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The MAAC Semifinals (03/09)

March 9, 2008
The MAAC Semifinals
Siena 65, Loyola 63

by Caleb Peiffer

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Matchup: #4 Seed Loyola MD (19-13, 12-6 Metro Atlantic) at #1 Siena (20-10, 13-5), 6:00 p.m. EST, MSG Network
Rankings: Loyola MD, #174 in Pomeroy Ratings (5th of 10 in MAAC); Siena, #119 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: Siena, 79-69 in 69 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 17%
Result: Siena, 65-63 in 64 Possessions

ALBANY, N.Y.--Down by 10 points at halftime against a team that had already beaten the Saints twice during the regular season, Siena coach Fran McCaffery sought out his best player, junior guard Kenny Hasbrouck, and told him that the ball would be in his hands during the final 20 minutes.

Hasbrouck, who had scored zero points on 0-of-3 shooting in the first half, responded with a 17 point effort on 61 eFG% shooting in the latter period, and came up with the assist on the go-ahead basket with 20 seconds left which gave the Saints a 65-63 victory over Loyola in the MAAC tournament semifinals. The top seed Siena now advances to play in the championship game tomorrow night.

Siena trailed throughout all of the second half up until the final minutes, and found itself down 63-57 with 3:43 left in the game after Greyhounds forward Michael Tuck scored on a put-back. The Saints scored the game's final eight points, however, to complete their comeback from a 17-point first-half deficit.

Forward Edwin Ubiles started the run with a layup on a nice feed from the top of the key by point guard Ronald Moore. Kenny Hasbrouck made the score 63-61 with a bank shot, and on the next Siena possession Alex Franklin tipped in a miss by Hasbrouck to tie the score with 1:13 to play.

After Greyhounds senior guard Gerald Brown missed a good look on a three-pointer from the corner, Siena ground the clock down and got it into the hands of Hasbrouck, who drove into the lane and drew a bevy of Greyhounds defenders. Hasbrouck recognized the impasse and dished the ball to Duell under the basket, who pump-faked to get forward Omari Isreal into the air before putting up the shot, which rolled into the basket as Duell crashed to the floor with 20 seconds to play. Duell's only basket of the game gave Siena its first lead since early in the first half.

Duell missed the free throw, however, and with 12 seconds left Loyola called timeout to set up a play. The ball was inbounded to junior guard Marquis Sullivan in the corner, who, perhaps not realizing how much time was left, or hoping to draw a foul, fired up a wild three-point attempt in the face of pressure.

The miss was taken down by forward Alex Franklin, who was immediately fouled, but missed both of his free throw attempts to keep the Greyhounds alive. Without any timeouts left and just seven seconds remaining, guard Brian Rudolph raced up the court and got into the lane, where he hoisted up a shot. Franklin redeemed himself by rejecting Rudolph's bid to tie the score out of bounds with under two seconds left. Loyola threw the ball into the paint, but could not get anything more than a desperation tip attempt by Isreal before the buzzer sounded.

"I missed those two big free throws, and I knew that I had to make it up somewhere, so I just hustled back," Franklin said.

Siena spurred its second-half comeback with strong defense, as the Greyhounds, after scoring 1.15 points per possession in the first half, were held to just 0.81 in the second on 40 eFG% shooting. The Saints, who are 31st in the nation in opponent turnover percentage, forced nine Greyhounds turnovers in the second half in 31 possessions, including two critical ones on back-to-back Loyola possessions with under three minutes to play.

"This was clearly in my opinion our best defensive effort of the year. I couldn't be more proud of our effort," McCaffery said. "I don't think we had a particularly good second half offensively, but we continued to put pressure on the basketball defensively."

Even with the team's staunch second half defense, Siena could not have won the game without the offensive performance of Hasbrouck. He opened the second half with a three-pointer, his first points of the game, and went on from there to hit a number of shots at critical junctures, including two more threes.

"Coming out of the locker room I told my staff, I said 'If we don't get Kenny going we can't win this game,'" McCaffery said. "I just told [Hasbrouck] we're going to go to him [in the second half], and he expected it, and he was ready for the challenge."

The Greyhounds built up a sizeable lead in the first half thanks to the play of forwards Isreal and Michael Tuck, who combined for 21 points in the opening period on 69 eFG% shooting. Isreal in particular could not be stopped down low, as he added 10 boards, and finished with 18 rebounds on the game. Loyola also hit five three-pointers in the first half, including one by Brian Rudolph that made the score 38-21 with 3:39 to play. Siena scored the last seven points of the half after that, which made the deficit manageable.

Franklin quietly led the Saints with 22 points on 62 eFG% shooting and 12 rebounds, as he scored 16 points in the first half to keep Siena from getting blown out. Marquis Sullivan came off the bench to lead the Greyhounds with 14 points on 4-of-7 from three-point range.

The win snapped a four game losing streak for Siena against Loyola, as the Saints lost both games against the Greyhounds in the regular season this year and both last year. Siena, the number one seed, will play tomorrow night against either Marist or Rider in the MAAC tournament championship to determine the conference's representative in the NCAA Tournament.

Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Basketball Prospectus. He can be reached here.

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The MAAC Semifinals (03/09)

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