Junior guard Rob Poole sank a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left to spark Siena to a 61-57 victory over Fresno State in Game 1 of the best-of-three Collegiate Basketball Invitational championship series Monday night at Steve Mart Center.
Siena will host the Bulldogs in Game 2 Wednesday night at 7 at the Alumni Recreation Center. A third game, if necessary, will be played Saturday at 11:30 a.m., also at the ARC.
Siena (19-17), which guaranteed at least a .500 season with the victory, rallied from 12 points down in the second half.
The Saints held a 58-55 lead before Marvell Harris made one of two free throws with 1:02 remaining to help the Bulldogs cut their deficit to a basket.
Siena was unable to score on its next possession, and Harris was fouled once again as he drove the lane. Once again, he made one of two with 37.1 seconds left, to pull Fresno State within a point at 58-57.
Siena freshman point guard Marquis Wright was fouled in the lane on Siena’s next possession with 29.4 seconds remaining, and he made one of two free throws to extend the Saints’ lead to 59-57. Fresno State immediately called for a timeout.
Siena trapped the inbounds play and forced a jump ball. The possession arrow was in Siena’s favor, and the Saints set up an inbounds play of their own with 18.4 seconds left.
Evan Hymes inbounded the ball to Poole, who was knocked to his feet with 13.5 seconds left, but the officials called him for traveling.
Fresno State had a chance to tie or win the game on its next possession, but Brett Bisping drew a charging call on Harris with 2.6 seconds left. Poole was immediately fouled, and he made the two free throws to clinch the game.
“I thought we got lucky in the second half,” said Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos. “They missed shots, and we got the rebounds. We have a gritty bunch. When you’re not shooting well, sometimes offensive rebounds are like your best play.”
Freshman Lavon Long led the Saints with 13 points before fouling out. Poole scored 12 points, and sophomore Ryan Oliver came off the bench to score 10 for Siena, which held a 39-29 edge on the boards.
Fresno State (20-17) was led by Cezar Guerrero’s 15 points, which topped four double-digit scorers.