Narrowly edged by Bonaventure & UB: Baron and company plan for weekend of MAAC play

By Aaron Rispoli

Assistant Sports Editor

The masses remained seated in their favorite recliner, sufficiently stuffed from a day of eating, watching a grand display of basketball by Monmouth Hawks.

On Thanksgiving day in a tournament that Iona was originally supposed to be in, the Hawks were tied with the 17th ranked Notre Dame at 68 points. Monmouth’s Justin Robinson, the 5’8” guard from Kingston, New York drew a foul going to the basket. With 20 points in the game already, Robinson made both his free-throws to put the Hawks ahead 70-68 with 3.6 seconds left.

Prayers from the Hawk faithful, a missed half-court shot from Notre Dame and then a bench celebration by Monmouth would make up the conclusion of the game. Coach King Rice of the Hawks commented on the Notre Dame game saying:

“You’re supposed to be the sacrificial lamb because it’s all high-major schools. We were fortunate enough… I watched it again last night, the Notre Dame game was a very, very good game. That kind of topped the UCLA game for us because Notre Dame was ranked.”

The Hawks, who eliminated the Griffs in last year’s MAAC tournament, are off to a 4-2 start with significant wins against the aforementioned Notre Dame, UCLA and USC. They will come into Buffalo to face the Griffs (2-3) this Friday evening at the Koessler Athletic Center.

Last week, Canisius lost a hard-fought rivalry game versus St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies were led by senior Marcus Posley who scored a game high 35 points in the 77-73 victory. The defense continued to disappoint Coach Jim Baron, allowing the Bonnies to shoot 52.2 percent from the field, at one point leading by double digits.

“We have to stress defense, we have to stress rebounding, we have to stress good basketball”, Coach Jim Baron said.

Senior guard Malcolm McMillan scored 22 points in the losing effort, with help from Kassius Robertson who accumulated 13 points and a team leading ten rebounds by senior Jamal Reynolds.

“Jamal Reynolds is one of the best offensive rebounders I’ve ever had. He understands how important offensive rebounding is,” Coach Baron commented to Ben Wagner on the Jim Baron show.

The offensive prowess of these Griffs are not the concern. “We know we can shoot the ball, but we have to do a better job of defending,” Coach Baron said on the 98-96 overtime loss versus the University at Buffalo.

Buffalo had six players score in double figures, shooting 48.6 percent from the field, 43.8 percent from the perimeter and 69.7 percent from the free-throw line while scoring 16 more points than Canisius in the paint and holding a 26-19 margin in points scored off turnovers.

The action-packed overtime period had three lead changes in five minutes. With 2:08 seconds left, the Bulls led Canisius 84-78. Jamal Reynolds closed the gap within two following his back to back buckets. The ebullient Reynolds followed that up with a steal to set-up Robertson’s shot from downtown to give Canisius an 85-84 lead with 52 seconds remaining. UB’s Nick Perkins, freshman, attempted a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but was subsequently denied by Jermaine Crumpton, who grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Crumpton, who missed three games at the start of the season for violating team policy, hit both his free-throws to give Canisius an 87-84 lead with 20 seconds left in the contest. Buffalo forced another overtime; just the second overtime game between the two in all their 48 meetings.

A made 3-point shot by Senior Jarryn Skeete solidified the Bulls victory, making them 4-2 on the season while handing the Griffs their second loss in a row. Now, the Griffs will look to move past a heartbreaker in order to focus on this weekend’s action.

Canisius will face a Monmouth Hawks team led by Justin Robinson and a Quinnipiac team who, Coach Baron warns not to underestimate despite their 2-3 record heading into their Thursday contest against Niagara.

“Quinnipiac is one of the best rebounding teams in the country. We really have to get ourselves ready.”

The challenge of facing two teams back to back cannot be understated. This early in the season, with members of the Griffs already playing thirty or more minutes every game, the bench becomes essential to Coach Baron’s game plan.

“We have to get our bench ready. We have to get guys ready so they can come into the game, give some guys breathers but without losing anything on the court.”

Players like Isaiah Gurley and Chris Atkinson, both freshman, have some production early in the season. Most notably in the 87-62 against Cornell where Atkinson scored ten points and three assists in 17 minutes of play.

“You can’t scout against aggressive play. Against a guy that can maneuver and go. It’s really phenomenal to watch because the game gets changed. It’s very, very difficult to guard a player like Christ Atkinson,” Coach Baron said on the Jim Baron show.
Canisius will look to continue said aggressive play; their infamous “Junkyard dog” mentality, versus the Monmouth Hawks and the onslaught of their “Monmouth Bench”.

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