St. Bonaventure bridged the first and second halves with a 12-0 run to take a lead it would not relinquish, but stubborn Siena kept the battle for the Franciscan Cup up for grabs until the final seconds, before succumbing 64-58 Monday night in Albany.
"The kids played with phenomenal effort," head coach Mitch Buonaguro said. "That's three really good games we have played out of the gate. Our defensive execution, and attention to the scouting report was tremendous. We made some critical mistakes in the last minute, fouling the wrong guys, and fouling when we didn't want to, but we had a lot of young guys on the court. We will learn from it and get better."
Eric Mosley led the Bonnies (2-1) with 17 points. Demitrius Conger chipped in 15, and Andrew Nicholson had 14 points and 12 rebounds. St. Bonaventure made 10-11 free throws in the final two minutes to seal the win.
Siena had a chance to tie the game at 55-55 with 1:42 to play, but Kyle Downey's 3-point attempt was just long. It marked the final of seven times the Saints had the ball in a one possession game in the final 10 minutes, but they never tied or took the lead.
Still, the short-handed Saints gave the experienced and talented Bonnies all they could handle.
Evan Hymes scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half helping Siena build a quick eight point lead. St. Bonaventure trailed throughout the half, but rallied to pull even for the first time on a Youssou Ndoye layup with 36 seconds left, and took a 29-26 lead to the lockerroom on a Conger 3-pointer with four seconds remaining in the half.
Hymes made just 1-9 field goals before fouling out in the second half, but Siena found a way to keep things tight throughout.
Brandon Walters scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds, marking the third straight big effort from the vastly improved senior center. It was the second time Walters matched his season point total from last season in three games played. His other effort was a double-double in Siena's 12-point win at Mount St. Mary's Saturday night.
The Saints got 10 points from senior Kyle Downey, and eight points and five rebounds from steady freshman Rob Poole. Poole's 3-pointer with exactly five minutes left cut the Bonnies lead to 54-52, bringing the crowd of 6,067 to its feet.
Siena had three key fouls late that Buonaguro showed visible displeasure with. The first came with 1:10 left when Hymes picked up his fifth foul by pushing Mosley in the back 20-feet from the basket late in the shot clock. Davonte Beard then rushed up to foul Mosley at half court with Siena down three and 50 seconds remaining. Walters fouled Mosley with 37 seconds left after Siena missed a chance to foul Conger, the far poorer free throw shooter. Mosley sank all six free throws to make the Saints pay.
Siena is in the midst of a tough seven-day stretch. They leave tomorrow for Atlanta where they play Georgia Tech on national television Wednesday night, and then travel to play AmericaEast champ Vermont Saturday. Buonaguro indicated senior Owen Wignot would likely not make the trip to Georgia Tech. Wignot has missed the last two games after suffering a head injury four minutes into Siena's season-opening win over Navy last Wednesday.