By: Emyle Watkins
Sports Reporter & Photographer
The Canisius Golden Griffins rode into last Saturday’s Big Four Classic riding a three-game win streak ready to face cross-town rival the University at Buffalo (UB) Bulls. Canisius managed to extend their win streak to four games, pulling out a valiant 94-87 win over UB in overtime.
The win, however, didn’t come easy.
The Griffs played from behind throughout a large portion of the game, as UB maintained a lead for 25 minutes. Buffalo’s offense was insurmountable at the beginning, creating a 49-46 halftime lead, which Canisius would battle to catch up to.
UB forward Nick Perkins took charge for the Bulls scoring a team best 13 points in the first half. Guards CJ Massinburg and Blake Hamilton also contributed to the Bulls’ solid offensive start. Massinburg provided 10 points, four of which came off free throws. Hamilton scored 8 points for the Bulls, scoring all but one point from the field goals.
As the Griffs faced a relentless Bulls offense who shot 51.6 percent from the field and 80.0 percent from the free throw line, they found themselves tying with UB three times in the first half.
Canisius however, came to do one thing as they returned to the KeyBank Center for their 47th time: Conquer. Which they were able to do.
The turnaround for the Griffs began with a layup by Kiefer Douse. UB retaliated with a three-pointer by Willie Conner. The Griffs immediately answered back with a trey by Phil Valenti. UB then began to falter as they had to work to maintain the lead they brought into the second half.
Conner and Perkins were not able to convert on their shot attempts, losing a potential five points for the Bulls. Jermaine Crumpton would take the rebound and bring it back for
Canisius. UB’s last time scoring in their 25 minute lead came when Dontay Caruthers converted on a layup off a turnover by Griffs’ point guard Malik Johnson.
The Griffins’ takeover then commenced. Following the layup by Caruthers, the score was 54-51 in favor of UB, before Robertson hit a three to tie the game up at 54-54. After a failed shot by Hamilton, Crumpton was able to convert on a two-point shot, with an assist by Valenti. The shot by Crumpton enabled the Griffs to take their first lead of the game, 56-54.
The Griffs would hold the lead for almost six minutes as the contest grew into an intense battle. Crumpton, Douse, and Robertson combined to form a strong offense bond for the Griffs, not only in the first half but for the entirety of regulation.
The end of regulation was marked with a moment of uncertainty as both teams fought for the lead. Canisius was close to seeing a quick end to the game when a layup by Douse provided the Griffins an 81-79 advantage over the Bulls with 1:58 left. However, UB retaliated with a string of attempts. With 1:11 left, Hamilton converted on a layup attempt to tie the game back up. After the Hamilton make, both teams wanted to break the tie and not end up going into overtime. Crumpton, Robertson, and Valenti all had attempts to score for Canisius in the final seconds of play, but the game needed to be settled in overtime.
The overtime period began with a foul on Buffalo’s Hamilton, which gave way to two free throws by Valenti, giving the Griffs a two-point lead just 42 seconds into extended play. UB followed up by adding a point off a free throw from Perkins. The Griffs continued to push in the next two minutes by increasing their lead to a game-high seven points over the Bulls, 89-82, with less than two minutes left in overtime.
free throw early in the period.
In the allotted five minutes of overtime Canisius dominated. Canisius lead for over four minutes in overtime, once breaking the tie taken into the additional period. Robertson led the Griffs in scoring in the short period with five points (one layup and three free throws). Valenti also added four points, while Crumpton and Douse both added two points for the Griffs.
“We tell the guys in the locker room, we’re onto something very special. We stay the course, we lock in, we can do real special things,” Crumpton, who became the first player to score 30+ points at the KeyBank Center since Stephen Curry did so in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, said.