Siena was unable to overcome a late push from Bryant, falling to the Bulldogs -- 9-8 -- on Bryant's home turf. The loss sends the Saints home before the body of The Big Barbeque comes into form. The Bulldogs -- champions of the Northeast Conference -- will head to Syracuse to face the Orange on Sunday night in the first round of the tournament.
The win for Bryant -- it's first official NCAA Tournament victory (even if it was a play-in game) -- was a hardcore brawl. No team lead by more than two goals at any point in the game, and each time a team pushed out to a two-goal lead, the opponent answered relatively quickly with a pop to cut the margin to one. In fact, no team held more than a one-goal advantage at the end of each of the game's four quarters, highlighting the tense diplomacy inherent in the contest's 60 minutes. The game-winner would come from Shane Morrell -- Bryant's leading scorer and go-to attackman -- with 5:11 remaining in regulation with an assist from J.K. Poirier. The bucket gave the Bulldogs a decisive 9-7 lead, one that Siena could not erase despite getting a late tally from Jordan Barlow on a helper from Conor Prunty after only 2:24 elapsed from Morrell's exclamation point goal.
Casey Dowd -- ranked 15th nationally in faceoff percentage -- and Kevin Massa -- the nation's leader in faceoff percentage -- smashed each other with bricks throughout the day, the brutal show ending in a 10-10 deadlock that didn't so much impact the game as it did give it color. Dowd seemed unfazed taking draws against the invitee to Team USA's first training camp this past fall, picking up wins in two important moments -- the first coming early in the second quarter where Dowd won at the whistle and the Saints scored on the ensuing possession, giving the Saints a two-goal lead after Bryant cut its deficit to one late in the first quarter; the second came in the fourth quarter when Dowd won a faceoff following the tally that pulled Siena within 6-7, the ensuing possession netting the game-tying goal just 1:03 after Prunty scored to draw the Saints within one -- that significantly buoyed Siena's hopes. Massa would take control late, though, winning the game's last four faceoffs after Siena knotted the score at seven (the Bulldogs scored directly off one of the wins -- the possession that gave Bryant its insurmountable 9-7 lead, coming just 19 seconds after Bryant broke the game's 7-7 tie) .
Gunnar Waldt, despite suffering an apparent injury in the game, played all but 31 seconds for the Bulldogs, anchoring Bryant's defense against a Siena team that wasn't afraid to cock and fire. His save against Conor Prunty with 26 seconds remaining in regulation -- coming out of a Saints timeout -- helped seal the game for the Bulldogs and set up a big opportunity against Syracuse this weekend.
TRUNCATED ADVANCED BOX SCORE
|Raw Offensive Efficiency||25.00||28.13|
|Raw Offensive Shooting Rate||18.60%||23.68%|
|Shots per Offensive Opportunity||1.34||1.19|
|Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities||34.38||50.00|
|Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Possessions||21.88||31.25|
|Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities||34.38||43.75|
|Team Save Percentage||55.00%||63.64%|