Courtesy of GoGriffs.com
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The visiting Iona Gaels shot 53.6 percent from the field, 53.8 percent from 3-point land and 93.3 percent from the free-throw line to cruise to an 88-70 win over Canisius in MAAC action Sunday afternoon in the Koessler Athletic Center. The win moves Iona to 5-10 overall and 3-1 in MAAC play while the Golden Griffins slipped to 5-11 overall and 2-2 in league action with their third-straight loss.
Four Iona players scored in double-figures in the victory, with E.J. Crawford and Rickey McGill each posting 20 points. Junior Asante Gist scored 18 points off the bench and fellow junior Ben Perez added 17 points and 11 rebounds, highlighted by five makes from 3-point land. The Gaels made 14 3-pointers in the win, and Iona ended the game by out rebounding Canisius 40-29.
For the Griffs, junior Malik Johnson scored a team-high 14 points to go with four assists and sophomore Takal Molson added 13 points and five rebounds. Junior Isaiah Reese was good for 10 points, eight assists, five rebounds and two steals in the loss for the Blue and Gold, as the team shot just 38.1 percent from the floor, 19.4 percent (6-for-31) from 3-point range and 72.7 percent from the free-throw stripe.
“We came out and shot the ball very poorly in a game where our opponent shot the ball great,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “So that puts you in a hole. And it was a bad hole. In the second half, I thought we competed and made a few shots, but the hole was too big for us to get out of. Give them credit. We have to find a way to rest up and get better.”
Iona broke the game open midway through the first half with a 15-3 run over the span of 2:49 to turn a 15-11 lead into a 30-14 advantage with 7:29 left to play before halftime. In that run, the Gaels drained three 3-point field goals, with two coming off the hand of Perez. Another 3-point make by Perez with 2:53 left before intermission put Iona up 21 points at 40-19, the largest first-half deficit for the Griffs this season.
In the second half, Canisius trailed by as many as 27 points, but the Griffs worked their way back and cut the Gaels’ cushion to 13 at 66-53 with 7:30 left to play on a bucket by sophomore Scott Hitchon. That, however, would be as close as the Griffs would get, as McGill and Crawford would combine to score Iona’s next seven points to put the Gaels back up by 18 at 73-55.
“We stood around a little bit, and a couple times we held it and didn’t shoot it when we first got it,” Witherspoon added. “Those were open shots, and now you hold it and you’re out of rhythm and everyone is just standing around watching. That’s not going to help you when you’re struggling to shoot the ball. I think we were at a point today where we didn’t trust ourselves offensively and then we started forcing things when we got out of rhythm.”
Canisius sophomore Jalanni White scored a career-high nine points in the loss for the Griffs, while Hitchon added eight points and two steals. Freshman Jordan Henderson came off the bench and added eight points and a steal in the losing cause for Canisius, as the Blue and Gold fell to 1-5 at home this season.
Sunday was the 74th all-time meeting between the two schools, with Iona leading the series 41-33. The win for Iona snapped the Gaels’ three-game losing streak in the series, dating back to the 2016-17 campaign. Iona’s last five wins in this series have come by an average of 17.0 points per game.
Molson has scored in double-figures in all 16 games this season and in 20-straight games, dating back to the end of last year. The two steals for Reese on Sunday gives him 150 for his career, making him just the eighth player in school history to record 150-or more steals in a Canisius uniform. White recorded a blocked shot for the fourth consecutive game and for the fifth time in the team’s last six contests.
Canisius will return to the road for a pair of MAAC games in the state of Connecticut next weekend, starting at Quinnipiac Jan. 17. Game time in Hamden, Conn., is set for 7 p.m. The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN3, with the radio call available on WECK-Radio Buffalo, GoGriffs.com and the TuneIn app.