By Paul Gotham
BUFFALO, NY — Little more than five minutes remained on the Koessler Athletic Center clock in Monday night’s opening matchup between the Boston University Terriers and the home Canisius Golden Griffins. The Canisius lead which had stretched to 15 earlier in the half, shrunk to five, bounced between eight and twelve, now stood at seven.
Billy Baron dribbled over a high ball screen and worked his way into the lane leaning forward ever so slightly with his left shoulder drawing contact from a Boston defender. The whistle blew as Baron went to the ground, and the referee, with fist clenched, signaled for an offensive foul. The ball changed hands, and the Terriers took possession.
Baron picked himself off the floor, gave a slight reaction – not one of protest as much as understanding and retreated to his defensive end. On the ensuing play, he swept past an off-the-ball screen, stepped into the passing lane and in one swift motion tapped the ball to the floor with his right hand and initiated the dribble with his left as his scampered ahead of the pack for an open-floor layup.
Any chance BU had for gaining momentum was averted.
The Canisius faithful roared their approval in a way that might lead one to believe that Billy Baron has been around these parts for a few years.
Rather, this was the junior guard’s first (third if counting two exhibition games) in the Golden Griffin garb. Still, fans chanted his name with ease. Maybe it’s the alliterative nature of his name or the staccato rhythm created by the four syllables. It rolls off the tongue in a manner that begs to be called on a loud speaker.
It’s a good thing. If Monday night is any indication of what is to come, basketball fans in Western New York better get used to hearing and reading the name, Billy Baron.
Baron scored 21 points, handed out eight assists, grabbed six rebounds and collected two steals as the Griffs knocked off Boston University, 83-75 in non-conference action.
On the first possession of the night, Baron curled off a screen into the lane, drew the defense and dished to teammate Harold Washington for a catch-and-shoot three.
Four possessions later Isaac Sosa criss- crossed on the baseline with Washington, and Baron hit him in stride for another trey forcing the Terriers to call a timeout down 9-2.
Any plans in the huddle didn’t matter. Baron stole the ensuing inbound and fed Washington for a layup.
The Griffs scored 38 before the break. Baron threw in seven while handing out seven dimes. In all he had a direct hand on 25 of the first half points scored by Canisius.
“I was fortunate in the first half,” Baron said. “Guys hit a lot of shots. It wasn’t me making the passes. It was them making the shots which is big.”
What was there in the first half wasn’t in the second. Baron was forced to adjust. He changed from play-maker to scorer hitting 4-5 in the second half including the only shot he took from behind the three-point arc.
“They have so many guys that can hurt you,” said Boston head coach Joe Jones. “We kind over-helped at times, and we were kind of giving them easy drop offs to guys that can make rhythm jumpers. They made a ton of rhythm jumpers. In the second half we just tried to keep them in front of us as best we could and make him make some plays individually. Which he did.”
This is Billy Baron’s third school in three years of college basketball. He played for the University of Virginia as a freshman but left during the first semester to return home and play for his father, Jim, at Rhode Island. When the elder Baron was relieved of his duties following the 2011-12 season, Billy Baron appealed and received a waiver from the NCAA to gain immediate eligibility with Canisius.
The Canisius offense hit 30-56 (53.6 percent) from the floor including 9-17 (52.9 percent) behind the arc. Washington had a game-high 22 hitting 8-12 and 3-3 from long range. Alshwan Hymes came off the bench and 15 for the Griffs.
“Boston University is a talented team,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “They were picked to finish in the top three of their league this year and they won 16 games last year. They have guys who have been tested before. I thought we did a good job sharing the basketball.”
On the defensive end, Canisius created 13 turnovers and converted those into 18 points to Boston’s five points off turnovers.
The win was the first for Jim Baron and marked the first coach since Nick Macarchuk in 1977-78 to win his first game as the Canisius head coach.
Canisius hosts Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure on Saturday. A 4 p.m. tipoff is scheduled at the KAC.