Siena outlasts Fresno State to win CBI title

Siena's Brett Bisping (31) earned tournament MVP, finishing Saturday's game with 20 points and nine rebounds.

Mike Groll/AP

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — Tournament MVP Brett Bisping had 20 points and nine rebounds, and Siena cruised past Fresno State 81-68 in the decisive Game 3 of the College Basketball Invitational championship series Saturday.

Rob Poole added 23 points. Siena (20-18) capped its longest season, which began Nov. 8, with its first national postseason title since jumping to Division I in 1976.

"Practices weren’t fun, fights, black eyes, getting hurt all the time," Poole said. "But that’s the hard work you need to do to win a championship."

Picked 10th of 11 in the preseason Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference coaches’ poll, Siena got a rowdy crowd of 2,788 fired up early and never trailed. Siena’s student section was lured by the promise of free bacon before the brunch-time tip.

Fresno State hit just three of its first 17 shots and went more than nine minutes without a field goal in the first half. Tyler Johnson had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs (21-18), who were 4 of 22 from the field in the first half and trailed 39-22 at the break.

Siena built a 22-point lead five minutes into the second half.

Fresno State got 17 points from Cezar Guerrero but shot a season-low 30 percent and was outrebounded 46-34.

"Their physicality to start the game was at another level," Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry said. "At the end of the day, it’s going to be whose will is going to win out. They outcompeted us, especially to start the ballgame."

With Siena’s regular downtown arena already booked, the CBI marked Siena’s first games in its cozy campus gym since the 1996-97 season. That didn’t mean much in Game 2, when Fresno State shot 64 percent from floor and breezed to an 89-75 win.

Siena could have ended at 15-17 after it lost in the MAAC tourney. But the Saints rattled off victories against Stony Brook, Penn State and Illinois State to set up the title series with Fresno State and finished the season winning nine of 11.

Quoting Gandhi and the Grateful Dead during a typically rambling postgame news conference, first-year Siena coach Jimmy Patsos said his team has had a chip on its shoulder since the preseason poll.

"Everyone did laugh at us," Patsos said. "I know people laughed when I took the job."