March 26, 2014
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The longest season in Siena basketball history rolls on Wednesday night with another home game at Times Union Center. The surprising Saints are set to host Illinois State in the CBI Semifinals at 7 p.m. with a berth in next week's Championship Series at stake.
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"Illinois State has a storied past," Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said. "They've gone to the ... NIT. They've been in the NCAA a bunch (six times). Getting them here is great. We're going to need our fans again."
The Redbirds are making their 19th national postseason Tournament appearance and are the last team standing in the Missouri Valley Conference (which Wichita State won with an undefeated record).
With only two and a half years of combined-NCAA Division I experience, the Illinois State men's basketball team is this season's least-experienced program in the nation. However, the Redbirds refused to use their inexperience as an excuse, with second-year ISU head coach Dan Muller leading a talented group of transfers, freshmen and two scholarship-returners to a tie for fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference (9-9). Illinois State also earned notable non-conference victories against a Top-25 program (No. 25 Dayton), a Big Ten team (Northwestern), a Big East opponent (DePaul) and an SEC program (Texas A&M) in the same season, for the first time in program history.
Here's 10 things you need to know about the Saints:
1) Siena is 15-11 all-time in national postseason tournament play. The Saints are making their 12th postseason appearances as a Division I program - six previous trips to the NCAA Tournament (1989, 1999, 2002 and 2008-10) and five NIT appearances (1988, 1991, 1994, 2000 and 2003).
2) The Saints knocked off Penn State 54-52 Monday night on Evan Hymes' twisting layup with 3.2 seconds left. It marked the first time a Big Ten school had visited Times Union Center. The Saints are 5-1 against BCS schools at Times Union Center over the last 10 years.
3) Siena has gone 15-10 after starting the season 2-7. The Saints have won six of their last seven contests.
4) Brett Bisping grew up just 30 miles from the Illinois State campus (Morton, Ill.). Bisping leads the Saints with 14.1 points and 8.0 rebounds over the last 12 games and is seventh in the MAAC in field goal percentage (.512). He averaged just 3.2 points and 2.6 rebounds as a freshman last season.
5) Rob Poole became just the 17th Saint to reach the 500-point plateau in a season during Monday night's win. Poole was named to the MAAC Third Team.
6) Freshman Lavon Long scored a career-high 17 points (13 in the second half) in the Penn State win. Long has reached double figures 18 times this season. Long and classmate Marquis Wright were named to the MAAC All-Rookie Team. It's the first time Siena has had multiple players on the All-Rookie team since its inception in 2002.
7) Siena is 12-4 at home this season and has limited opponents to 66.7 points per game and 31% three-point shooting at Times Union Center. Siena has dished out 14.4 assists per game at Times Union Center, compared to just 9.1 for the opposition.
8) Siena has had the lead in the final 10 minutes of regulation in each of the last 15 games (10-5). 10 of the last 13 games have been one possession games in the final 1:10 of regulation. Two of the team's five losses over that stretch came in overtime, and a third came when the Saints blew a four-point lead with seven seconds left at Marist.
9) Siena led Purdue by four with 1:25 left (lost 68-63), led at La Salle by eight with 6:11 left (lost 78-74), led Quinnipiac by six with 1:48 left (lost 103-95 OT), led at Marist by four with :07 remaining (lost 65-64), led Canisius by five with 4:36 remaining (lost 92-88 3OT) and again by four in MAAC Tournament with 6:50 left (lost 71-65)
10) This is the longest season in Siena basketball history. The Saints have never played a game in April - the latest game ever played was the 1994 NIT Third Place game on March 30. Siena's November 8 opener with UAlbany marked the earliest game the program had ever played.