First-year Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos drew up the play, but freshman guard Marquis Wright was forced to improvise.
Wright’s tough, driving layup through the lane against two defenders with 0.2 seconds left gave an inspired Siena team its first win of the season, 72-70, over St. Bonaventure in the fourth annual Franciscan Cup Tuesday night at the Times Union Center.
It was also Patsos’ first win with his new team, and it kept an energized crowd of 5,654 glued to their seats the entire way.
“I did call that play, thank you,” said Patsos. “We call the play Orlando, as in the Orlando Magic. [Rob] Poole was supposed to set a screen, and then Marquis was supposed to pass the ball back out to him for a three. But Marquis ended up taking the shot. I was surprised it went in.”
Wright wasn’t surprised, but then again, he wasn’t expecting to take the shot in the first place.
“I saw that they were trying to make a switch, and I didn’t really have enough time to make the pass,” he said. “I just drove to the basket, and maybe draw a foul. I looked at the basket a little, and I watched it go in. It bounced, and I watched it go in.
“This is a great feeling to win our first game,” added Wright, a point guard with a pass-first mentality. He finished with just seven points and seven assists, but his play down the stretch was crucial.
“It was a gutsy win,” said Patsos. “Different guys are stepping up. We’re lucky and happy to win.”
Although the Saints ended up using a much smaller lineup at the end of the game because of an ankle injury to Troy High School graduate Javion Ogunyemi and foul trouble to both Lavon Long and Imoh Silas, who both fouled out, the pesky Saints pulled out a thrilling victory on the heels of a strong effort in a 78-74 loss at La Salle Saturday night.
Siena improves to 1-3, while St. Bonaventure, which leads the all-time series with Siena, 28-7, drops to 3-1.
St. Bonaventure rallied from a 10-point deficit to eventually grab its first lead of the second half at 66-65 with 3:31 left.
The Saints, playing small ball without most of their post players, took a 70-68 lead on a pair of free throws by Evan Hymes, and then Patsos went to a full-court press, which forced a pair of Bonnies turnovers in the final two minutes.
But usually reliable Maurice White missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:37 left, and the Bonnies ended up tying the score at 70-70 on two free throws by Matthew Wright with 1:16 left.
The Bonnies had a golden opportunity to win when 7-foot center Youssou Ndoye got the ball deep in the post after his team got possession on a jump ball. But Ndoye traveled with 9.5 seconds left, setting up Siena’s winning play.
Long finished with 15 points, five rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals before fouling out.
“He’s been our best player, in terms of consistency,” said Patsos.
Hymes scored 10 points and recorded four assists, while sophomore forward Brett Bisping came off the bench to score 13 points and grab seven rebounds in 28 minutes. Silas had six points, five rebounds and three blocked shots, as the smaller Saints recorded eight blocked shots overall.
The Bonnies were paced by Ndoye with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Dion Wright (14), Matthew Wright (13) and Andel Cumberbatch (10) also scored in double figures for the Bonnies, who shot only 19-for-31 from the line.
“It was a great game — give Siena credit,” said St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt. “Their young guys played very well. We thought Poole was the known scorer, and we did a good job taking him away. But we did a horrible job in the first half shooting free throws.
“Give them credit. It was a good college game. We made a couple of turnovers at the wrong spots. We understood coming in here that they had just played a good game against La Salle.”
Patsos said he was more relaxed for this game for reasons that had nothing to do with the basketball court.
“There is water all over my condominium in Saratoga,” he said. “When we came back from La Salle, there was water all over the place, and it’s a mess. Life throws things at you, and when Poole missed some of those shots, I thought, ‘Here comes the water again.’
“We pressed at the end, because we went to our strengths. We were smaller than they were, but we are also much quicker.”
Siena heads to Cornell Friday, and it will play six more games away from home before returning to the Times Union Center to host Hofstra Dec. 23.
Ogunyemi, who sprained his right ankle, is expected to miss at least five days and most likely the next two games.
ST. BONAVENTURE (70)
Simmons 4-5 0-3 8, Ndoye 4-11 8-10 16, Kloof 1-3 2-2 4, Gathers 0-4 0-0 0, Wright 3-9 5-6 13, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Gregg 0-0 0-0 0, Dees 2-3 1-2 5, Wright 6-10 2-4 14, Cumberbatch 4-9 1-4 10. Totals: 24-54 19-31 70.
Ogunyemi 0-1 0-0 0, Long 7-10 1-2 15, Wright 3-7 0-0 7, White 2-10 4-5 9, Poole 1-8 1-3 4, Oliver 1-2 0-0 3, Hymes 3-9 3-4 10, Wolfe 1-2 3-3 5, Bisping 4-7 4-4 13, Silas 3-4 0-0 6. Totals: 25-60 16-21 72.
Halftime: Siena, 48-38. Three-point goals: St. Bonaventure 3-10 (Kloof 0-2, Gathers 0-2, Wright 2-5, Cumberbatch 1-1); Siena 6-19 (Wright 1-1, White 1-2 Poole 1-6, Oliver 1-2, Hymes 1-5, Wolfe 0-1, Bisping 1-2). Rebounds: St. Bonaventure 39 (Ndoye 12), Siena 35 (Bisping 7). Assists: St. Bonaventure 14 (Matt. Wright 7), Siena 15 (Marq. Wright) 7. Total fouls: 21, Siena 22. Fouled out: Kloof, Long, Silas. Officials: Mike McCloskey, Gary Tracy, Brian O’Connell. Attendance: 5,654.