NCAA-bound Siena tops Fairfield 72-65 in OT
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)—Not even a daunting halftime deficit could derail Siena.
Edwin Ubiles scored 27 points and Alex Franklin added 22 points and 12 rebounds as the Saints rallied from as many as 15 down and beat Fairfield 72-65 in overtime Monday night to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament for the third straight season.
“It shows our resiliency,” Siena coach Fran McCaffery said. “We know how to win. They had us back on our heels. Luckily, we had enough time.”
There’s a reason the MAAC is moving the tournament out of Albany for at least the next four years. Siena (27-6) has won 38 straight home games, the second-longest such streak in the nation behind top-ranked Kansas, which has won 59 in a row at home.
The second-seeded Stags (22-10) put up a game fight before losing to the Saints for the third time this season.
“We never gave up. We played our tail off. We gave them the game,” said Mike Evanovich, who had seven points off the bench for the Stags. “They did well, they made the plays they needed to, but we should’ve kept control.”
Franklin’s runner in the lane snapped a 60-all tie just 16 seconds into the extra period and the Saints never trailed again in winning the MAAC tournament for the fifth time. Ryan Rossiter’s tip follow and Franklin’s layin boosted the lead to 68-64 with 1:50 left.
Freshman guard Derek Needham, who had 16 points to lead the Stags, missed twice in the final minute and Ubiles sank four free throws to secure the victory.
“There was no point in the game where I thought it was getting away from us,” said Franklin, one of three senior starters.
“We know what it takes to win a game like this,” Ubiles added. “We’ve all been through it.”
Siena, which trailed by double digits over the final 8:46 of the first half, finally moved within 45-36 on a slam dunk by Franklin off a feed from Ubiles. Ronald Moore, who had just committed a turnover when one of his passes sailed out of bounds, stole the ball back right away to set up the basket.
It was Franklin’s third basket in the first 3:10 of play of the second half, and he wasn’t finished. Rossiter’s steal set up Franklin’s layup off the glass, and Rossiter followed with a jumper from the top of the key to complete a 10-2 run that moved the Saints within 45-40 with 15:49 remaining and energized the partisan home crowd.
“If you were in the huddle at the start of the second half, you could see we weren’t panicking,” McCaffery said. “We knew how to get back in it. Once we got to 45-40 and the roof came off the building, we knew.”
Fairfield coach Ed Cooley said his team never lost confidence.
“I thought the energy in the building changed the pace of the game in that 3-minute span when we turned the ball over,” Cooley said. “I think it was three or four straight possessions. When you get those type of plays, the team feeds off of that. But not at any point did I think we were going to lose that game. Not one.”
The Saints, 5-3 in MAAC title games, trailed at the half in their victories over Manhattan and Rider in the previous two rounds and improved to 6-1 against Fairfield in the MAAC tournament.
Moore had nine points and six assists for the Saints to increase his career assists total to 818, the most in MAAC history and five more than Jared Jordan.
“It never gets old,” Moore said.
Anthony Johnson, MAAC defensive player of the year, had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Stags.
Siena, which trailed for more than 20 minutes, took a 60-58 lead on Moore’s 3-pointer from the left side with 2:05 remaining in regulation.
Colin Nickerson tied it with 54 seconds left on a layup off a 3-on-1 break and the Saints forced the overtime by committing three fouls in the final seconds and surviving a missed 3 from the left corner at the buzzer by Nickerson.
Siena managed to turn the game around after its terrible start by utilizing the press as the first half began to wind down and working that much harder after the break.
“We felt we had to get them out of their rhythm,” McCaffery said. “But in order to press you’ve got to make some baskets.”
Siena pulled within a basket after Needham was stuffed on a drive in the lane and intentionally fouled Moore as Moore tried to streak back the other way with the ball. Moore sank both free throws to cut the lead to 49-47 at 12:27, but Ubiles missed a spinning jumper from 12 feet on the ensuing possession.
The Stags gained a 53-47 edge on Evanovich’s follow of a missed 3 by Needham, but they committed turnovers on consecutive possessions and the Saints came back to tie it on three straight baskets by Ubiles. His layup at 7:45 rolled around the rim and in to make it 53-all.
Sean Crawford’s 3-pointer from the right wing, just his second basket of the game, put the Stags up 58-55 with 3:28 left before Franklin’s layup moved Siena within a point.
“Heart. All heart,” said Rossiter, who finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, his 21st double-double of the season. “Never gave up on ourselves. All heart.”
Siena, which trailed at the half in each of its first two games of the tournament, never moved closer than 10 points before the break and left the court trailing 39-28, its largest halftime deficit of the season.