Loudonville, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - After each team began the championship series with a win to force a decisive Game Three, the Fresno State Bulldogs and the Siena Saints square off on Saturday with the College Basketball Invitational title on the line.
The teams never faced each other prior to this championship series. After Siena captured the first game in Fresno on Monday night, 71-57, it failed to claim the tournament title on Wednesday, falling flat in front of the home crowd as the Bulldogs claimed an 89-75 victory.
Facing elimination in Game Two, Fresno State barely broke a sweat in the easy victory, running out to a 19-point halftime lead after shooting an incredible 76.2 percent from the field in the opening stanza, and its advantage swelled to as many as 26 in the second half. In addition to the Bulldogs' outstanding night from the floor (.639), they also made the most of their ample free-throw attempts, shooting 35-of-43 at the stripe. Tyler Johnson led the way with 19 points, while Paul Watson (14), Cezar Guerrero (13) and Marvelle Harris (11) also finished in double figures. For Siena, Brett Bisping paced all scorers with 20 points, while Marquis Wright poured in 14.
The win for Fresno State (21-17) has given it six victories in its past eight games dating back to the regular season, while also improving to a respectable 7-9 on the road. The Bulldogs have been led this season by a stellar offensive attack that puts up 72.9 ppg on 44.2 percent field goal shooting and 73.1 percent at the free-throw line, which is just good enough to support a modest scoring defense (70.2 ppg). The team also generates extra possessions with a turnover margin that resides in the black (+1.2). Johnson acts as the catalyst and is a multi-faceted performer, scoring 15.8 ppg with great percentages from the field (.482), 3-point range (.433) and the free-throw line (.805), while adding 7.2 rpg, 3.0 apg and 1.1 spg to boot. Harris brings 14.5 ppg to the table, while Guerrero (12.9 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Watson (10.1 ppg) are also regular contributors.
Siena (19-18) had been red-hot prior to its setback in Game Two, as it not only won each of its first four CBI games, but had been winners of eight of nine dating back to Feb. 21, which included five straight wins on its home floor, although its contests are usually played at the Times Union Center in downtown Albany rather than the on-campus site at the Alumni Recreation Center. The Saints' offensive attack hasn't been much to brag about this season (.419 FG percentage, 69.0 ppg), but they boast an impressive defense (.417, 70.1 ppg), which had held opponents to a mere 53.3 ppg during this event prior to its lackluster effort on Wednesday. Rob Poole (14.4 ppg) has drained 70 3-pointers at a 36.1 percent clip. Bisping puts up 11.3 ppg and 6.5 rpg, while Lavon Long, Evan Hymes and Wright all net between 9.5 and 8.6 ppg.