Hot shooting second half leads Canisius past Fairfield

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The Canisius Golden Griffins started off slow, going scoreless for the game’s first 6:08, but shot 62.5 percent from the field and made 14-of-20 free-throw chances in the game’s second half to earn a 73-68 road win over Fairfield in Alumni Hall Saturday afternoon. The win, Canisius’s MAAC-leading sixth road victory of the season, moved the team to 7-11 overall and 4-2 in MAAC play, while the Stags fell to 5-14 overall and 2-5 in league action.

Four Canisius players recorded double-figures in the scoring column on Saturday, led by senior Jibreel Faulkner, who posted 16 points after going 6-for-6 from the field, 2-for-2 from 3-point land and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line in 26 minutes off the bench. Junior Isaiah Resse contributed 15 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block to the winning effort, while fellow junior Malik Johnson added 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Sophomore Takal Molson was good for 10 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal in the win, Canisius’s first victory in Fairfield’s Alumni Hall since Jan. 10, 1998.

“We had a slow start offensively, but our defense got us back into the game today,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “Our pressure forced them to have to speed up a bit, and we were able to get into their passing lanes and made it hard for them to move the ball effectively. From there, we settled down and got into a rhythm on offense. Again, we did a nice job sharing the basketball and finding the open man with 17 assists.”

Fairfield jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, as the Griffs didn’t score their first basket of the game until the 13:52 mark of the first half when senior Marcale Lotts took a feed from Reese in the paint and scored the first two of his six points on the day. The Stags led 26-16 in the later stages of the opening stanza, but a 6-0 run by Canisius in the span of 1:30, capped by another lay-up from Lotts, knotted the game at 22-22 with 3:42 left before halftime. The Stags led at 26-23 with less than a minute before halftime, but a 3-point field goal by Johnson with 48 seconds left before intermission sent the Blue and Gold into the locker room down one at 26-25.

“The contributions from our bench are exactly what we needed today. I thought our bench brought us energy and some scoring punch and they kept up our defensive intensity. Those are the kinds of quality minutes we need, especially when we’re on the road playing our second league game in 42 hours.”

In the second half, Canisius trailed 37-35, but an 18-6 run over the span of 8:02 put the Griffs up 55-43 with 6:52 left to play. In that run, Molson scored eight points, senior Jonathan Sanks added eight points, which included two 3-point field goals and Faulkner chipped in four points for the Blue and Gold. Canisius was extremely efficient from the field in the game’s second half, making 11-of-16 shots from inside the 3-point line in the frame, while connecting on 4-of-8 tosses from behind the arc.

Johnson’s two free-throws with 55 seconds left put the Griffs up nine at 68-59, but a 6-2 run by Fairfield got the home team within five at 70-65 with 18 seconds remaining. Fairfield cut the Griffs’ cushion to just three at 71-68 with four seconds remaining before Reese sealed the win with a pair of charity tosses with 3.3 seconds left in the contest. The win improved Canisius to 5-1 on the year in games decided by five points or less, with four of those wins coming in MAAC play.

Fairfield’s Jesus Cruz scored a game-high 21 points in the loss for the Stags, who shot 42.4 percent from the field and just 21.1 percent from 3-point land for the game. Senior Jonathan Kassibabu posted a double-double for Fairfield with 16 points and 11 rebounds, as the Stags ended the contest with a 39-32 advantage on the glass.

Saturday was the 85th all-time meeting between the two Jesuit schools, with Fairfield leading the series 47-38. The game in Fairfield’s Alumni Hall was Canisius’ first since Feb. 12, 2001. The Griffs are 5-1 in games decided by five points or less this season, with four of those wins coming in MAAC play. As a team, Canisius is averaging 15.8 assists per game in six MAAC games to date after recording 17 assists on 26 makes from the floor against the Stags.

The 30 points from the bench are the most for the team since the Griffs’ reserves scored a season-high 32 points in the road win at Marist Jan. 3. Canisius wore its blue road uniforms on Saturday for the second time this season. The team is 2-0 in those uniforms this year.

Faulkner is good for 7.7 points per game in league play this season. His 16 points Saturday marked the fifth time this season where he scored 10-or more points in a game. Reese’s two makes from 3-point land Saturday moves him into 11th place all-time on the school’s career 3-point field goals made list with 138. In 24 career MAAC games, Sanks has hit 38 of his 60 career 3-pointers as a Griff in MAAC play. Johnson’s five assists gives him five-or more assists in a game 38 times in his career. He now has 357 career assists, which is seventh-best in school history.

Up Next
Canisius will return home Jan. 24 when the Griffs play host to Monmouth on Coaches vs. Cancer “Suits and Sneakers Night” in the Koessler Athletic Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN+, with the radio call available on WECK-Radio Buffalo, and the TuneIn app.

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