Siena Claims MAAC Title and Trip to NCAA Tournament

March 10, 2008

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Tay Fisher matched his career high with six 3-pointers in scoring 21 points, and top-seeded Siena beat Rider 74-53 on Monday night to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship and earn the school's fourth berth in the NCAA tournament.

It was the sixth straight win for Siena (22-10), which last went to the NCAA tournament in 2002. Rider (23-10), the second seed and seeking its first tournament appearance since 1994, likely is headed to the NIT.

Kenny Hasbrouck had 17 points, Edwin Ubiles added 15, and Alex Franklin 10 for the Saints.

MAAC player of the year Jason Thompson led Rider with 22 points and 12 rebounds and Mike Ringgold had eight points. Harris Mansell, who was averaging 14, finished with just five.

It was the second meeting in the MAAC title game between the teams. Siena won 101-73 in Buffalo in 1999, the first of its three league championships.

In the opening minutes, Josh Duell swished a 3-pointer from the left wing, his first make from beyond the arc after eight straight misses over four games.

After Thompson followed his own miss to give Rider a 15-13 lead midway through the first half, Fisher hit four 3-pointers to key a 21-11 spurt. That gave Siena a 34-26 lead with 3:48 remaining. And just 17 seconds later, Fisher was fouled while attempting another 3 and made all three free throws to boost the lead to 11.

The Saints, who entered the game shooting only 25 percent on 3s in the previous five games, were 6-for-13 in the period, They scored 11 points off the Broncs' 11 turnovers to take a 41-30 lead into the break despite being outrebounded 24-14 and 9-0 on the offensive glass.

If not for Thompson, who scored 32 points - including the 2000th of his career - and grabbed 18 rebounds in Rider's 76-71 semifinal victory over Marist, the halftime deficit would have been much more daunting. He made a pair of 3s from the top of the key in scoring 14 points, but never became a factor in the second half.

Siena overcame a 17-point first-half deficit and beat Loyola 65-63 in the semifinals on Duell's go-ahead basket with 19.4 seconds remaining. There was little drama in this one.

Rider moved within nine points three times in the second half. But after Kamron Warner hit a 3 from the left corner to pull the Broncs within 54-45, Ubiles hit a baseline jumper, Fisher swished a 3 from the top of the key, and Hasbrouck made a midrange jumper to give Siena a 61-45 lead with 8:17 left.

Fisher, who turned 22 on Monday, followed with another 3 less than a minute later and the Broncs were finished.

Siena went 2-1 against Rider this season; each team won on the other's home court. Thompson had 23 points and 21 rebounds in an 89-75 Rider win on Feb. 2. Eight days later, Duell hit a 3 with 1.3 seconds left to cap an 11-2 run and lift Siena to an 80-77 victory.