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2014 CBI Championship: Saints Execute to Perfection in Downing Fresno State

Siena used a perfect first half to build a lead that Fresno State's cold shooting just couldn't overcome. And this championship is going to go a long way to building up this team next season.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If the goal of postseason tournaments not named the NCAA Tournament or NIT is to give teams the preparation they need for the next season, then Siena has achieved its goal.

From just eight wins one season ago, the Saints have gone to 20 wins and are now the CBI champions after an 81-68 win over Fresno State in Game 3 of the Championship Series.

Credit Jimmy Patsos for having his team ready to play. Going with a lineup designed to score and terrorize the Bulldogs inside, the Saints executed their gameplan to perfection. Patsos didn't want a repeat of Game 2 when Fresno State stormed out of the gates and left Siena in its dust.

Instead the Bulldogs couldn't find a shot that would fall for them over the course of the first half, shooting under 20 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. Then the Saints cleaned the glass, limiting Fresno State to single-shot trips on many of their early possessions.

This was a Siena team that didn't have the size advantage, and doesn't normally do a great job of grabbing rebounds, especially on the defensive end. But things were different Saturday.

Almost everything seemed different for this young Siena team. They had the offense going, working for the open shot instead of trying to force things to happen. About the only thing that seemed the same was their penchant for fouling but even that didn't come back to haunt them.

No, a 17-point lead at halftime was all this team needed to prove itself especially with the execution over that 20 minutes, when Fresno State went more than 10 minutes without scoring a field goal.

That eight win season is a distant memory now for this young team, one that will return every quality minute that they had this season. They will have an impressive front line that includes Brett Bisping, who was named tournament most outstanding player, and Lavon Long. They will have their freshman point guard Marquis Wright too.

And over the course of six games, this team has matured into something that should be in strong contention in the MAAC for the next several years. This was a Saints squad that looked totally different at the end of the season than it did when it tipped off in November.

They played with more confidence. They played with more drive, and they looked like a team that should be winning tournaments instead of losing 20 games. Bisping gave a lot of credit for the turnaround to Patsos, but this is more than that. This is a group of young players that were learning to play tough basketball and eventually overcame those young player mistakes.

They will get better at shooting. They will get better at not fouling and putting themselves into holes. They will win again next season, if only because of how this CBI went for them.

Teams will credit these tournaments with their improvement the next year, and it is the easy theme for writers and television analysts to cling to.

But in the case of these Saints, there can be no other conclusion for next season. This team needed six more games this year, and they made the most of every minute of them on its way to the championship.