By Paul Gotham
BUFFALO, NY — It was only fitting that the Canisius Golden Griffins played the final 20 seconds of Tuesday night’s Big 4 matchup with five guards. Evidence of the battle of attrition which took place for 39 minutes. In the end it was the perimeter play of Canisius which won out.
Billy Baron led all five starters in double figures as the Golden Griffins defeated the UB Bulls 71-64 in Big 4 Hoops action at the Koessler Athletic Center, Tuesday night.
Baron keyed an 11-2 run midway through the first half to give the Griffs a lead they never surrendered.
The junior guard ran down a rebound in the corner and weaved his way up the court through UB defenders before finishing with a corkscrew lay up on the left side of the rim.
After an Auraum Nuiriankh lay up, Baron hit a catch-and-shoot three from Reggie Groves. The 6-2 guard followed with a steal and lay up. He capped the run with a pull up jumper in transition for a 28-22 advantage.
“I knew it was going to be a hard-fought game,” commented Canisius head coach Jim Baron. “Buffalo is a very physical, very aggressive team. They had a terrific year last year winning 20-plus [games]. They are a good team. They have veterans coming back.”
Despite being outrebounded 24-9 in the first half, the Griffs held a 40-38 advantage on the scoreboard going into the break. Canisius took advantage of some sloppy UB ballhandling and converted 11 turnovers into 15 points.
Baron scored 13 in the first 20 minutes.
Javon McCrea kept the Bulls close in the first stanza with 12 points on five-of-nine shooting.
The junior forward scored four straight for a 20-17 edge. He used the rim as screen and finished a reverse lay up. On the next possession, he hit a catch-and-shoot jumper in the lane on an inbound pass.
Canisius tried but could not get separation from the Bulls in the second half.
McCrea kept the gap to two with a dunk in transition, UB trailed 42-40.
Isaac Sosa responded with a three from Harold Washington for a 47-42 Canisius lead.
Washington sparked a six-point burst to give the Griffs their largest lead of the game. The 6-1 guard finished a lay up in traffic. On the next possession, Baron corralled a defensive rebound and led Washington up the wing. Washington alertly found Jordan Heath ahead of the pack for an easy deuce.
UB took a timeout to try and slow the Canisius momentum, but it didn’t matter.
Alshwan Hymes slipped along the baseline behind the UB zone and Washington found him open for a bucket, and Canisius led 63-54.
“They have more guys that can score,” UB head coach Reggie Witherspoon said of the Canisius attack. “It bears itself out with the five guys in double figures. Guys coming off the bench that can score. They’re longer and more experienced.”
Will Regan responded with a finish at the rim on a drive and dish from Jarod Oldham.
But the Griffs answered back.
Chris Manhertz used a powerful baseline drop step to ward off McCrea for a layup. The junior forward followed with a rebound and putback on the trip down the floor for 67-58 lead.
“That was huge,” Billy Baron said of the move by Manhertz. “The game was close. He made a man’s move. That just shows you that one through five we can get a bucket when we need to.”
Manhertz and Josiah Heath both fouled out trying to slow the UB big man, McCrea. Jordan Heath was forced to the bench in the final 20 seconds because of a leg cramp.
“The plan was to wear him down,” Jim Baron said of the approach to defending the pre-season Big 4 Player of the Year. “He is so physical. We tried a number of guys on him.”
Canisius scored 27 points off turnovers to seven for UB. The Griffs tallied 14 fast break points. UB scored four points on the break.
UB outscored Canisius 38-34 in the paint and 15-9 on second chance points.
UB shot 24-for-46 (52.2 percent) to 26-for-65 (40 percent) for Canisius.
Baron finished with 18 points.
Heath added 14. Washington had 12 while Chris Manhertz scored 11 and Sosa 10.
Baron and Washington each had five assists.
As a team, the griffs handed out 19 assists while committing just seven turnovers.
McCrea had a game-high 22. He and Will Regan had six rebounds apiece.
Regan added 15 points.
Jarod Oldham dished out nine assists.
Canisius improves to 3-0 with the win. With the triumph the Canisius ends a two-game winning for the Bulls in head-to-head matchups. Last season, UB trounced their Main Street rivals, 94-59. The Griffs travel to Stony Brook to take on the Sea Wolves on Saturday.
Buffalo falls to 1-5. The Bulls host Mansfield Saturday evening at 7 p.m. The Bulls had several unavailable to play because of injuries.
The game was the second sellout in a row at the KAC. The first such occurrence since the building was renovated in 2002-03.