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Game Preview: CBI Finals Game 3 Siena vs. Fresno State

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Siena will conclude the longest season in program history on Saturday as they take on Fresno State in the deciding Game 3 of the College Basketball Invitational. Tipoff at the Alumni Recreation Center is scheduled for 11:30 in a game to be televised live on the CBS Sports Network. The game takes place four weeks to the day from the Saints’ elimination from the MAAC Tournament in what had originally seemed to be the end of their season. They began their season on Nov 8, their earliest start ever and prior to Wednesday’s Game 2, Siena had never played in the month of April.

The CBI Final series is tied at one game apiece after Siena won the opener at Fresno State and the Bulldogs took Game 2 on Wednesday night in Loudonville. The Saints are looking for the first Division I national postseason championship in program history and the first for any MAAC team. Siena won the National Catholic Invitational in 1950 prior to the Division I era and advanced to the NIT semifinals in 1994.

Siena will look to control the tempo of the series finale much like they had done successfully in their 61-57 Game 1 win at Fresno State. In Game 2, Fresno State was able to speed up the pace to their liking and they led by double digits for the final 27 minutes and 21 seconds. The Bulldogs took advantage of red-hot shooting (63.9%) to come away with an 89-75 victory to even the series. It was their highest FG% in 10 years. Prior to that game, the Saints had held the lead in the final 10 minutes of 17 straight games.

Brett Bisping is averaging a team-high 15.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in the CBI. He has shot 50% from the field as well as from three-point range. He is second on the team in scoring this season (11.3) and first in rebounding (6.5).

“We knew that the 3-game series was going to be tough,” said Bisping. “Coach had talked to us about it. We’re going to be ready to go. We’ve just go to come out with energy and be ready to play. We didn’t last game so we have to change that.”

Rob Poole leads the Saints in scoring averaging 14.4 points per game. The Saints will look to get him back on track after he was held to just 7 points in Game 2 on 3-10 shooting from the field and just 1-4 from three.

Ryan Oliver has averaged 7.4 points per game off the bench over the last 14 games and has scored in double figures 5 times. He has hit at least one 3-pointer, many of them key shots in 13 of the last 14 games.

Freshman point guard Marquis Wright’s 195 assists so far this season ranks 6th on the Siena single season assist leader list. Next up is Marc Brown (5th 196, 1989-90 and 4th 199, 1988-89).

Freshman forward Lavon Long is third on the team in scoring with 9.5 points per game and tied for third in rebounding with Imoh Silas with 4.8. Long has been in double figures in scoring 19 times this season. Silas leads he team and is 5th in the MAAC with 1.7 blocked shots per game.

They Saints will also look to regain control of the boards after being outrebounded 28-18 on Wednesday night. They had beaten the Bulldogs by the same margin in Game 1, 39-29. Siena ranks 15th in the nation pulling down 13.9 offensive rebounds per game. They had 17 offensive boards on Monday and just 8 on Wednesday.

It has been an exciting season to this point to say the least for Siena under the leadership of first year head coach Jimmy Patsos. The Saints would like nothing more than to secure the CBI Championship in front of what is sure to be an explosive crowd at the ARC. As an added incentive to entice the student section to turnout for the rare Saturday morning tipoff as they had over 700 strong on Wednesday, Siena will be giving away FREE BACON beginning at 10 am to the Dog Pound members. Also, the Siena student who displays the most school spirit will be picked to take a half court shot, and if he/she sinks it they’ll win $10,000!

“They outplayed us and outworked us (in Game2),” said Patsos. ” When I took this job I said we would play hard and have fun. We forgot about the first half of that the other night. I didn’t think we particularly competed as hard and that’s not what we’ve done all year. We will earn our keep Saturday whether we win or lose.”

Fresno State is led in scoring by Tyler Johnson (15.8) and Marvelle Harris (14.5). Cezar Guerrero (12.9) and Paul Watson (10.1) also average in double figures. They placed four players in double figures in Game 1 and five in Game 2 led by Allen Huddleston who had 20 points on 6-6 FG shooting, 2-2 from three.

Siena’s 11-win turnaround ties Manhattan for the third best in the nation this season. They stand at 19-18 going into Saturday’s game following a record of 8-24 in 2012-2013 which tied for the most losses in program history. Win or lose, the Saints will end the streak of three straight losing seasons after having won three consecutive MAAC Championships. A win for the Saints will secure the 19th 20-win season in program history.

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