Atmosphere: Terrific. Performance: Not so much.
Despite an energetic, nearly packed Alumni Recreation Center crowd of 3,177, the Siena College basketball team played a rare clunker Wednesday night in Game 2 of the College Basketball Invitational best-of-three championship series.
Allen Huddleston poured in 20 points to pace five double-figure scorers, and Fresno State shot 63.9 percent from the floor en route to a comfortable 89-75 victory that knotted the series at one game apiece. Game 3 is Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. at the ARC.
The Bulldogs bounced back nicely from their 61-57 loss in the Steve Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., Monday night. Both teams had no time to practice Tuesday as they each traveled back to Albany, and even took the same final leg back from Atlanta.
But unlike the Saints, the Bulldogs seemed unaffected by either the trip or the hostile Siena crowd.
“This time of year, it’s more mental over the physical,” said Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry, who hinted that both teams could have probably played a triple-overtime game, if necessary.
“We play in a tough conference, and there are some big-names in our [Mountain West] conference,” said senior guard Tyler Johnson, who scored 19 points for the Bulldogs. “We played teams like Florida and Pittsburgh on the road in some of the most hostile environments.”
Johnson, a sharp-shooting guard who is 16th on Fresno State’s all-time scoring list with 1,326 points, even liked the cozy confines of the ARC.
“I feel gyms like this are shooter’s gyms,” he said. “We practice in a gym like this back home.”
Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos thought he saw a performance like this coming from his Saints, who had won eight of their nine previous games.
“It was an interesting game,” he said. “I’m not shocked by what happened. During our shoot-around, I had a sense that something like this could happen. But I expect a hard-fought game on Saturday.”
Patsos hinted that the Bulldogs would come ready to play after losing the opener Monday night.
“Every player on Fresno State is rated higher than ours. That doesn’t mean they are all better than our players, but they are all good players,” Patsos said. “[Cezar] Guerrero, for example, transferred from Oklahoma State.”
Paul Watson scored 14 points, Guerrero finished with 13 and Marvelle Harris chipped in with 11 for the 21-17 Bulldogs, who held a 28-18 edge on the boards and converted eight of 15 shots from beyond the arc.
Fresno State, which shot a blistering 76 percent from the floor in the first half, jumped out to a 29-15 lead after back-to-back treys by Huddleston. The Bulldogs led by as much as 43-21 with five seconds left in the first half, but Ryan Oliver’s three-pointer at the buzzer gave the Saints a little life.
Fresno State led by as many 26 several times in the second half before the Saints used a 14-3 run to slice their deficit to 63-50 with 11:03 remaining, when Brett Bisping nailed a three-pointer.
But the Bulldogs gradually pulled away again.
“I didn’t think we came ready to play tonight,” said Bisping, who led the Saints with 20 points, including 5-for-7 from the field and 8-for-9 from the floor.
“We let some people down tonight. Hopefully, they come back Saturday and support us.”
Freshman guard Marquis Wright added 14 points and six rebounds for the 19-18 Saints.
“This [the ARC] is like a high school gym,” said Patsos. “Really good players will shoot well here.
“Today, I wasn’t a good parent. I don’t think our guys listened today. But I expect us to compete harder on Saturday and dive for loose balls. I think we got away from that tonight.”
Siena shot only 35 percent in the first half and 46 percent for the game. The game was marred by 52 personal fouls.
FRESNO STATE (89)
Davis 3-4 1-1 7, Watson 2-4 9-10 14, Harris 1-4 8-8 11, Johnson 5-9 7-10 19, Guerrero 4-6 3-4 13, Owootoah 0-0 1-2 1, Edo 2-2 0-0 4, Giddings 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Newbill 0-0 0-0 0, Huddleston 6-6 6-8 20. Totals: 23-36 35-43 89.
Long 3-6 2-23 8, Bisping 5-7 8-9 20, Silas 1-3 0-2 2, Wright 5-10 4-4 14, Poole 3-10 0-0 7, Ogunyemi 2-3 0-2 4, Oliver 3-6 0-0 8, Hymes 0-5 0-0 0, Cruz 0-0 0-0 0, Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, White 3-4 2-2 8, Wolfe 1-2 2-2 4. Totals: 26-56 18-24 75.
Halftime: Fresno State, 43-24. Three-point goals: Fresno State 8-15 (Watson 1-3, Harris 1-3, Johnson 2-4, Guerrero 2-3, Huddleston 2-2); Siena 5-14 (Bisping 2-2, Wright 0-1, Poole 1-4, Oliver 2-4, Hymes 0-3). Rebounds: Fresno State 28 (Edo 5), Siena 18 (Wright 6). Assists: Fresno State 13 (Harris 4, Guerrero 4); Siena 13 (Long 3, Oliver 3). Total fouls: Fresno State 24, Siena 28. Fouled out: Watson Long, Poole. Attendance: 3,177.