LOUDONVILLE — The Siena women’s basketball team was behind in every way you can be on Sunday.
They were behind on talent, since their MAAC-leading scorer Isis Young was out for the second game in a row because of COVID-19 protocols.
The Saints were behind on seasoning, playing just their seventh game, while conference-leading Marist was working on its 16th.
And in the most immediately pressing of deficits, Siena was in a 20-2 hole after the first quarter at the UHY Center.
The Saints ultimately lost to the Red Foxes 60-44 to fall to 2-5, but the game was nevertheless encouraging for a team that has been in a perpetual state of catch-up because of pandemic pauses.
Nobody is playing catch-up more than sophomore guard Ashley Williamson, who missed the first four games while coming off knee surgery, but she scored 15 points while running the point, and Tobulayefa “Lala” Watts scored 13 for Siena. Sarah Barcello scored 14 for Marist (12-2, 14-2), and Willow Duffell scored 13.
“We had some different people make some shots, and we did a good job getting the ball into Lala,” Siena head coach Ali Jaques said. “Overall, I think we made progress and got better. The outcome isn’t what we wanted it to be, but from a process standpoint, we got better at the things we asked our players to get better at.
“We’ll take this and build off it and hopefully get a chance to play on Wednesday.”
The “hopefully” qualifier comes with every game on Siena’s remaining schedule.
The Saints are supposed to make a return trip to Quinnipiac on Wednesday.
They’ll — hopefully — regain the services of Young, who is averaging over 19 points a game, and sophomore Sevval Istanbulluoglu, who missed both Marist games this weekend because of COVID-19 protocols.
“That’s going to be dependent on how appointments go,” Jaques said. “It’s going to depend on the doctors and all that other stuff. Whatever the trainers tell me is what I listen to, whether I like it or not, and I’m just going to coach the team that I have tomorrow, and if they’re back for Wednesday, great, and if they’re not, then we’re going to coach the team that we have Wednesday if we get the chance to play Wednesday.”
On Sunday, the Saints made their first field goal attempt of the game, inside by Watts to tie it at 2-2, then didn’t score again until the second quarter, as Duffell scored eight points in the first quarter to help Marist take a 20-2 lead.
Siena actually outscored the Red Foxes by two after the first-quarter break.
The Saints got within six, 37-31, on a 3-pointer by Wiilliamson midway through the third quarter.
Amari Anthony’s three to start the fourth quarter got Siena within 43-36, but Marist took control with a 9-1 run that included a three-point play and a three-point shot from Kendall Krick for a 56-39 lead.
“Coach challenged me and wanted me to run the point,” Williamson said. “I wanted to take that challenge, and I was able to stay poised when things were down. And my teammates were able to find me, and I just knocked them down.
“We were trying to focus on the little things. On offense, just give the ball to Lala. On defense, just make sure we defend the high post and boxing out and making sure we get rebounds.”
“They made a couple threes that gave them some separation,” Jaques said. “But I was really proud of our kids and how they came into the second half and just crawled back into it. You can’t spot Marist a lead and expect to win. They execute too well and are too well-coached and they’re really good shooters. The first quarter was the problem for us.
“We’re asking her [Williamson] to run the point. I thought she showed patience and control in getting us set into an offense in the second half, and giving the team time to figure out and know what we’re doing, and then running it. We were a little scattered in the first half. She did a much better job at the reins, of playing with rhythm and cadence.”
After it got “ugly and out of hand” in the first quarter, Jaques admitted that she was worried her team, which is “Netflixed out” from being stuck in their dorm rooms, might pack it in and call it a day.
That didn’t happen.
“I really feel like we’re in November right now, with execution and timing,” she said. “We had one practice in 25 days, and we didn’t even have everybody. I don’t want that to sound like an excuse, but I feel like we’re teaching November lessons right now. Every game is precious, and we’ve got to get that clock to tick really fast.
“I was pretty tough and hard on Ashley, because Ashley can really shoot the ball, and she needs to do that for us. I was really proud of how she responded, because I really challenged her today. And she showed a lot of toughness with how she responded.”
“It was a tough loss, but we’re going to take this and continue to grow,” Williamson said. “Like coach said, we only had one team practice within 25 days, so I’m proud of my team for how we played today. Of course, we have to clean some things up, but I feel like we’re continuing to get better with each and every game.”