Canisius team effort leads to win at Fairfield

Valenti led Canisius with 14. (Photo by Johnathan Snyder/
Valenti led Canisius with 14. (Photo by Johnathan Snyder/

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BRIDGEPORT, CONN. – Four Canisius players scored in double figures and the Golden Griffins held host Fairfield to 36.2 percent from the field and 21.4 percent from 3-point land en route to a 64-50 win Thursday night in the Webster Bank Arena. The win, Canisius’ third straight and fourth in its last five outings, improved the team to 11-7 overall and 6-3 in MAAC play, while the Stags fell to 6-13 overall, 4-5 in league play.

Sophomore Phil Valenti led all Canisius players with 14 points to go with nine rebounds and three assists in the win, while senior Josiah Heath posted 11 points and six boards. Redshirt-freshman Kassius Robertson scored a career-high 11 points, with eight coming in the game’s final 20 minutes, and junior Jamal Reynolds added 10 points, eight rebounds and a steal. As a team, the Blue and Gold shot 48.1 percent from the field, 46.7 percent from 3-point range and the team out scored Fairfield 34-24 in the paint.

“This was a solid effort for us here tonight and it started on the defensive end for sure,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “I thought we did a good job in the second half rebounding the basketball, and again tonight, we got a good contributions from our bench. Fairfield is a big physical team, but we were able to get it inside a bit and that opened our shooters on the outside. I’m proud of the way we worked hard tonight at both ends of the floor.”

Fairfield junior Marcus Gilbert led all scorers with 18 points to go along with six rebounds. Gilbert scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half for the Stags, which have now dropped two straight after losing at Monmouth Jan. 18. Freshman Tyler Nelson and junior Mike Kirkland Jr., each had eight points in the loss for Fairfield, as the team fell to 2-7 on the year when shooting under 40 percent for the contest.

Canisius led 30-23 at halftime and then pulled away for good in the opening moments of the second half as the Griffs scored the game’s first seven points in the second stanza, with five of those points coming from freshman guard Jan Grzelinski to give Canisius a 37-23 lead with 17:40 left to play. The Stags whittled Canisius’ lead to nine at 41-32 with 13:42 left on the clock before the Blue and Gold used a 10-3 run over the span of 2:37 to post a 51-35 lead with 10:33 left in the ball game. In that scoring run, Robertson scored eight of the Griffs’ 10 points, capped a by a 3-pointer from the left corner. Down the stretch, Canisius’ lead never went below 10 points and the Griffs walked out of Webster Bank Arena with their third-straight victory in the series, dating back to the 2012-13 season.

Grzelinski added eight points and four assists to the final stat sheet in the win for Canisius, while redshirt-freshman Jermaine Crumpton came off the bench and tallied six points in 16 minutes. The only blemish on Canisius’ night was the team’s effort from the charity stripe, as the Blue and Gold ended the contest shooting 36.8 percent (7-for-19) from the free-throw line.

Canisius will return to action Saturday, Jan. 24, when the team travels to play at Rider. Game time in Lawrenceville, N.J., is set for 7 p.m.

Game Notes: This was the 78th all-time meeting between these two Jesuit schools, with Fairfield holding a 44-34 lead in the series… Canisius has defeated Fairfield in three-straight meetings, the Griffs’ first three-game winning streak over the Stags since 1996-97… Fairfield is the 10th team this season that Canisius held to 60-points or fewer in a game… The Griffs are 37-11 under Jim Baron when leading at the half… Valenti is averaging 18.3 points per game in the team’s last three contests… Heath has now posted 10-plus points in a game eight times this season and 12 times in his career… Reynolds has seven or more rebounds in a game 11 times this season… Sophomore Zach Lewis was credited with five assists for the Blue and Gold, which matches his career high… This was the 31st MAAC victory for Jim Baron, which ranks him behind former head coaches John Beilein and Mike MacDonald on the school’s career MAAC wins chart.

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