ALBANY — Ahsante Shivers dribbled past his defender, got into the paint and offered up a potential game-winning offering as the final seconds ticked away.
And, Quinnipiac junior Abdulai Bundu swatted it away, blocking the Siena College men’s basketball team from its first MAAC win of the season with an acrobatic denial.
“I got bumped a little, but, you know, I got to finish that,” Shivers said after his team’s 71-70 loss Monday at Times Union Center.
— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) January 1, 2018
But that Bundu — recovering to the basket from 3-point line on the play — had the chance to emphatically slap away the shot was what bothered Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos.
“You got to go to the rim. You got to get fouled,” Patsos said of Shivers’ attempt. “You got to dunk that for an and-one. This is the MAAC. You got to dunk it for an and-one.”
This Siena team, though, is still learning the MAAC, a rough-and-tumble league that’s produced a confusing start to its season. In the conference’s first 10 games of the 2017-18 season, seven of them — including Monday’s win for Quinnipiac — went the way of the team picked to finish worse in the conference’s preseason coaches poll.
Previous to Siena’s loss to Quinnipiac — which was picked to finish last in the conference — the Saints had lost 63-58 Friday to Marist against a Red Foxes program picked to finish second-to-last in the league.
“It’s really tough. Two close losses. Real tough,” Siena junior Evan Fisher said. “But the good thing about basketball is we got another [game] this week, another conference game. So we just keep battling.”
Monday’s loss wasted a career-best performance from Fisher, who had a career-high 21 points after scoring 14 combined points in the Saints’ previous five games. Fisher made 4 of 6 3s, and had one stretch in the first half during which he made three 3s in a span of 2:05 of game action.
“He kept us in it in the first half,” Siena freshman Roman Penn said.
Siena led 36-32 at halftime, but neither Siena (0-2, 4-11) nor Quinnipiac (2-0, 5-9) ever had much breathing room in the second half. The largest lead in the second half was five points, and the game’s final five minutes included six lead changes and three ties.
Quinnipiac went ahead for good with 1:37 to go after the Bobcats outhustled the Saints for a loose ball. Following an air-balled 3 from Quinnipiac fifth-year senior Cameron Young, the Bobcats regained possession and found Young for a corner 3 to give themselves a 71-68 lead.
Siena gets outhustled at a key moment, Young nails a go-ahead 3 for Quinnipiac. Siena down 71-68 with 1:29 to go. pic.twitter.com/4PR3YMcB36
— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) January 1, 2018
From there, Siena had its chances. A Penn steal led to a dunk from junior Nico Clareth to get Siena within 71-70 with 1:10 to go, but Siena sophomore Khalil Richard double-dribbled after a Quinnipiac turnover.
Then, after another Quinnipiac turnover and a jump-ball that went Siena’s way, Shivers made his move to the basket. The sophomore appeared to be in the clear, but Bundu left Fisher — setting up at the 3-point line — to make the leaping block.
“He’s a good athlete,” Fisher said. “It’s a tough play. Those kinds of things happen.”
“I feel like I took it to the hole strong,” Shivers said. “It just didn’t work.”
Young had a game-high 26 points for Quinnipiac. For Siena, besides Fisher’s career-best game, Penn had 19 points and Richard had 14. Clareth, coming off a 2 of 16 shooting performance against Marist, offered up season-lows in points (two) and shot attempts (two).
As he did at Marist, Patsos took Clareth out for a key late-game possession. Clareth said his lack of scoring production didn’t frustrate him.
“What’s frustrating is the losing,” Clareth said. “That’s what’s frustrating. Not scoring doesn’t bother me at all.”
Monday’s game was the seventh this season for Siena which ended with a margin of fewer than five points or after going to overtime. In those games, Siena is 1-6.
“I’m getting tired of coming up empty. But I’m not going to quit. Be mad at me, don’t be mad at anybody else. Be mad at me,” Patsos said. “Going to keep practicing hard, going to keep recruiting hard, and this thing’s going to just work itself out one way or the other. But there’s no quit in us.”
Siena next plays Friday against Niagara at Times Union Center.
“Nobody’s giving up. Everything’s fine, in terms of that,” Patsos said. “You know, you don’t become a good sailor unless you sail in rough seas. . . . So we’re sailing in rough seas and we’re going to get better.”
Chigha 3-5 0-0 6, Bundu 2-2 1-2 5, Young 4-12 15-16 26, Washington 4-9 2-3 11, Kelly 4-11 0-0 10, Aa. Robinson 1-3 0-0 2, Daniels 1-5 4-5 6, An. Robinson 0-1 0-0 0, Rigoni 2-4 0-0 5. Totals: 21-51 22-26 71.
Oduro 3-5 1-2 7, Fisher 7-11 3-3 21, Penn 7-10 2-2 19, Shivers 2-6 0-0 4, Horn 0-2 0-0 0, Bentley 0-2 0-0 0, Smithen 1-2 0-0 3, Richard 5-9 2-2 14, Clareth 1-2 0-0 2, Friday 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-49 8-9 70.
Halftime score: Siena 36, Quinnipiac 32.
Three-point shooting: Quinnipiac 7-19 (Young 3-5, Washington 2-5, Aa. Robinson 0-2, An. Robinson 0-1, Rigoni 1-3), Siena 10-16 (Fisher (4-6, Penn 3-3, Shivers 0-1, Horn 0-2, Smithen 1-1, Richard 2-3). Rebounds: Quinnipiac 32 (Young 9), Siena 21 (Fisher, Penn 5). Assists: Quinnipiac 12 (Kelly 5), Siena 13 (Five with 2). Turnovers: Quinnipiac 17, Siena 17. Total fouls: Quinnipiac 12, Siena 20. Attendance: 5,278.