After victorious outings in Wednesday's CBI semifinals, the Siena Saints and Fresno State Bulldogs will meet in the best-of-three finals that begin on March 31.
With a 61-49 victory over Illinois State, the Siena Saints were the first team to book their passage to the finals. The Twitter account for the Saints tweeted the watershed moment for the program:
Fresno State followed up with a tough 71-64 win over Old Dominion. The Bulldogs happily tweeted the news:
Have a look at the vitals for Wednesday's action and the upcoming finals, and then we'll recap the two semifinal games.
Updated Bracket: GazelleGroup.com provides a live bracket.
|Old Dominion vs. Fresno State||Fresno State 71-64|
|Illinois State vs. Siena||Siena 61-49|
|1||March 31||TBD||CBS Sports Network|
|2||April 2||TBD||CBS Sports Network|
|*3||April 4||TBD||CBS Sports Network|
Source: gazellegroup.com; * if necessary
Siena 61, Illinois State 49
Brett Bisping led all players in scoring and rebounding, as the sophomore forward scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while leading the Saints to victory.
MAAC Sports passed along this praise for Bisping from Saints head coach Jimmy Patsos:
MBB: Jimmy Patsos "I think we won it in first 5 minutes & Brett Bisping is turning into a great player"— MAAC Sports (@MAACSports) March 27, 2014
As for winning the game in the first five minutes, it is hard to argue with Patsos.
Siena couldn't put this game completely away, but the Saints controlled this one from the start. Siena dropped nine points before Illinois State scored.
The game Redbirds didn't let this take them out of the game, and they battled to pull within three at 12-9. That, however, was as close as the game would get.
As TroyRecord.com's Laura Amato highlights, the Saints were using great ball movement to find their success:
Fun fact early on this game. Siena has seven assists on 10 field goals against Illinois State's zone. That's impressive.— Laura Amato (@LauraAmato) March 26, 2014
Siena's insane assist rate cooled off, but the Saints still finished the game with 11 more assists than their opponents with 16 dimes.
With just over seven minutes left in the half, the Saints had opened up a 10-point lead at 23-13 and then held that advantage to take a 31-21 edge into the halftime break.
The two teams essentially traded buckets for the entire second half. They couldn't really put any distance on their opponents, but they didn't give up any ground either. That was good enough to earn a comfortable win and a date in the finals.
As the Saints tweeted, Siena will enjoy home-court advantage:
Although Siena was fantastic on Wednesday, the Saints will want to take better care of the ball if they intend on being champions. Siena had 15 turnovers against the Redbirds.
Fresno State 71, Old Dominion 64
Paced by Marvelle Harris' 20 points, Fresno State advanced to the finals with a 71-64 victory over Old Dominion.
The Bulldogs shot 52.6 percent from the floor while holding their opponents to 38.5 percent from the floor.
This was a game of momentum shifts. Fresno State made the first surge, as the Bulldogs raced out to an early 15-8 lead and built that to 30-19 lead.
Freshman wing player Paul Watson got Fresno State off to a strong start and Old Dominion was struggling with turnovers. Watson finished with 15 points and got off to a strong start.
The Monarchs settled in, however, and made a steady charge back to close out the first half and trailed, 35-31.
The Bulldogs looked to put the game away in the second and made a quick initial burst, but Old Dominion wouldn't go away. The Monarchs began to assert their physicality and would have wrestled control of the game had Harris not been as aggressive as he was.
The sophomore guard kept finding ways to get into the lane and keep his team in the lead. He finished the game shooting 7-of-9.
Against Siena, Fresno State will have to get off to a strong start and win the first game. The Bulldogs get the first game at home, and then will have to play the next two on the road. If they don't win the first one, there isn't likely to be a need for the third game.