Brett Bisping came through with two clutch plays at end of the game — one on offense and the other on defense — to help Siena fight back from a 16-point deficit and defeat Fairfield, 77-75, to snap a two-game losing streak Monday night at the Times Union Center.
The Saints (7-7 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, 11-14 overall) prevented what could have been a disastrous loss to the last-place Stags (2-12, 5-20) by tightening up their defense at the end of the game and turning up the heat on the offensive end.
After Rob Poole converted a three-point play to tie the game at 75-75 with 1:12 remaining, the Stags’ Maurice Barrow misfired on a three-pointer, and the Saints got the ball back.
Using what Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos calls the “Orlando” play, Evan Hymes drove toward the basket and found Bisping cutting through the lane. The perfect pass hit Bisping in stride, and he sank the layup with 8.5 seconds left. It proved to be the game-winning basket, but only after Bisping made the defensive play of the game.
After Fairfield called a timeout with 5.5 seconds left, Barrow inbounded the ball to KJ Rose, who drove the lane. Bisping established himself on defense, and Rose crashed into him. The officials called Rose for an offensive foul, and after the Saints made a quick inbounds pass, the game was over.
“Brett continues to grow,” said Patsos of Bisping, who scored 17 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots. “That was definitely a charge at the end.”
“I knew I was there, but I didn’t know how the call would go,” said Bisping. “I wasn’t sure until I heard the call while I was lying on the floor.”
Bisping said the game-winning basket was all Hymes.
“Evan made a great pass to me. All I had to do was catch the ball and put it in,” Bisping said.
“We’re not quitters, and when we were down by 16, we knew we still had a good chance to win.”
Hymes, who added 13 points and four assists, said he was originally looking for Poole to shoot a jumper on the final offensive play for the Saints.
“I saw Rob open, and then I originally saw Brett open for a quick jumper,” said Hymes. “But when Brett made that strong cut to the basket, I had a little seam to throw the ball through. He made a nice play out of it.”
The Saints also needed a comeback effort from Poole, who went scoreless for the first time in his career at Saint Peter’s last Thursday night. Things didn’t go very well for him in the first half, as he scored just two points on a pair of free throws and was just 1-for-10 from the floor, but he was 3-for-3 in the second half and finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
“I didn’t want to hurt the team by shooting too much,” said Poole. “But coach Patsos told me to keep shooting. I’ve got that mindset that I don’t want to shoot it when I’m not making anything, but I finally started to hit some shots in the second half. I know my team needs me to score some points. I was getting a little frustrated, but the shots finally began to fall.”
Fairfield dominated most of the first half, grabbing leads of 23-8, 27-12 and 33-17 before the Saints used a 19-4 run toward the end of that session to cut their deficit to 37-36 at the intermission.
Siena matched the Stags hoop for hoop early in the second half, and the Stags only led by as much as six before Siena grabbed its first lead of the game, 67-66, on a Poole trifecta that hung on the rim for a couple of seconds before finally dropping through with 5:10 to go.
But Barrow came right back with a jumper, and the Stags were in front again.
A three-pointer by Steve Johnston pushed the Stags in front, 73-69, but Maurice White converted an off-balance layup for Siena. Barrow then drove the lane to give the Stags a 75-71 lead with 2:03 left.
Poole made one of two free throws to slice the Stags’ lead to 75-72. Each team committed a pair of turnovers in the final two minutes before the Saints recorded the final two baskets.
Lavon Long added 10 points for Siena, while Barrow (18), Johnston (14), Amadou Sidibe (12), Marcus Gilbert (11) and Rose (11) each scored in twin figures for Fairfield.
“I’m really proud of the way Rob Poole came back from not scoring at Saint Peter’s and then having a tough first half,” said Patsos. “Every team in our league is excited to come here. I know I always was when I was at Loyola.
“I told the team when we were down by 16 to keep playing through all the tough things that were going on. I don’t judge whether a lead is a good one or a bad one until the second half.”
Mar. Gilbert 4-8 2-2 11, Sidibe 4-7 4-5 12, Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Jenkins 0-5 1-2 1, Rose 4-10 2-4 11, Barrow 8-14 1-1 18, Johnston 5-6 0-1 14, Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Mal. Gilbert 2-4 2-3 6. Totals: 28-57 12-18 75.
Long 2-4 6-9 10, Bisping 6-9 5-6 17, Silas 2-3 0-1 4, Wright 3-5 0-0 6, Poole 4-11 5-8 14, Ogunyemi 0-1 0-0 0, Oliver 2-4 0-0 5, Hymes 4-7 4-5 13, White 3-8 2-3 8, Wolfe 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 26-54 22-32 77.
Halftime: Fairfield, 37-36. Three-point goals: Fairfield 7-15 (Mar. Gilbert 1-3, Rose 1-2, Barrow 1-4, Johnston 4-5, Smith 0-1); Siena 3-11 (Bisping 0-1, Poole 1-6, Oliver 1-2, Hymes 1-2). Rebounds: Fairfield 31 (Barrow 7), Siena 36 (Bisping 8). Assists: Fairfield 11 (Rose 6), Siena 14 (Wright 4, Hymes 4). Total fouls: Fairfield 28, Siena 16. Fouled out: Sidibe, Johnson, Johnston. Attendance: 5,536.