Senior Bundu steps up, lifts Quinnipiac to win
HAMDEN — When the calendar flipped from 2018 to 2019, a few challenging conference games would only become more daunting for the Quinnipiac men’s basketball team due to the absence of double-double machine Kevin Marfo.
Enter relentless senior forward Abdulai Bundu, who continued to flex his muscles while getting extending playing time to lead the host Bobcats’ to an 80-78 win over Fairfield on Sunday.
Bundu played a major role in the Bobcats winning the rebounding battle 37-25 with nine rebounds. He also tied his season high with 12 points.
“With Kevin going down, obviously he is a good rebounder and a great offensive player so me being second string behind him, I told him I was going to hold it down until he gets back,” said Bundu, who has played 69 minutes in the last two games after averaging just over 17 in the first 13 games. “The whole
thing for me is to try to stay on the floor as long as I can because my team needs me with the rebounding and shot blocking so with Kevin out, I try to focus on staying the floor as long as I can.”
The showdown between Bundu and Fairfield’s 6foot-8 senior Jonathan Kasibabu was the game within the game as they did the dirty work to allow their teammates a chance to play starring roles on offense.
“He is a warrior,” Quinnipiac coach Baker Dunleavy said of Bundu. “When you know what you are going to get out of a player every night, as a coach that gives you great peace of mind especially in the ways that he gives which a lot of guys don’t like doing, he does it and he loves it.”
The most important of Bundu’s points were a pair of foul shots with 1:03 to give Quinnipiac a four-point lead. Bundu is a career 60 percent shooter from the line but looked rather comfortable when he needed to make a couple of shots to give the Bobcats a two-possession lead.
“I don’t believe I am a bad free-throw shooter, it is about finding a groove,”” Bundu said. “I shoot 100150 in the morning, I will shoot another 100 after practice so I know I have it in me. I don’t know what it is, I just felt calmer in that situation than when I took my first two free throws.”
Quinnipiac (8-7, 3-1 in the MAAC) came into the game with 52 percent of its made field goals coming from 3-point range. Fairfield (5-12, 2-3) wasn’t far behind at 42 percent, so it wasn’t hardly a surprise that at the final media timeout of the first half, there were as many made 3-pointers as field goals made inside the 3-point line.
“Similar styles combine with how close we are, how competitive we are I think it just brings out the toughness in both teams,” said Quinnipiac’s reserve guard Aaron Robinson, who had four 3-pointers in the game.
The teams took turns controlling the game. Fairfield was up 11-3 in the early going, Quinnipiac responded by scoring 15 of the next 17 points. Both teams had two-possession leads in the second half before Quinnipiac’s strong finishing kick gave the Bobcats a hard-earned win.
“It is going to be like this,” Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson said. “For us, it is five games in 11 days and I think they have all been battles so I think it is going to be like that for the rest of the season which is good by me. Guys like to compete and everyone has a chance in the league it seems like.”
Cameron Young scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half for Quinnipiac and added five assists. Robinson and Travis Atson finished with 12 and 10 points off the bench for the Bobcats.
Jesus Cruz had 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Fairfield. Felix Lemetti had 16 points and his back-to-back baskets gave the Stags the lead with 12:55 left to play. Landon Taliaferro had three 3pointers and finished with 11 points.
Quinnipiac’s Abdulai Bundu drives to the basket against Fairfield’s Jonathan Kasibabu on Sunday.
Quinnipiac’s Abdulai Bundu drives to the basket against Fairfield on Sunday.