Griffs’ basketball has busy week: Men’s basketball plays three games in six days

By Marshall Haim

Sports Reporter

The Griffs Men’s Basketball team opened up Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference  play at the Koessler Athletic Center last weekend with the Griffs welcoming the Monmouth Hawks and Quinnipiac Bobcats for their annual visit. The games were played on back-to-back nights for Canisius, which is a rare occurrence. It was the first time in the team’s history that they had to play back-to-back conference games. The Griffs won the first game versus Monmouth, 96-86, but lost the latter game to Quinnipiac, 78-76.

Not only was it the first time in the storied history for the men’s basketball team to play conference games on back-to-back nights, it was the first time since the 1976-77 season that Canisius had to play two regular season games, in as many days. The last time it happened, Canisius lost both games, all on the road, to New Hampshire (89-77) and Holy Cross (113-64).

Going into the game against Monmouth, Canisius was considered the underdog due to the Hawks’ wins over big named schools: Notre Dame, USC, and UCLA. Canisius was able to use their fast-paced tempo to score the game’s first eight points and keep Monmouth on their toes. Despite the Hawks’ ability to come back and take their largest and only lead with 13:49 left in the first half (6), the Griffs trailed or were tied with Monmouth for only 2:58 of the game’s 40 minutes.

The scoring effort from the Griffs did not come from one individual in the win to Monmouth. Canisius had seven players score at least 10 points. Fifth-year senior guard, Malcom McMillan, led the Griffins scoring a team-high 22 points. This marked the fifth time this season that McMillan led the Griffs in points. Along with the team high in points, McMillan tied a career-high in rebounds for the tenth time, with seven.

Other notable Griffs in the scoring category were forward Phil Valenti, who was the second highest scorer for Cansius with 14 points. Freshman guard Chris Atkinson netted 12 points (all from three-point range), forward Kevin Bleeker and guard Kassius Robertson both scored 11 points.

Canisius also tied a Koessler Athletic Center record in the win against Monmouth as the Griffs made 16 three-pointers. That number matched the three-point effort the Griffs had when they hosted other MAAC member, Siena, on Jan. 10, 2001, in a 95-77 win over the Saints. Canisius was one trey shy of tying the school record that was set on Dec. 9, 2012 at Marist, when the Griffs defeated the Red Foxes, 94-82.

A little under 22 hours after the huge win against Monmouth to open MAAC play, Quinnipiac took the court to face the Griffs. Quinnipiac was coming off of a tough 76-72 loss in a road contest against Niagara. The 72-point effort by the Bobcats was the highest scoring effort for Quinnipiac so far on the season. The one factor that would haunt the Griffs was Quinnipiac’s ability to haul in the rebounds on both sides of the ball.

“We had opportunities. We had shot after shot. Last night [against Monmouth] they went in. Tonight they didn’t,” head coach Jim Baron said after the win. “That’s what happens in this game. You got to step up and you got to make shots.”

When looking at the statistics, Quinnipiac outshot the Griffs by an eight-percent difference (48 percent to 40 percent). Another key point to the Bobcats’ success in the win over the Griffs was that their bench outscored Canisius by a margin of 29-8. Another statistic that leaps out is that Quinnipiac outrebounded the Griffs, 45-33.

The Griffs were led by Valenti, who led the Griffs in scoring for the first time this season and for the 7th time in his career, with a career-high 25 points. Valenti’s point effort broke his 24-point scoring game last season vs. Vermont on November 15. While scoring 25 points, Valenti was one rebound shy of notching his third career double-double.

On top of Valenti’s career-high day, Jamal Reynolds notched his second double-double of the season and sixth of his career, with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Six of Reynolds’ 10 rebounds came on the offensive glass, as he ranks second in the NCAA with 5.14 offensive rebounds per game (through Wednesday’s games). Chris Horton of Austin Peay is the lone player higher than Reynolds with an average of 5.56. Despite being second in offensive rebounds in the NCAA, Reynolds is not ranked in the top 50 in total rebounds per game.

“The numbers don’t matter. The stats, I don’t care about. Coach Baron told us at halftime that we weren’t getting a lot of second shots,” Reynolds said after the loss to Quinnipiac. “I made sure to try and crash the glass because I know I’m one of the leaders in that [rebounding] category so I knew I had to step up for my team.”

Canisius had time to rest up after playing games in two straight days and traveled to University Park, Pennsylvania to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions in the first game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic tournament on Thursday. the Griffs made their first trip to face the Nittany Lions since November 16, 2007, when Penn State set a Canisius team record for largest loss, beating the Griffs by a 93-40 score.
Although this year’s meeting didn’t see a point deficit quite that big, the Griff still did lose to the Nittany Lions by a score of 81-67. Valenti was able to lead all scorers with 24 points. The Griffs will have to bounce back quickly as they will play their second game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic in Kent, Ohio, and will face the Kent State Golden Flashes tomorrow at 7 p.m. Following the game with Kent State, the Griffs will not play any games during the week due to exams, and will host the Boston University Terriers next Saturday at the Koessler Athletic Center at 2 p.m.

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