Siena began their 2018 calendar year on the first day of the new year on Monday afternoon. However, it did not come out how they wanted it to, falling to Quinnipiac in a 71-70 heartbreaker.
The Saints are now 0-2 to begin conference play, a record they did not want to have at this point in the season, but despite the loss there were many positive things that came out of the contest. Let’s break it down.
Junior Evan Fisher, who was more or less silent on Friday on the road against Marist, had a career day. He finished with a career-high 21 points, as well as tacking on five rebounds and two blocks. He was lethal from behind the three-point line, shooting 4-6, three of them key to putting Siena in the lead late in the first half and keeping them in the game.
Additionally, freshman Roman Penn had yet another coming-out party, tying his career-high of 19 points and had six steals to his credit, the most of any Siena player in any game this season. His play kept the Saints in it during the second half when Quinnipiac was doing a lot of scoring, hitting key shots and free throws. When Quinnipiac had a 62-58 lead, he hit a three with 5:05 to play that brought the Saints back within one and in turn forced the Bobcats to sweat it out in the final minutes of the game.
Those two have been Siena’s most consistent players this season. However, it seems as if they need one more player if they want to consistently win games at the rate that they want to.
“We’re clearly looking for one more guy, I got to figure out who it is, that’s on me as a coach,” Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos said after the game Monday.
Another issue is that Siena struggled to get rebounds, being out-rebounded 32-21, with no Saint grabbing more than five. Siena is now 0-8 this season when their opponent finishes with more rebounds than they do.
Going with that, fouling also presented a problem for the Saints, especially when Quinnipiac was shooting. The Bobcats shot 26 free throws Monday and made 22 of them. Cameron Young scored 26 points, 15 of them coming from the stripe, and only missed one other shot. Siena took just nine free throws. Kadeem Smithen had four fouls, and Prince Oduro, Fisher and Nico Clareth all had three fouls each.
The final problem is one that Siena has had all season and it showed Monday, is that they struggle to close out games. They had opportunities after Nico Clareth scored his only points on a dunk with a minute left to put Siena within one, but the Saints failed to score in those possessions, leading up to an Ahsante Shivers layup being blocked in the final seconds to clinch the Quinnipiac victory.
“You got to play 40 minutes, you can’t take a break, you got to play to compete, everybody wants the same thing,” Penn said.
For Siena, this is the first time since the 2012-13 season that Siena has gone 0-2 to begin MAAC play, and the first time under Jimmy Patsos. That 2012-13 season was Mitch Buonaguro’s final with the Saints.
“It’s really tough. Two close losses, real tough,” Evan Fisher said.
However, Siena has looked better recently then they did in the early stages of the campaign, and do have building blocks for the rest of conference play.
“These games, they’re building us,” Patsos said.
The Saints will be back in action at the Times Union Center on Friday, continuing conference play against Niagara. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.