Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos worked up a good sweat stalking the sidelines Monday night in Game 1 of the College Basketball Invitational best-of-three championship series at Fresno State’s Steve Mart Center.
And he’ll sweat through his suit coat again, if necessary, when his Saints try to wrap up the CBI title tonight at 7 at the Alumni Recreation Center.
The Saints shot just 33 percent from the floor against the Bulldogs, but still rallied from 12 points down to secure a 61-57 win in Game 1. Defense was the key, as Siena’s trapping press forced 16 Bulldog turnovers. The Saints also pulled down 17 offensive rebounds.
“We’ve been playing great defense all year, especially in the second half of the season,” said Patsos in a telephone call from Atlanta between flights Tuesday night as the team flew back from Fresno, Calif.
“We’re 10-0 when we hold teams under 60 points. We have a very gritty bunch of players who really want to win. Winning on the road in Division I basketball is extremely difficult, and I don’t think people understand just how tough it really is. We won a huge road game, and now we’re going to try to hold serve at home. Can we do it? Sure, but Fresno State is a team that has bounced back from tough losses all year, and I’m sure they will be ready to do the same thing to us [tonight].”
Patsos is concerned about the team’s quick turnaround, so quick, in fact, that there wasn’t time to have a true practice between games.
“Sure, it will be tough, but it’s fair, because it’s the same for both teams,” he said. “That’s what makes the CBI so unique, is the best-of-three format. I know the TV broadcasters said Monday night that the energy in that arena was just like an NCAA game.”
Patsos perspired so much during Monday night’s game that his sports coat was drenched through and through. Several talk show hosts, including the crew at ESPN’s Highly Questionable program, brought it up during Tuesday’s programming.
“I expect my players to work hard, so why wouldn’t I work just as hard coaching them?” Patsos quipped
“It should be a great game [tonight], but it won’t be easy. Fresno State’s backcourt of Tyler Johnson and Cezar Guerrero is excellent, and I’m expecting them to bounce back. They are worth the price of admission.”
Monday night, Rob Poole clinched the win by sinking a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds left after Brett Bisping drew a charge from Marvell Harris with 2.6 remaining on the clock.
Freshman Lavon Long led the Saints with 13 points before fouling out. Poole finished with 12 points, and sophomore Ryan Oliver, a California native, chipped in with 10 off the bench. Guerrero topped four double-digit scorers for Fresno State with 15 points.
Along with the CBI title, Siena (19-17) can secure a 20-win season with a victory tonight. If the 20-17 Bulldogs prevail, there will be a Game 3 Saturday morning at 11:30 at the ARC, which will hold about 3,600. A sellout is expected.
Siena hasn’t played a regular-season or tournament game on campus in 17 years. The Saints are 17-11 in national postseason play, and they have won eight of their last nine games. They are limiting opponents to 54 points per game during CBI games.
“I can’t wait to play here [the ARC],”said Poole before the team left for Fresno. “The students always talk about it. They’ve always asked for a game here. And we’re going to give it to them. It’s going to be fun. They get to hang out at the dorms and walk right down. It’s going to be a fun time.”
“It’s going to be a crazy environment,” said Bisping. “It’s going to be packed. It’s going to be loud. That’s going to work to our advantage, I think.”
Siena freshman point guard Marquis Wright was named a Kyle Macy Freshmen All-American on Tuesday. He is one of 25 finalists for the national Freshman of the Year.
Long 5-11 3-3 13, Bisping 3-6 2-2 8, Silas 0-3 0-0 0, Wright 2-7 3-4 7, Poole 4-12 2-2 12, Ogunyemi 1-6 0-0 2, Oliver 4-9 0-0 10, Hymes 1-7 0-0 2, White 0-1 5-6 5, Wolfe 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 21-63 15-17 61.
Davis 5-9 2-2 12, Watson 1-4 1-2 2, Johnson 4-9 2-2 10, Guerrero 6-10 1-2 15, Harris 4-8 2-2 12, Owootoah 0-1 0-0 0, Edo 0-1 0-0 0, Huddleston 2-4 0-1 5. Totals: 22-46 8-13 57.
Halftime: Fresno State, 32-26. Three-point goals: Siena 4-17 (Bisping 0-1, Wright 0-1, Poole 2-6, Oliver 2-5, Hymes 0-4); Fresno State 5-16 (Davis 0-1, Watson 0-2, Johnson 0-1, Guerrero 2-6, Harris 2-4, Huddleston 1-2). Rebounds: Siena 39 (Wright 7), Fresno State (Harris 12). Assists: Siena 8 (Wright 2, Poole 2); Fresno State 12 (Guerrero 5). Total fouls: Siena 13, Fresno State 17. Fouled out: Long. Attendance: 5,284.