Canisius surges past UMKC

Photo courtesy of Tom Wolf Imaging
Photo courtesy of Tom Wolf Imaging

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Canisius sophomore Phil Valenti scored a team-high 18 points, fellow sophomore Zach Lewis added 17 points, senior Josiah Heath chipped in 11 points and the Golden Griffin defense held visiting UMKC to 31.3 percent from the field for the game as Canisius scored its third-straight win with a 67-55 victory Tuesday night in the Koessler Athletic Center. The win improves Canisius to 7-4 on the year while the Kangaroos slipped to 5-10.

Valenti ended the night by shooting 8-for-13 from the floor and he was also credited with five rebounds and four assists as the Blue and Gold closed out non-conference play with a 5-4 record, the third consecutive year the team has posted a winning record in regular-season non-league games. Lewis’ 17 points gives him double figures in the scoring column in four-straight games and Heath’s 11 points, seven of which came in the second half, helped Canisius improve to 4-0 in the Koessler Athletic Center on the year.

For UMKC, sophomore guard Martez Harrison posted a game-high 23 points to go with two assists and a steal. Harrison ended up accounting for nearly 42 percent of his team’s scoring on the night, as the Griffs held their opponent under 60 points for the fourth-straight game and for the sixth time in 11 games this season.

“I thought we did a really good job of sharing the basketball and other than that run at the start of the second half, I thought we were pretty good defensively again tonight,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “Twenty assists on 26 made field goals is a really good ratio, especially against a team like [UMKC] because they throw that match-up zone at you and really make you think. We moved the ball well and we guarded. They got to the [free-throw] line a bunch tonight, but when we needed it, we had some guys step up.”

Canisius led by a score of 31-23 at the half, but the Kangaroos were able to fight back into the game and eventually take a 44-43 lead with 9:38 left on the clock after Noah Knight hit a pair of free-throws. Canisius took the lead back and led 51-49 with 7:27 left to play, but the Griffs pulled away with a 9-1 run over the span of 5:01. That scoring run was capped by a traditional 3-point play from junior Jamal Reynolds, who grabbed an offensive rebound, laid one off the glass and then made the ensuing free-throw to give the Blue and Gold a 10-point cushion at 60-50 with 2:26 left in regulation time.

Reynolds ended the night with four points, nine rebounds and four assists, while redshirt-freshman Jermaine Crumpton added four points, two boards, an assist and a block to the winning effort. Freshman Jan Grzelinski was good for four assists, while Lewis was credited with three helpers and redshirt-freshman Adam Weir posted two assists as well. For the game, Canisius shot 46.4 percent from the field, highlighted by a 50 percent effort from the floor in the second half. UMKC shot just 31.3 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point land, but the Griffs were able to convert 15 UMKC turnovers into 25 points in the victory.

The Griffs will return to MAAC action Friday, Jan. 2, when the team plays host to Monmouth. Both teams are 2-0 in league play. Tipoff in the Koessler Athletic Center is set for 7 p.m.

Game Notes: This was the second all-time meeting between these two schools, with each school winning on its home court… Canisius ends the 2014 calendar year with a 20-12 record… Canisius has now won 15 games in the month of December under head coach Jim Baron… This marks the first time Canisius has held four-straight opponents under 60 points since the 1996-97 season… Eleven of Valenti’s team-high 18 points came in the second half… This season, 58.8 percent of Valenti’s points have been scored in the game’s final 20 minutes or overtime… Lewis is averaging 15.5 points per game in the Griffs’ last four contests… Reynolds now has five or more rebounds in nine of the team’s 11 games this season… Every Canisius player that saw time in the game on Tuesday had at least two points, including freshman Cassidy Ryan, who scored his first career bucket late in the game… Former GriffsJordan Heath and Chris Manhertz were in attendance and were recognized by the crowd during the first media timeout of the game.

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