ALBANY, NY – Fairfield shot 52% in the second half and Siena Basketball suffered its third one-point loss this season with a 70-69 defeat on Senior Day in front of 6,924 at the Times Union Center. Kadeem Smithen, who was honored in a special pregame ceremony, scored a team-high 16 points on 5-7 shooting for the Saints which connected at a 53% clip from the field in defeat.
Tyler Nelson scored a game-high 18 points for Fairfield (13-15, 8-9) which has won six of eight to pull into contention for the final First Round bye in next week’s MAAC Tournament to be held at the Times Union Center. However, Siena (8-22, 4-13) neutralized Nelson for the most part in holding the MAAC’s leading scorer – who entered play ranked 14th nationally averaging 21.9 points per game – to just 6-20 shooting including only 2-11 from three.
Freshman forward Prince Oduro converted each of his first six field goal attempts and scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half for the Saints who will be seeded ninth, 10th, or 11th in the MAAC Tournament. Sophomore reserve Khalil Richard added 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists for Siena which held a 25-7 advantage in bench scoring.
The tightly contested matchup featured 11 ties and eight lead changes as the Saints played in their eighth game this season which was decided by one possession. Siena scored nine unanswered points to claim its largest lead at 26-18 on a Smithen three with 5:44 remaining before intermission, and Richard beat the first half buzzer with a put back to give the Saints a 36-30 lead at the break.
The Stags scored the first six points of the second half to quickly knot the score, and neither side would harbor more than a one-possession advantage for the ensuing 10 minutes. Fairfield reclaimed the lead for good on consecutive baskets by Ferron Flavors, Jr. and Aidas Kavaliauskas to take a 57-53 advantage with 7:03 remaining, and opened as much as a seven-point cushion on a pair of Flavors free throws with 49 seconds to go.
But Fairfield missed three of its next four free throw attempts to leave the door open for Siena. Both teams struggled from the foul line, as the Stags shot just 15-27 (56%) while the Saints were only 10-22 (46%). Smithen rallied Siena back as close as 68-66 with 16 ticks left but Nelson, who had missed two free throws on the previous possession, sunk a pair with 10.9 seconds remaining to ice it. Freshman guard Christian Bentley hit a three at the buzzer to provide the final margin, as the Saints fell just short.
Flavors scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half for Fairfield, while Kavaliauskas also scored 10 of his 12 in the final stanza. Jonathan Kasibabu rounded out a balanced attack featuring four double figure scorers for the Stags with 13 points.
Siena concludes its regular season schedule Sunday with a 2 p.m. tip-off at Saint Peter’s.