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Siena Takes A 1-0 Lead In CBI Championship Series With Win Over Fresno State

cbi final game 1

Siena once again found a way to win, this time after trailing by as many as 12 points in the second half to pull out a shocking 61-57 win over Fresno State in Game 1 of the College Basketball Invitational Championship Series in Fresno, California Monday night. With a 1-0 lead in the 3-game series, the Saints return to Loudonville to face the Bulldogs at the ARC Wednesday night looking to secure the title.

Early in the first half, a Ryan Oliver three and Lavon Long lay-up capped off a 9-0 Saints run to give them an 11-6 lead four minutes into the game. Fresno State would soon follow with a 10-0 run of their own as Marvelle Harris and Cezar Guerrero hit back-to-back threes to give the Bulldogs a 16-11 lead with ten minutes to go in the half.

In the first half Fresno State outshot Siena 50% to 36% from the field. Despite being outscored 9-0 in fast break points, the Saints were able to control the pace just enough to keep within distance 32-26 at the break.

The Bulldogs came out of the locker room and capitalized on a couple of Siena turnovers and after Alex Davis slammed down an emphatic dunk with 16:49 to go, the crowd went wild and it appeared the game may be slipping away from the Saints as they trailed by twelve, 40-28. Siena turned up the pressure defense and Fresno State struggled to find an answer as the Saints countered with a decisive 13-2 run and regained the lead, 50-49 on a Marquis Wright jumper with seven and a half minutes to go.

Guerrero answered with a three for the Bulldogs but Lavon Long would score on the next two possessions and hit two key free throws on the third before fouling out with 5:25 to go and Siena clinging to a 56-54 lead. Remarkably, neither team would score again from the field as they shot a combined 0-11 the rest of the way.

In the closing seconds, with Siena leading 59-57, Rob Poole dove for a loose ball and forced a tie up with 24 seconds remaining and the possession arrow pointing in the Saints’ direction. Siena inbounded the ball but was forced to call a time out with 18 seconds left. After getting the ball in play to Poole, he appeared to be essentially tackled but was whistled for a traveling violation with 13.5 on the clock. The Bulldogs would have a chance to tie it but Brett Bisping stepped up to draw a charge on a driving Harris with 2.6 seconds on the clock and Poole iced the victory with two free throws giving the Saints their 19th win of the season.

Siena’s pressure defense was outstanding as they scored 13 points off of 16 Bulldog turnovers on the night. They also outrebounded Fresno State 39-29 and pulled down 17 offensive rebounds leading to 11 second chance points. Free throws were also key for Siena who sank 15 of 17 in the second half after zero attempts in the first 20 minutes.

Long led the Saints (19-17) with 13 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Poole had 10 as did Oliver along with his 6 boards in 27 solid minutes off the bench. Wright added 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals and Bisping had 8 points. Maurice White added a huge spark defensively and chipped in with 5 points and 3 rebounds.

“Everybody shared the ball tonight and Ryan made some big shots for us and that’s why we won tonight,” said Siena assistant coach Greg Manning.  “It was a total team effort. But, now we gotta go take care of business on our home floor. It’s good to steal one out here.”

“Ryan Oliver kept us in the game early, said Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos. “Here’s a guy from Los Angeles that I never heard of when I inherited this program and all he’s done is been a great sixth man for us.”

Guerrero led Fresno State (20-17) with a game-high 15 points. Davis and Harris had 12 each and Tyler Johnson added 10.

“It was a great atmosphere,” said Oliver. “It was tough. Their fans rallied behind the team and Fresno State made great runs but we were able to respond.”

Both teams head back to the east coast to face off in Game 2, Wednesday night at 7 pm at the Alumni Recreation Center. With a win the Saints would secure the CBI Title, a 20-win season and their first winning season in 4 years.

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  1. Pingback: Postgame Comments Following CBI Finals Game 1 Win Over Fresno State | 4GuysinBlazers

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