Canisius powers past Manhattan

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Three Canisius players scored in double-figures, led by senior forward Phil Valenti and his game-high 22 points, and the host Golden Griffins held Manhattan to 38.9 percent from the field, as the Blue and Gold scored a 78-64 win Saturday afternoon in the Koessler Athletic Center. The win snapped Canisius’ three-game losing skid and improved the team to 13-9 overall and 6-5 in MAAC play, while the Jaspers fell to 8-15 overall and 3-9 in conference action.

Valenti ended the contest shooting 7-for-9 from the field, 2-for-2 from 3-point land and he went 6-for-9 from the free-throw line in the victory, Canisius’ first home win over Manhattan since Jan. 17, 2013. Junior Kassius Robertson was good for 18 points, four assists and three rebounds, while fellow junior Jermaine Crumpton added 16 points after going 6-for-8 from the floor and 3-for-4 from 3-point land. Freshman guard Malik Johnson tied a career-high with nine points, while also matching a career-high with seven boards. He was credited with six assists and two steals as well, as the Blue and Gold ended the game shooting a season best 56.8 percent from the field, 47.1 percent from 3-point land and 76.9 percent from the charity stripe.

Canisius, which had not held a lead in either of the two previous games, came out and scored nine of the game’s first 12 points to post a 9-3 advantage just 5:00 into the contest. In the later stages of the first stanza, Canisius used a 14-4 run over 5:03 to push its cushion to a dozen at 34-22. The Blue and Gold led by 10 at intermission at 34-24, with Crumpton leading the way with 12 points.

In the second half, Manhattan’s Zane Waterman cut Canisius’ lead to 39-33 with 17:00 left on the clock, but from there, the Jaspers’ offense went cold, and the Griffs took advantage with an 11-4 run over the game’s next 3:50 to make the score 50-37 in favor of the home team. Manhattan whittled the Griffs’ hold to eight points at 55-47 with 6:41 left in regulation time, but four-straight free-throws by Valenti and Johnson stretched the Griffs’ margin back to 12 at 59-47. The eight-point deficit was as close as Manhattan would get to Canisius in the game’s final 7:00.

Freshman Na’Quan Council had a career-high 14 points off the bench in the loss for Manhattan, while Waterman added 12 points and seven rebounds. Ahmed Ismail posted a double-double in the loss for the Jaspers with 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon’s Postgame Comments
“I thought the response to the issue we laid out to our guys – our energy to start, our energy after adversity, our energy at the defensive end of the court – were all addressed here today. We’ve been really preaching that in practice the last few days and I thought our guys took it to heart and really played hard.”

“I thought [Malik Johnson] was great today. He didn’t get sped up, and that’s what Manhattan tries to do to you from the start. He was able to use some of the gaps in their zone to drive and he was able to keep our shooters in rhythm. He did all that, and then he still had the stamina to defend at the other end.”

“Manhattan plays so hard from start to finish, it’s such an advantage for a team like us to have five guys on the floor at any time that can pass and shoot. It makes guarding us so much more difficult. Having those kinds of players isn’t something every team has the luxury of. Having guys who can come in and handle pressure and keep us in the flow is a great advantage for us and it really puts pressure on the other team.”

Inside the Box Score
• Canisius out rebounded Manhattan by a 29-28 clip.
• Both teams finished the day with 16 turnovers, however Canisius had just four in the game’s final 20 minutes.
• The Griffs were credited with 19 assists on 25 makes from the field. Canisius has recorded 15-or more assists 18 times this year.

Game Notes
• This was the 90th all-time meeting between the two schools, with Manhattan leading the series 54-36.
• Canisius won both games against Manhattan this season, the first time the Griffs recorded a regular-season sweep of the Jaspers since the 1996-97 campaign.
• Canisius took a season-low 44 field goal attempts in the win.
• The 22-point game for Valenti stands as his fourth 20-plus point game this season, and the 15th of his career.
• Valenti’s effort on Saturday allowed him to pass former Griff John McCarthy for 21st in career scoring. He now has 1,175 career points as a Griff.
• Robertson extended his streak of multiple 3-point field goals in a game to 17 straight, dating back to the Youngstown State game Nov. 26.
• Robertson now has 188 career 3-pointers, and his 73 makes from long-range this season ranks seventh on the school’s single-season 3-point field goals chart.
• Crumpton has posted double-figures in the scoring column 20 times this season.
• Johnson’s six assists gives him multiple assists in 19 games this year.

Up Next
Canisius will return to action Monday, Jan. 30, when the team hosts Rider in the Koessler Athletic Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3, and the audio call will be on Timeless WECK 1230-AM and 102.9-FM in Buffalo and the Golden Griffin Broadcast Network.

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