ALBANY — Siena became stagnant in the second half and came up by the shortest of margins in their final regular season home game at the Times Union Center on Wednesday, dropping their tilt to Fairfield 70-69.
Siena’s defense showed Fairfield one of the best halves they have played all season in the first 20 minutes, shooting 55 percent and holding Fairfield to 35 percent, including 3-12 from behind the three-point line. They held Tyler Nelson, who came into the game averaging 21.9 points per game, to just seven in the first, shooting 2-10 and 1-6 from three. However, the lone three came as a big one as it ended an 11-2 Siena run where they had extended their lead to 26-20. Nelson’s score cut the lead in half.
“If you don’t know who Tyler Nelson is, I mean, he’s on people’s (NBA) draft boards. He’s a top-10 scorer in the country, and we lost him at the end of half,” Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos said.
On the other side of the ball, Prince Oduro had a very strong showing, scoring 12 points in the first half and shot 6-7.
After all of this, Siena owned a 36-30 lead at intermission.
In the second half, everything changed for the Saints. Fairfield scored the first six points to knot the game up at 36. After this, Siena was never able to shake the Stags from that point on despite it being close the entire way. The second half featured six ties and five lead changes, but neither team was able to gain a considerable advantage until Fairfield finally shut down Siena’s offense in the final six minutes of the game.
“I think we got way more stagnant on offense,” Siena forward Evan Fisher said of the second half. He finished with seven points on the night.
Oduro was slowed down in the second half as well, held to two points in the final 20 minutes, for a total of 14 on the night.
“They were definitely trying to front me more and stuff like that, so I was trying to pass the ball out more. They were just playing a little harder on me,” Oduro said of the difference from the first to the second half.
Another Siena issue was their free shooting all night, shooting 10-22 from the line, 45 percent. Oduro went 0-6 from the line and Fisher 0-3.
“There’s nothing more glaring than shooting 45 percent from the free throw line in a one-point game,” Patsos said.
Kadeem Smithen ended up leading the Saints on offense with 16 points while Nelson rebounded nicely after a slow start, leading Fairfield with 18 points, and was one of four Stags in double figures.
Fairfield improves to 8-9 in the MAAC and 13-15 overall. They close out regular season play on Saturday against Monmouth at home. That game is set for a 1 p.m. tip.
Siena falls to 4-13 in the conference, 8-22 overall. They finish up regular season play on Sunday, taking on Saint Peter’s on the road. That game will begin at 2 p.m.