Siena takes Game 1 from Fresno St in CBI final

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) Lavon Long scored 13 points and Siena rallied from 12 points down in the second half to beat Fresno State 61-57 in the Game 1 of the College Basketball Invitational final series Monday.

Siena did not allow a field goal over the final 6:59, using a stifling press to shut down the Bulldogs. On Fresno State’s final possession, with the score tied, Marvelle Harris was called for charging as he drove the basket.

Rob Poole made two free throws with 2 seconds left to seal it for the Saints.

”We were lucky they kept missing shots,” Saints coach Jimmy Patsos said. ”When you’re in trouble, you can always press. Sometimes pressing makes you forget all the pressure of being on national television and stuff.”

The best-of-three series moves to upstate New York, where Siena will host Fresno State in Game 2 on Wednesday.

The Saints (19-17) will also host Game 3, if necessary, Saturday. In the tournament’s previous six championship series, the winner of the opening game went on to win the title.

Cezar Guerrero led Fresno State (20-17) with 15 points and Alex Davis had 12.

The Saints took their first lead of the second half on freshman Marquis Wright’s jump shot to make it 50-49 with 7:27 left.

Guerrero gave the Bulldogs back the lead with a deep 3-pointer at the 6:59 – and that was Fresno State’s last field goal for the game.

”It was tough to find the legs,” said Siena’s Ryan Oliver, who had 10 points and six rebounds off the bench. ”We had to find a way. We wanted to get the win in a tough environment.”

Siena forced the Bulldogs into 16 turnovers – their third-most this season – and cleaned up on the boards.

”You cannot give up 17 offensive rebounds,” Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry said. ”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.”

Long made consecutive layups on hard drives inside, as well as two free throws, to give Siena a 56-53 lead before he fouled out with 5:25 left.

For all its defensive dominance, Siena could not pull away, though, missing its final five field goal attempts but holding on at the foul line.

Marquis Wright made a free throw with 29 seconds left – Siena’s first points since the 5:25 mark – for a 59-57 lead.

Poole finished with 12 points.

”We got a little lucky,” Patsos said.