The Fresno State Bulldogs find themselves in need of back-to-back road wins in order to win the 2014 College Basketball Invitational this spring after squandering a 12-point second-half lead in Game 1 of the championship series vs. Siena.
News10 ABC sports anchor Liana Bonavita breaks it down:
The best-of-three series will conclude at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y. However, it remains to be seen when the series will wrap up. A Saints win on their home floor in Game 2 on Wednesday would secure the crown for Siena. But a Bulldogs victory on the road would force a deciding Game 3 on Saturday.
With the CBI championship set to continue on Wednesday, here we'll get you set for all the action with an updated tournament schedule and predictions.
|2014 CBI Championship Schedule (Siena leads 1-0)|
|Mon, March 31||Game 1: Siena 61, Fresno State 57||10 p.m.||CBSSN|
|Wed, April 2||Game 2: Fresno State at Siena (-1)||7 p.m.||CBSSN|
|Sat, April 5||Game 3: Fresno State at Siena*||11:30 a.m.||CBSSN|
|*if necessary. Schedule info via GazelleGroup.com, Spread info via Covers.com.|
What to Watch For
Although Fresno State looked to be in control of Game 1 after taking a 40-28 lead in the second half, Siena's strength on the glass ultimately turned the tide and powered the Saints to a massive road win.
Despite shooting just 33.3 percent from the field as a team, compared to 47.8 percent for Fresno State, Siena was able to squeak out a four-point win thanks to its rebounding advantage, 39-29, and defensive pressure, which led to 16 turnovers. What's more, 17 of those 39 rebounds came on the offensive end, where the Saints earned an abundance of second-chance scoring opportunities.
Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry voiced his frustration after the game, per the Associated Press via ESPN.com:
You cannot give up 17 offensive rebounds. That's the difference in the game. There were times in the huddle I said, 'They want to right now more than we do.' That hurts me as a coach to say that.
Siena 6-foot freshman guard Marquis Wright finished with a game-high seven rebounds, five coming on the offensive end.
But Siena's dominance on the interior was no fluke. The Saints rank 38th nationally in rebounding and typically rebound by committee with five players averaging four or more boards per game. The Saints also boast one of the country's best offensive-rebound percentages, claiming 38.6 percent compared to 26.4 for the Bulldogs. Therefore, you can expect Siena to continue crashing the glass in Game 2.
Defensively, the Saints' full-court pressure, which gave the Bulldogs all sorts of problems in Game 1, is sure to be even more dangerous on their home floor, where the crowd will help fuel them on that end of the court.
After Game 1, Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos talked about the importance of the press for a team psychologically, per the Associated Press via ESPN.com:
We were lucky they kept missing shots. When you're in trouble, you can always press. Sometimes pressing makes you forget all the pressure of being on national television and stuff.
Unless the Bulldogs make a concerted effort to battle harder on the glass and can find a way to handle the Saints' full-court pressure, they'll have a tough time extending their season, let alone winning the CBI title.
Fresno State will also need better performances from Tyler Johnson and Marvelle Harris, who combined for six turnovers and fell short of their season averages in points and rebounds in the Game 1 loss.
While it's difficult to imagine Siena being able to hold Fresno State without a field goal for the final seven minutes of Game 2 like they did in Game 1, it's also unlikely that Siena will fall behind by a dozen points on its home floor.
Siena is 13-4 at home this season and has won five in a row at the Times Union Center. On the other hand, the Bulldogs are 6-9 on the road this year. Although they've been much improved outside of Fresno since the start of February, the Bulldogs will be playing 3,000 miles from home against an unfamiliar opponent as opposed to a local conference foe.
Not to mention Siena will be full of confidence having already come from behind to beat Fresno State in a tough environment on Monday. Therefore, if the Saints can grab the lead early and get the crowd behind them, there may be no coming back for Fresno State.
With only one home game in this series, Game 1 was absolutely critical to the Bulldogs' chances. On top of the gut-wrenching defeat, the way Fresno State lost is telling and suggests that this will be a short series.
If Siena can continue to do what it does best, rebound and apply pressure defensively, the Saints appear to be a lock to win at least one game on their home court.
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