Friday, April 4, 2014

Siena Gets One Last Chance For Home Court Magic

Home court advantage? What home court advantage?

Siena failed to take advantage of its blast-from-the-past return to its on-campus Alumni Recreation Center gymnasium, dropping Game 2 of its CBI Championship Round series with Fresno State by a very decisive 89-75 margin that wasn't even as close at the final score indicated.

The Bulldogs had built up a 22-point lead just prior to the halftime break, and were never truly threatened in the second half despite playing before a loud, enthusiastic Siena-supportive crowd of 3,177 although that wasn't quite a sell-out (crowd limit was 3,500).

The Saints get another chance to wake the echoes of the type of success they regularly displayed in their on-campus gym from the days of former coaches John Griffin and Mike Deane.

Those were the good old days, before the program moved its entire slate of home games to the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., after playing its last home game at the ARC on Feb. 18, 1997.

But, home court edge?

Despite having only been inside the Loudonville facility for a two-hour workout the day prior to Wednesday's Game 2 of the best-of-three series, the Bulldogs took to it like they had been there forever.

Fresno State shot 76.2 percent in the first half, 63.9 percent over the entire game and made 53.3 percent of its three-point shots.

It looked like it had a talent advantage at every position in earning a split of the first two games and setting up the final game to determine the event's champion Saturday at 11:30 a.m. (thanks to TV scheduling), again at the ARC.

Siena won the first game at Fresno State, 61-57, but the Bulldogs looked like the better team for much of that game, too, particularly while building a 12-point advantage early in the second half.

A surprise full-court pressure defense applied by Siena seemed to ambush Fresno State and allowed the Saints to get out of California with a surprising victory in the opener.

Forewarned with the knowledge that Siena would once again employ the pressure again on Wednesday, the Bulldogs seemed considerably more prepared for it and rarely made a mistake against it until the game was well in hand.

Siena is chasing its first national tournament championship in its Division I era, and since the school's 1949-50 team won the National Catholic Invitational Tournament.

No matter the outcome, it has still been a highly successful and unexpected season for Siena. Its 11-game improvement thus far (a 19-18 record thus far after eight victories the previous season) is the sixth-best improvement nationally over the 2012-13 season.

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