 5.3 points, the Saints achieved their largest margin of victory at McCann Arena also dating back to that historic 2009-10 season.
Siena improved to a stellar 31-4 under head coach Carmen Maciariello when four or more score in double figures, as Jackson Stormo (12 points, eight rebounds) and Andrew Platek (11 points) added double-digits afternoons. The Saints finished a remarkably consistent offensive month of January where they posted exactly 70 points in five of their seven wins, while totaling 68 and 72 points, respectively, in their other two victories.
Siena returns to action Friday night in the Bronx when they take on Manhattan at 7 p.m.