BUFFALO, N.Y. — Akeem Johnson scored 21 and Ricky Cadell added 20 as the St. Francis (N.Y.) Terriers defeated the Canisius Golden Griffins 76-58 in non-conference action at the Koessler Athletic Center, Friday night.
Playing their fifth game in eleven days and first at home since November 23rd, the Griffs looked surprisingly fresh starting the game, but it wasn’t long before the effects of their recent travel demands impacted the game.
Canisius jumped to a 22-11 lead nine minutes into the contest. Senior Robert Goldsberry buried back-to-back 3s and added a pair of free throws to lead the Griffs.
The Griffs looked on their way to a successful night when Gaby Belardo came off the bench and found Elton Frazier for an alley oop inside. The redshirt sophomore started on the right side of the key and dribbled left while Frazier cut along the baseline. Belardo lofted a pass over a pair of unsuspecting defenders to his teammate for the dunk. Belardo also assisted on one Goldsberry’s shots and knocked down a jumper of his own.
From there, St. Francis outscored Canisius 26-13 for the remainder of the half with a flurry of shots from behind the arc.
Having hit no more than six 3s in each of their previous four games, the Terriers connected on 8-18 from long range in the first half. Cadell connected three times early in the half to keep the Terriers within striking distance, and Stefan Perunicic delivered a flurry as St Francis took charge of the game.
Perunicic gave St Francis the lead for the first time at 26-25 with 4:35 remaining in the half. The junior from Belgrade, Serbia took a Dre Calloway pass in transition and hit from the left side of the floor. Four minutes later, when Perunicic connected from the right side of the floor, St Francis led 37-35. Perunicic accounted for 12 of the points on 4-4 shooting from behind the arc.
“I thought that was the difference in the first half,” Canisius head coach, Tom Parrotta said. “Then it set up the second half pretty well.”
Cadell took over from there hitting two 3s and a jumper to open the half, and St. Franics never looked back.
“I’m just proud of our team,” Terriers head coach, Glenn Braica said. “We got down early. Guys stepped up. Steph made some big shots.”
With the defense stretched on the perimeter, Johnson went 5-7 and led the Terriers with 14 second half points including a pair of pretty jump hooks in the lane.
“We take what the defense give us,” Braica continued. “When they came out and guarded us man to man, we were able to get in the lane. It’s just how the game went. We’re not a back to the basket team really. He (Johnson) is our only guy who can score in there.”
For the Griffs, the second half looked like an exercise in frustration with defenders looking a half-step slow, shooters missing their mark, and the team committing 11 turnovers. Not one to make excuses, Parrotta would not point to recent travels as a reason for the loss.
“We went out there (South Dakota) off a tough trip and won a basketball game,” Parrotta said. “It’s the fifth game in a very little amount of time. I can’t use it as an excuse. We still have enough people on the roster to go out there and beat a team.”
Frazier finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the season and fifth of his career. Belardo led a quartet of Griffs in double figures with 12. Goldsberry added 11. Julius Coles had 10.
Chris Manhertz was a bright spot for the Griffs. The freshman corralled seven rebounds in 13 minutes of play. Manhertz grabbed six boards in four minutes against South Dakota.
Canisius committed 19 turnovers which St. Francis converted into 27 points.
Weather impacted the Griffs recent trip to Vermillion, South Dakota. After being delayed twice to de-ice their plane, the Griffs missed their connecting flight in Chicago. After arriving in Vermillion well after midnight, Canisius went on to defeat the Coyotes, 73-69. Canisius hopped back on a plane and returned to New York, Wednesday.
With the loss, Canisius falls to 4-5 on the season. After a break for final exams, the Griffs head back out on the road to play at Northwestern State on the 19th and Lamar on the 22nd. Canisius returns home on the 29th.
St. Francis improves to 5-3. After opening with losses to Boston College and South Florida, the Terriers have won four in a row.
Canisius made national news when Frank Turner earned his master’s degree after four years of work at the Buffalo campus. Current seniors, Julius Coles, Frazier, Goldsberry, Logins and Vazquez-Simmons all completed their four-year degrees last spring. The five seniors are in line to get their master’s by the end of the next semester.