A Saint's Welcome: Siena Advances to NCAA Tournament
Albany, NY - Given the tight nature of the MAAC title race throughout the regular season, one that saw six teams finish within two games of first place, it would have been natural to expect a close final between co-champs Rider and Siena. However, the Saints' lone senior and birthday boy Tay Fisher made sure there would be no such drama. Taking all ten shots from behind the arc and making six, Fisher scored twenty-one points and helped lead Siena (22-10) to a 74-53 win in tonight's MAAC Tournament title game. Kenny Hasbrouck, named tournament MVP for his work over the weekend, finished with seventeen points and Edwin Ubiles scored fifteen.
Jason Thompson attempted to put Rider (23-10) on his back, but his 22 and 12 effort went for naught as the Saint pressure took control from about five minutes left in the first half on. "I thought they were disruptive with it (the trapping), but their offense was the difference," said Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey, and he had a point there as well. Siena shot 51.9% from the field for the game and knocked down nine three pointers. The Saints also forced sixteen Rider turnovers, scoring twenty-one points off of those Bronc miscues. But the true story on this night was the lone player to stick around after Fran McCaffrey took over for the recently removed Rob Lanier.
"He believed. He stayed (when everyone else left). Hasbrouck knew me for two weeks. I told him if he came, we'd do something special," said McCaffrey.
On Fisher's exploits tonight, Rider head coach stated that he "thought he broke open a competitive game late in the first half" with twelve points that helped move the Siena lead from 23-22 to 37-26 with 3:31 remaining in the half. From there the Saints rode a strong defensive effort to a 41-30 lead at the half. Siena also outscored Rider 17-4 in bench points, a stat that underlined both Fisher's shooting and the fact that the Broncs were without Ryan Thompson and had a hobbled Justin Robinson. On this night, however, it wouldn't have mattered who was on the floor. This was Tay's night.
So while Siena moves on to the NCAA Tournament, Rider is hopeful of receiving an NIT bid. And to be frank, they should.
"I hope it's not over. I think this team gets an NIT bid," said Coach Dempsey, and with a first-round draft pick and a school-record twenty-three wins as part of their resume there's no reason why the NIT wouldn't take the Broncs. There's also the newly-formed CBI, but no disrespect to the Gazelle Group I don't see a team turning down the NIT for the CBI. "I just told Tommy 'you're getting a bid'. They're a program that clearly deserves a postseason bid," said McCaffrey after the game.
Thus ends an exciting season of MAAC basketball. Expecting the birthday boy to blow out the candles? Sure. But a blowout in the title game? I don't think even the most optimistic of Saints supporters expected that.
Possible seed for Siena: 14 or 15.