Monday, March 8, 2010

Saints Call on Experience to Capture Title

For a long portion of Monday's MAAC tournament men's championship game it appeared as if Fairfield's time might have arrived early.

Instead, after facing a 15-point first-half deficit, and a 13-point disadvantage three minutes into the second half, Siena rallied back, captured its third consecutive conference tournament championship and showed why, now, it is clearly a team for the ages.

The Saints held off the Stags, 72-65, needing overtime to do so, but did it in characteristic fashion, going to its experienced players for key play after key play throughout the second half and into overtime.

Senior forward Edwin Ubiles scored a game-high 27 pints, senior forward Alex Frankilin added 22 points and 12 rebounds and junior center Ryan Rossiter had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Those three scored all 12 of the Saints' overtime points.

The victory sends Siena to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year, joining only the arguably best MAAC team of all-time, former conference member La Salle (1987-88, 1988-89 and 1989-90) to do so.

The Saints also became just the third conference team to play in the post-season event's championship game in four straight seasons, joining Manhattan teams of the mid-1990's and Iona teams of the early 1980's to do that.

Siena currently has 97 victories over the past four seasons, the second-best four-year total (La Salle's teams from 1986-87 through 1989-90 had 100) in the conference's 29-year history.

Still the Saints faced a daunting situation, trailing, 45-32 with under 18 minutes left to play.

And,m then, two minutes later it cut its deficit to 45-40, had the game tied at 53-53 with 7:45 remaining and, then, had to watch a last-second shot by Stags' freshman Colin Nickerson fail to fall at the end of regulation that would have won the contest for Fairfield.

Siena scored the first two baskets of overtime and, then, Fairfield never had a possession after that in which it could have tied the game.

"The thing we had going for us, when we faced that second-half deficit, is that we have tremendous experience and still had a lot of time," said Saints' coach Fran McCaffery. "The thing we didn't do was panic.

"We wanted to disrupt them and we did. When we were making our run the crowd got involved."

Crowd involvement from a highly partisan and loud assemblege of 10,679 seemed to have an effect on the outcome.

"The energy in the building helped turn the momentum," admitted Fairfield coach Ed Cooley. "Their team feeds off that. Did we get rattled? A little."

During Siena's second-half run of 21-8 that tied the score at 53 with 7:45 remaining, Fairfield committed nine turnovers against aggressive Siena pressure defense.

"I credit their team for creating some plays and causing some turnovers," said Cooley. "During that stretch ... they've got long guys. They're not the fastest team on their feet, but their length more than makes up for (a lack of ) speed."

"I'm going to tell you, I have been doing this for a long time and I have never had a group that loves one another, is so unselfish and has the ability to compete and remain composed against anyone and to win games.

"We've won 97 games in the past four years and didn't `buy' one of them. There's some talent here, but tonight what we saw was chemistry."

"We've got three seniors here who know what it takes to win a game like this," agreed Ubiles. "We've all been through it, and we know what it takes to win a game like this."


Mulldog said...

Kudos to Fairfield for coming out loose and giving Siena a near-knockout punch. Can't say I saw it coming and all they really had to do was take care of the ball to beat Siena.

Another really bad call on giving Needham an intentional foul when he made a wise play to stop a fast-break.

Needham remains too good for this league.

Still think Siena will get a higher seed than Lunardi is guessing, though maybe with a near-loss there they will be as far back as projected. They basically had an identical season to last...and why were they seeded so highly last season? Because they won a game the year before. Yeah, the committee isn't supposed to consider that, but especially with these mid-major teams, that is always in the back of their minds. Possibly they'll look and see that they lost player of the year in Hasbrouck, but they returned everyone else and their numbers were every bit as good...personally I think the lowest they will be seeded is 12...and they might even surprise with something like a 10...but I could be wrong

Steve Amedio said...

I thought the foul call on Needham was a good one. Needham was clearly behind the play and grabbed Moore to prevent a breakaway.
Siena has an RPI around 36, meaning it will get a 12 or a 13 seed. They had a better RPI heading into selection Sunday last year, and better "losses" a year ago (Pitt/Kansas/Tenn) than this year, which helped the RPI. The best team Siena beat all year is No. 72 Northeaster. My guess is they're looking at a No. 13.

You'll definitely be wrong if you think Siena is getting a No. 10 seed.

Mulldog said...

What was their RPI last season? The only thing they did last year that was remotely better than this year was hang tough with Kansas...that and Niagara had a high RPI...but they also lost an additional MAAC game against Rider last year. I'm not an RPI guy, nor do I really try to figure out the moronic nature of the committee...Lunardi is insanely accurate so if he says 13, then I'll have to defer..I do think if he feels the committee does not take a tournament win by a mid-major the year before (and in this case two straight, with fairly competitive second round matches no less) that he is wrong. It might be against the rules, but it will be in the back of their minds. If you say I'll definitely be wrong then I guess we'll wait and see.

It's standard officiating procedure, but if you truly feel it's a good call then answer me this: Why is the foul on Needham intentional but Siena fouling Fairfield at the end of the game to use up non-bonus fouls not intentional??? That is by far more intentional and often less "for the ball" than Needham..who did nothing malicious and while he just grabbed the guy, really went for the ball no less than guys often do on standard personal fouls. He does it in the middle of the game and it's a dumb intentional foul...but Siena does it at the end of the game and it's "smart". Not fair. Show some consistency.

Steve Amedio said...

Mulldog --
The selection committee is not allowed to consider last year's results. It's purely this year only. Siena's RPI was in the 20's last year, if memory serves.
Honestly, this year's results aren't as good as last year's. The non-league competition wasn't as good, there was no "good" win (like UNI last season), and the loss to No. 135, or so, Niagara, didn't help.
Very strong guess that it's a 12/13 seed for Siena. But, that's not bad. Gives them a better chance at a 2nd-round win. No chance for a 2nd round win with a 10 seed.
As for the fouls ... Needham's foul prevented a breakaway basket ... rules clearly state that in that instance, the call is "intentional."
Otherwise, in late-game situations, the rules indicate that teams may foul at their discretion, as long as the foul isn't "flagrant" or aren't made from behind on what would have otherwise been a clear basket.
I believe there is no such thing as an "intentional" foul; instead, it's called "flagrant," the meaning being it's either overboard (just hammering an opponent), or clearly prevents, from behind, an uncontested basket.