March 31, 2014
Siena rallied from a 12-point second half deficit to stun Fresno State 61-57 in the first game of the CBI Championship series Monday night in Fresno, Calif. The series now moves to the cozy confines of Alumni Recreation Center, where Siena can claim an unlikely championship Wednesday night.
Fresno State had a chance to tie the game after Rob Poole was called for a travel with 13.5 seconds left, but Brett Bisping drew a charge when Marvelle Harris drove to the hoop with just 2.6 seconds on the clock. Poole sealed the win with a pair of free throws, and Siena celebrated another improbable win in what is fast-becoming a truly memorable season.
The Saints trailed 40-28 with 16:49 remaining in the second half after a hammer dunk by Alex Davis. The lead was 47-37 when Siena went on a game-changing 13-2 run to take a 50-49 lead on Marquis Wright's jumper with 7:29 to play. Cezar Guerrero answered with a three-pointer, but Lavon Long scored six straight for the Saints. His layup with 5:51 to play was the last field goal for either team, and it put the Saints up for good, 54-53.
Both teams had their chances in the final minutes, and free throw shooting proved critical.
Harris made just 2-4 free throws in the last 1:13 and missed one that would have tied the game with 37 seconds to go.
Siena got the job done with defense and offensive rebounding, forcing 16 Fresno State turnovers and corralling 17 offensive rebounds.
Poole dove to the floor, forcing a jump-ball with 24 seconds left and the Saints up two, and after giving it back when he crashed to the floor 11 seconds later, Bisping held his ground on Harris' drive.
Long led the Saints with 13 points despite fouling out with 5:25 left. Poole has 12 points and California native Ryan Oliver scored 10 off the bench in 27 strong minutes in front of friends and family.
Guerrero led all players with 15 points for Fresno State.
Siena has won eight of its last night games and is 17-10 after starting the year 2-7. The Saints improved to 17-11 in national postseason play and 10-0 this season when holding opponents under 60 points this season. In the CBI, Siena has limited its four opponents to just 53.5 points per game.
Wednesday night's game will be the first Siena has played in the on-campus Alumni Recreation Center since February of 1997. Limited tickets were available late Monday, but it's hard to imagine that will be the case by game time.