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Siena comes up short against Quinnipiac in New Year’s Day matinee

Aidan Joly

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ALBANY — A drive to the basket that ended in a last-second block sunk Siena on Monday afternoon at the Times Union Center, falling to Quinnipiac in their MAAC home opener by a final score of 71-70.

Back and forth with just three minutes to play, Quinnipiac was ahead by one when Khalil Richard hit a much-needed three to give the Saints a two-point lead. Just seconds later, Rich Kelly answered for Quinnipiac to tie the game at 68. Then Cameron Young scored the last of his 26 points on the day with a three that gave Quinnipiac a lead.

With one minute left on the clock, Nico Clareth threw down a dunk to put the Saints back within one.

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A game that featured 12 ties and a staggering 17 lead changes was going to come down to one final play. With 5.4 seconds remaining, Ahsante Shivers received an inbound pass. He ran it to the three-point line, had an open lane and looked all but set to lay it in as time expired. As he did so, Quinnipiac’s Abdulai Bundu went up to the basket to block the layup in the final seconds to clinch a Bobcats win.

“I got an open drive to the lane, I got bumped a little, but I got to finish that. (Bundu) came over and helped and he got the block,” Shivers said. “I feel like I took it to the hole strong and it just didn’t work out.”

The leadup to the final play made it clear that it was coming, as 13 of those 17 lead changes occurred in the second half, with neither squad leading by more than six in the final 20 minutes of the afternoon, which was held by Siena with 11 minutes left.

Quinnipiac went on a 7-0 run in the final seven minutes, going from trailing by three to leading by four. They tied the game on a three from Jacob Rigoni that served as a momentum-shifter late and took the lead on free throws from Young and led by four after a score from Isaiah Washington. The Saints answered after that taking the lead with just under five minutes to play on a score from Richard to make it 63-62.

Siena held a four-point lead at the half, largely in part due to the play of Evan Fisher, who hit a trio of threes in the final minutes of the first frame and finished with a career-high 21 points and shot 4-6 from three. Roman Penn also came up big in the first half, scoring 10 in the first half and had 19 overall, going 3-3 from behind the arc.

“At first it was Evan Fisher, he just wouldn’t let us quit and then Roman Penn really took on the challenge,” Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos said.

The three-point shooting of the Saints was a major bright spot, as they shot 10-16 from outside.

Quinnipiac is now 5-9 on the season and 2-0 in conference play, joining Canisius as the only teams to be 2-0 starting in the MAAC. They will play again on Friday, January 5 as they face that same Canisius team at 8 p.m.

Siena falls to 0-2 in the MAAC and 4-11 overall, but Jimmy Patsos says there’s no quit in his team.

“Going to keep practicing hard, going to keep recruiting hard, and this thing’s going to work itself out one way or another, but there’s no quit in us,” he said.

The Saints will continue their three-game homestand on Friday night, facing Niagara. That game is set to begin at 7 p.m.

Aidan Joly joined Upstate Courier Sports in February 2016 and became managing editor of the sports department in August 2017. He covers Section II athletics, the Siena men's basketball team and the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Aidan attends Saratoga Springs High School and will be attending Canisius College in the fall of 2018. Aidan can be contacted through social media (Twitter is @ByAidanJoly) or by email, joly@upstatecourier.com