Saints Beat Stags On the Road

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Siena overcame a rough first half and a 6-point halftime deficit to pull out a key road win at Fairfield, 64-56. In a sure sign that things are looking up, with the win, the Saints move to 9-12 overall and 5-5 in the conference surpassing the overall and MAAC win totals from last season.

“We just kinda grinded in the second half,” said Siena coach Jimmy Patsos. “It’s gonna be a grind it out game in here. They’re a tough gritty team and we were lucky to get the win.”

The Saints appeared to be simply outplayed in the first half. They were outrebounded (23-12) and out hustled and gave up too many easy baskets as they were outscored 16-4 in the paint. They trailed by as many as 11 points, 31-20 with 3:03 to go in the half but closed the gap to 6, 31-25 on a pair of free throws from Michael Wolfe and a Rob Poole three-pointer.

“I just said stay with the plan,” Patsos said. “I really thought it was good that at the end of the half we held them.”

The second half was a different story. With a renewed energy on the defensive end and Poole and Brett Bisping taking over on the offensive end, the Saints were able to outscore the Stags 39-25 in the final 20 minutes. It seemed as though the effort put forth by Siena wore down Fairfield and with improved ball movement it was the Saints finding the easy buckets and winning the battle in the lane 20-8.

“They got a little tired. We run the flex offense that’s hard to guard for a while. I thought their team was guarding it well but the young guys kind of got a little tired.”

Poole and Bisping finished with 19 points each, tallying 28 of the Saints’ 39 second half points. They were a combined perfect 15-15 from the free throw line (Poole 10-10, Bisping 5-5). In addition Poole tallied 5 rebounds and 4 steals and Bisping had 2 rebounds and 3 steals. Ryan Oliver scored 9 points (3-5 three pointers) including a huge three to push the Siena lead to 7, 56-49 with 1:34 to go. He also added 6 rebounds.

“Rob Poole and Brett Bisping were just unbelievably emotional and Ryan Oliver stepping in making the shot was huge.”

Fairfield (4-17, 1-9) was led by Maurice Barrow with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Justin Jenkins had 13 points with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. The Stags leading scorer Marcus Gilbert (13.8 ppg.) was held to just five points on 2-of-8 shooting.

The Saints will have a great opportunity to build on their win total as 5 of the next 7 games will be played at home where they are currently 6-2.

“That’s what we’re trying to build,” Patsos said. “It starts with protecting your home court, then maybe stealing a home game against a top team, and then win on the road. It’s not easy to do.”

Siena returns to action on Thursday in a double-header with the women’s team at the Times Union Center. The women tip off at 6 p.m. against Manhattan with the men’s game vs. Niagara to follow at 8:30.

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