ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Fresh off the nation’s longest layoff so far this season – and despite being without its leading scorer – Siena Basketball picked up right where they had left off. Playing for the first time in 29 days, the Saints broke through late to emerge victorious for the fifth time in seven games with a 69-62 triumph over Fairfield at the newly renamed MVP Arena.

Nick Hopkins posted career-highs for a second straight game with 19 points and eight rebounds to lead four in double figures for shorthanded Siena (5-6, 2-1), which persevered despite dressing only nine scholarship players in the team’s return from COVID-19 protocols, including being without leading scorer Colby Rogers (13.5 points per game). Aidan Carpenter added 15 points for the Saints, who are now just two overtime losses away holding a seven-game winning streak.

Supreme Cook posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds for upstart Fairfield (8-7, 2-2), which has dropped four straight following an 8-3 start. Jesus Cruz chipped in 14 points, and Taj Benning tallied 13 for the Stags, which shot just 34.8% from the field including only 3-18 from three.

In a game which head coach Carmen Maciariello later described as being “gritty, not pretty,” the teams battled to a defensive stalemate in the first half. In addition to Siena playing for the first time in 29 days, Fairfield was back in action for a quick turnaround after playing for the first time in 15 days Friday night.

The Stags led for more than 26 minutes, however by no more than six at any point, and claimed a razor-thin 26-25 advantage at the break. Fairfield continued to maintain the slimmest of leads deep into the second half – and fended off a pair of ties – until the Saints kicked things into another gear.

Jackson Stormo’s put-back gave Siena its first lead since 12-11 at 46-45 with 7:12 to go and, after the Stags drew even on the ensuing possession, Carpenter completed a clutch three-point play to give the Saints the lead back for good at 49-46 with 6:14 remaining.

Siena ultimately capped the run at 15-4 to build a 57-49 advantage on a Carpenter jumper at the 3:19 mark. Fairfield halved the deficit back within as close as four at 59-55 with 1:55 remaining, but the Saints responded with a mini 8-2 spurt down the stretch to christen the newly renamed MVP Arena with a win.

Freshman Jared Billups scored nine of his season-high tying 11 points in the second half for Siena, which has won seven straight over the Stags. Stormo rounded out the double-figure scorers with 10 points for the Saints, who were also playing on their home court for the first time in 37 days, tied for the fifth-longest gap between home games nationally so far during yet another COVID-affected season.

Anthony Gaines narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds for the two-time defending MAAC Regular Season Champions, who became the first team to 40 conference wins since the start of the 2018-19 season.

Siena is scheduled to return to action Friday when they travel to I-87 rival Marist for a 7 p.m. contest at McCann Arena.