Without Pickett, Siena men’s basketball completes sweep of Fairfield

Teams love to use the mantra “next man up” when a player goes down with an injury.

It’s a great sentiment, but takes on a whole new meaning when it’s the Siena men’s basketball  team and the player who’s out is junior point guard Jalen Pickett, the reigning Player of the Year in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

That “next man up” Sunday was freshman guard Aidan Carpenter, who had only one game of college basketball experience — and that was from the day before.

He was more than ready when coach Carmen Maciariello thrust him into the starting lineup for Pickett against Fairfield. He scored 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting in a 75-68 victory over the Stags at Alumni Hall.

“I got my foot in the water with (Saturday’s) game, so I wasn’t really nervous,” said Carpenter, who scored seven points in 18 minutes off the bench in his debut Saturday. “J-Pick wasn’t playing. I knew I had to come in and perform for us.”

The Saints (4-0 overall, 4-0 MAAC) completed a two-game weekend sweep of the Stags and extended their winning streak to 14 games,  third-longest in Division I,  behind only top-ranked Gonzaga and Winthrop, which have each won 16 in a row.

The Siena program record is 15 consecutive wins, established in Fran McCaffery’s last season as coach in 2009-10. The Saints can tie and break it with games at Rider next Friday and Saturday.

“Siena basketball is a special program,” Maciariello said. “We put our heart and soul into it, and today shows why we do what we do. … Everybody stepped up.”

Siena held out Pickett, the reigning MAAC Player of the Year, who hurt his right leg late in a 74-58 victory over Fairfield on Saturday. He missed a game for only the second time in his career.

Maciariello said he thinks Pickett has an upper hamstring injury, similar to what sidelined Carpenter for the first two games of the season against Monmouth.

“I don’t know how long he’s going to be out,” Maciariello said. “He’s in good spirits. He’s fine.”

Meanwhile, Carpenter said his hamstring is no longer bothering him. He used Saturday’s debut to shake off the rust that came with not playing a game in about 18 months. He practiced but didn’t play for Siena during the second half of last season after transferring midyear from Lee (Maine) Academy, a prep school.

“No pressure,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, so this is my moment to take it, and I took it.”

Carpenter grew up in Hamden, Conn., about a half-hour from Fairfield. In his return to Connecticut, he made a pair of 3-pointers and used his quickness and length to score on an assortment of drives and floaters.

“I’ve been a downhill player ever since I started playing basketball — crafty around the rim,” he said. “So that’s nothing new.”

Siena’s Manny Camper had 17 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, and Jordan King added 18 points as Siena showed it could win the second day of back-to-back games without its biggest star.

“It means a lot,” Camper said. “It says a lot. It’s about our mindset of getting 1 percent better every day, and that starts in practice, pushing each other to the fullest extent. Getting everybody ready for any opportunity that presents itself, like today. An unfortunate opportunity, Jalen being injured, but that next-guy-up mentality allows us to pull through and stay poised.”

Fairfield (2-11, 2-6) got within 66-62, but Jake Wojcik missed a jump shot and King made two foul shots with 44.3 seconds left to help seal the victory.

[email protected] • 518-454-5509 • @MarkSingelais

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