Canisius battles in win over Siena

By Marshall Haim

Assistant Sports Editor

The Canisius men’s basketball program continued it’s offensive success with a hard fought 82-79 win over the Siena Saints on Monday afternoon. The Griffs extended their win streak to six games, the longest in Canisius history since the 1998-99 season.

The win for Canisius didn’t come easy, however. The knack for scoring Canisius has continually had as of late was there, as the Griffs eclipsed the 80-point threshold for the seventh time this season. It’s the also the sixth time the Griffs have scored at least 80 points in the last seven games.

Canisius knew coming into their third Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) game that they would be forced to battle through what Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon considered “the ‘bruising offensive style’”, that has been the mantra Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos implements year in and year out with his teams.

Siena scored 52 of their 79 points inside the paint (65.8 percent of their scoring). The 52 points in the paint is the most allowed by the Griffs so far on the season: Kentucky scored the second highest the highest total before Siena on Nov. 15 when the second ranked Wildcats scored 46 points inside the paint in the Griffs season opener.

“I thought this was a big challenge for us. They’re so physical and strong around the basket, that it was really a big-time challenge for us,” said Reggie Witherspoon, Canisius’ head coach, about Siena’s style of play on offense. “As you could see, they kept fighting and it was an even more challenging game because they kept coming at us.”

The offensive success for the Griffs came immediately from the Griffs’ most potent scorer, Kassius Robertson. The junior by way of Toronto, Ontario scored the Griffs’ first 14 points in a span of just under six minutes. He ended the first half with 17 points, before finishing with a game-high 21 points.

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Kassius Robertson is guarded by Siena’s Marquis Wright during 2nd half action. Marshall Haim/The Griffin

Robertson’s 21-point performance is the fifth time he has scored at least 20 points this season. It is also his fifth time netting over 20 points in his last nine games. It was Robertson’s 11th career game scoring at least 20 points, his first since scoring 27 in a win vs. St. Francis (Brooklyn) on Dec. 10.

Siena leaped out to an 9-4 lead a couple of minutes into the first half, which ending up being the largest lead the Saints would have for the longevity of the game. Canisius was able to suppress Siena’s offensive prowess, despite giving up six of the Saints’ first nine points in the paint by converting on 58.6 percent of their shots in the opening stanza.

“We were able to move the ball and get some good looks at the basket today. I thought our guys were really poised out there,” Witherspoon stated. “There are times where you want to work the clock down when you have a lead in the last five minutes, and I thought our guys showed some poise and maturity late in the game.”

Freshman Spencer Foley also chipped in with some key three-point shots, scoring a career-high 15 points. This is Foley’s second consecutive game breaking his previous best scoring effort — he had 14 in the Griffs’ thrilling overtime win over Big Four rival St. Bonaventure.

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Spencer Foley high-fives a team manager after a timeout is called during 2nd half action. Marshall Haim/The Griffin

“I think it’s just more confidence,” Foley said about his recent success. “In the first couple games into the season it was just a different level. I’m just getting used to it more. I’m just finding my rhythm and just making shots.”

Junior Jermaine Crumpton and senior Phil Valenti also aided the Canisius offensive attack scoring 16 and 10 points, respectively. Valenti added five assists and five rebounds in his first home game since scoring his 1,000th point against Albany on Dec. 12.

The fifth-year senior was honored before the game, as Witherspoon handed the forward a game ball for achieving the milestone. After receiving a standing ovation from the 1,418 in attendance, Valenti was mobbed by his teammates.

The Saints were led offensively Javion Ogunyemi, who finished with a team-best 18 points and eight rebounds. Redshirt senior Brett Bisping added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Saints before fouling out with less than four minutes left in the game. Marquis Wright chipped in with 15 points in the loss. The Saints, in the last 10 seconds, had three seperate opportunities to tie the game up and force Canisius to play their third consecutive overtime game — which would have been a first in the team’s history — but was not able to convert.

“Canisius is very good right now. (Witherspoon) has done a great job,” Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos said after the game. “Robertson is a really good player and he got hot early. We competed, we battled, I thought our zone was really good. We made some good plays and we had a look to tie the game and it didn’t go down.”

Canisius (9-5, 2-1) will try to continue their winning ways on Wednesday when the Quinnipiac Bobcats visit the Koessler Athletic Center. The Bobcats narrowly defeated to the Niagara Purple Eagles on Monday in Lewiston, 81-78. Freshman guard Mikey Dixon led the Bobcats with 23 points. Dixon was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week on Dec. 5. Fellow freshman Peter Kiss contributed 18 points in the winning effort. Kiss was named Rookie of the Week just one week prior to Dixon winning.

Quinnipiac enters the game on Wednesday with an overall record of 5-8, but is in a five-way tie for first in the MAAC with a 2-1 record. Rider, Canisius, Saint Peter’s and Fairfield are the other schools that share the conference’s best record.

Siena (4-10, 1-2), with the loss to Canisius on Monday, has now lost five of their last six and seven of their last nine. They’ve also lost all nine road games this season. They will face off against Niagara on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tipoff. Niagara was led by sophomore guards Marvin Prochet and Chris Barton who both led the Purple Eagles with 15 points a piece in the loss. Redshirt junior Khalil Dukes (a transfer from USC) and forward Dominic Robb both added 13 points. Shane Gatling was the fifth Purple Eagle to score in double figures in the loss for Niagara scoring 12 points off the bench.

MAAC Standings

This time of year is way too early to determine who is going to be the top teams in the conference. However, the MAAC right now is up for grabs for anybody so far (maybe not to Manhattan, right now) this year. With every team playing one game into 2017 this is what the standings look like going into the Griffs’ matchup with the Bobcats on Wednesday.

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