BUFFALO, N.Y. – Coach Tom Parrotta and his Canisius Golden Griffins men’s basketball team passed the memory test. One year after succumbing to the Eastern Michigan Eagles, the Griffs kept that experience in mind for motivation.
Seniors, Robert Goldsberry (Troy, Ohio) and Tomas Vazquez-Simmons (Rochester, N.Y.) netted 14 points apiece, and a constantly-changing Griffin defense suffocated the Eagles as Canisius triumphed 71-51. The victory was the second in as many tries at the Koessler Athletic Center.
Canisius started quickly.
When EMU coach, Charles E. Ramsey, called a timeout at the eight minutes into the contest, Canisius held a 15-6 advantage. Vazquez was a perfect three for three at the line with a field goal, and Goldsberry had three points, an assist and a steal.
“We talked about remembering this game from last year. We went out there and really got out bells rung,” said Parrotta referring to last year’s 75-58 loss at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Michigan. “They really shot the ball well.”
The Eagles hit 24of 49 shots in that game.
“For pretty much a majority of [today’s] game, every time they caught the basketball there was someone there with a high hand in their face and did not give them a lot of open looks,” continued Parrotta.
Canisius never allowed Eastern Michigan to get comfortable. Using a variety of defensive sets, the Griffs confused the Eagles.
“We played a whole heckuva lot of types of defenses early on, noted the fifth-year coach. “I thought it kept Eastern Michigan off-balance. I don’t remember when they really, really got into a flow and ran offense.”
The Griffs seamlessly transitioned between half-court zone and man to man, while mixing in an occasional 1-2-2 three-quarter court press.
“There are a lot of dangerous parts on that team,” mentioned Parrotta when talking about the Eagles. “It’s a high-powered team, and I don’t think anyone really got involved for the majority of the afternoon.”
Eastern Michigan opened the season scoring 66 points against #2 nationally ranked, Michigan State. The Griffs limited the Eagles to just 33 percent from the field.
Reggie Groves (Raleigh, N.C.) came off the bench and sparked a 10-0 run in the first half. The red-shirt freshman knocked down four free throws and finished a lay up as Griffs extended their lead to 32-15.
“I tried to go to the bench a little sooner, and what we got, in return, was a good solid effort not mention a boost offensively.”
Groves and Alshwan Hymes (DeWitt, N.Y.) combined in transition. Hymes grabbed a defensive rebound and found Groves spotting up behind the arc. Hymes delivered the pass and Groves nailed the shot without hesitation.
“It was a good shot in rhythm,” added the Canisius coach.
The Griffs bench outscored their opponents for the third game in a row 24-14. Canisius’s bench outscored St. Bonaventure’s 23-6 and Syracuse’s bench 33-28.
Canisius took a 52-29 lead in the second half with an 11-2 run. Julius Coles (Harlem, N.Y.) scored six. Gaby Belardo (San Juan, P.R.) hit a three, and Groves dished off to Vazquez-Simmons for a lay up.
Elton Frazier (Syracuse, N.Y.) put an exclamation point on the game as he has in so many other contests.
Groves got a steal in traffic and tapped the ball ahead to Frazier who laid the ball off to Belardo in the open floor. With a defender on his shoulder, Belardo went to the basket and put the ball off the glass for Frazier, trailing, to finish with the two-hand slam.
“When Elton is running on the break, it’s always expected to be a highlight reel,” joked Coles. “It’s like the nail in the coffin right there.”
The game was not without incident.
Four minutes into the second half, Goldsberry and Eastern Michigan’s Darrell Lampley went into the Canisius bench after a loose ball. Goldsberry landed on the floor with Lampley after him. A brief, heated exchange ensued and players left Eastern Michigan bench to join the skirmish. When the dust settled, two Eastern Michigan players were ejected, and Canisius received a bench technical.
“It was just a hustle play, and that’s pretty much it,” said Goldsberry. “It was just two people going for the ball and people getting in people’s faces.”
Canisius limited Eastern Michigan’s leading scorer, Brandon Bowdry, to 13 points. Bowdry scored 32 points and added 15 rebounds in the season opener versus Michigan State.
“Defense and rebounding, that’s what we hang our hat on,” added Goldsberry.
Goldsberry finished with a career high 14 points. Groves established a high-water mark with 11 points.
EMU’s lone lead of the day came as a result of a defensive mismatch. Belardo (6’2″), caught in a switch, ended up defending 6’10” Matt Balkema in the paint. Belardo attempted to deflect an over-the-top pass. The ball brushed off Belardo’s fingertips only to carom in the direction of the basket where it momentarily rattled around the rim before falling.
Canisius is 2-0 at home for the first time since the 1999-00 season.
Canisius hosts the University of Buffalo Tuesday night. Game time is 7 p.m. at the KAC.