Siena edges Fairfield 68-67
BRIDGEPORT -- For Siena, it was a fantastic finish. For Fairfield, it was a fantastic flop.
The Stags not only lost a 12-point second-half lead but lost two other potential chances to win in the final minute as the Saints rallied and stole away a 68-67 decision before 2,861 Friday night at the Webster Bank Arena.
It was the second straight last minute loss for Fairfield (4-9, 2-1 MAAC), which lost by two in overtime to Loyola (Md.) last Sunday.
"The one thing about my team is they always battle," said Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos. "It's not always perfect with us but there's always effort."
And down the stretch, it was the effort on the part of the Saints that turned defeat into victory, especially from Rob Poole, who scored 12 of Siena's 17 points in a seven-minute span that pulled the visitors to within 62-61 with 5:55 to play. Then, when Evan Hymes knocked down two free throws a minute later, Siena had its first lead (63-62) since it was 9-8.
"I love sports so I was telling them about Ohio State (football) last night," Patsos said. "They were down, they didn't quit, they came back and they learned from it. So did we. We're far from perfect but we're getting there."
Fairfield, meanwhile, is still trying to learn how to close out games. With 1:28 to play, Marcus Gilbert had his shot blocked by Javion Ogunyemi (15 points), keeping Siena in front 67-66. Then, with 39 seconds left, Lavon Long (12 points) -- who missed the last three games with an ankle sprain -- missed a layup and Fairfield's Amadou Sidibe got the rebound, but fell to the floor and was whistled for traveling. Finally, down 68-66 with 5.6 seconds to play, Marcus Gilbert missed the first of two free throws, leaving the Stags down one.
"We've had some struggles scoring," said Marcus Gilbert, who scored 17 points to lead Fairfield. "They got a couple of loose ball plays that went their way, a couple of offensive rebounds ... it came down to one play. It's that one play. We've just got to find a way to get that one key play to come to our side."
Siena (5-7, 2-1 MAAC) broke out of the gates early, leading 9-4 before the Stags used a 21-4 run to open a 25-13 lead, thanks to nine points from freshman guard Jerome Segura. The Saints managed to cut the lead to 34-32 at halftime but the Stags put together a 12-2 burst to open the second half to take a 46-34 lead with 16:34 left before Siena started its comeback.
"We just didn't make enough plays," Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson said. "We got into some foul trouble. We had to take Marcus out, we had to take K.J. (Rose) out. It kind of broke our rhythm. I thought Jerome (Segura) and Steven (Johnston) were great off the bench but we need K.J. and Marcus out there for most of the game. When you look at the last couple of games, teams are making their runs when some of our core guys are out."
Fairfield had one final chance with 3.7 seconds left after Marquis Wright (9 points) missed both free throws but Segura got bottled up in the backcourt and never got a pass or a shot off as the buzzer sounded.
"We're still learning to win," Johnson said. "Last year, they were kind of clueless. They didn't know what it took to win. Now, they understand that it's a rebound here, a missed free throw there and we can fix it."
Poole led Siena with 18. Johnston added 11 for Fairfield.