Se­nior Bundu steps up, lifts Quin­nip­iac to win

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - SPORTS - By Jim Fuller

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.

Peter Hviz­dak / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Quin­nip­iac’s Ab­du­lai Bundu drives to the bas­ket against Fair­field’s Jonathan Ka­si­babu on Sun­day.

Peter Hviz­dak / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Quin­nip­iac’s Ab­du­lai Bundu drives to the bas­ket against Fair­field on Sun­day.

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