Courtesy of GoGriffs.com
Sophomore Takal Molson scored a game-high 18 points to lead four Canisius player in double-figures, and the host Golden Griffins shot a season-high 59.2 percent from the field with 11 3-point makes, en route to an 80-66 win over Monmouth Thursday night in the Koessler Athletic Center. The win, Canisius’ third straight, improved the Blue and Gold to 8-11 overall and 5-2 in MAAC play, while the Hawks saw their four-game win streak come to an end with the loss. Monmouth is now 6-15 overall and 5-3 in conference action.
Molson scored his 18 points after he went 7-for-11 from the field and 3-for-4 from 3-point land. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. Senior Jonathan Sanks came off the bench to add 14 points on a 5-for-8 night from the field, which included four 3-point field goals, while junior Isaiah Reese and sophomore Scott Hitchon each added 11 points in the victory. Reese, the reigning MAAC Player of the Week, tallied a game-high seven assists, five boards and a steal on the night, with Hitchon contributing four rebounds to go with two assists and two blocked shots.
“This was a hard-fought conference basketball game tonight,” Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “We were even after the first half, but I thought we did a better job of taking care of the basketball and we moved the ball really well in the second half. Give Monmouth credit, that’s a team that had a rough start to the year, but they’ve been playing much, much better recently and came in here on a four-game win streak.”
For Monmouth, guards Ray Salnave and Deion Hammond each scored 14 points in the losing effort for the Hawks, with Louie Pillari coming off the bench to record 10 points. Monmouth shot 37.5 percent from the field in the game, went 4-for-18 (22.2 percent) from 3-point land and turned the ball over 14 times, which the Griffs turned into 16 points.
The Griffs trailed Monmouth 30-24 with 4:52 left before halftime, but the Blue and Gold closed out the opening half on an 8-2 run to send the teams into the locker room knotted at 32-32. In the opening minutes of the second half, Canisius continued to push forward on the Hawks, using a 10-4 run in the first 2:57 of the second frame to take a 42-36 lead, capped by a traditional three-point play by Molson at the 17:03 mark of the second half. Monmouth cut the Canisius cushion to three at 42-39 on a 3-pointer by Hammond with 16:21 left to play, but an 8-0 Canisius run over the game’s next 1:23 made the score 50-39, the Blue and Gold’s first double-digit lead of the contest. In that 8-0 spurt, five points came from Hitchon, including a trey from the top of the key with 15:16 left on the clock.
“I’ve been telling our guys that our shooting will improve when our passing improves. Our guys have been working hard on the basics of passing and shooting in rhythm, and a night like tonight helps illustrate what we’ve been talking about.”
Monmouth got within nine points at 50-41 with 14:15 left in the contest, but the Griffs answered with an 8-2 run over the next 2:20 to put the game to bed. In that run, Canisius got four points each from Molson and senior forward Jibreel Faulkner, who came off the bench to score nine points on the night.
“It is a challenge for any team to close games out. It’s not easy, even for veteran teams. We obviously need to work on some things, like free-throw shooting, but we got stops when we needed to tonight and we played with poise when we had the basketball and worked to get good, quality shots.”
Eight of the 10 Canisius players who saw time in the game on Thursday scored at least four points, and six of the 10 were credited with one assist in the victory as Canisius ended the night with a season-high 21 assists on 29 made field goals. Eight players also recorded multiple rebounds in the victory as Canisius won the battle of the boards by a 34-31 count.
This was the 12th all-time meeting between the two schools, with Monmouth leading the series 7-5. Canisius has now defeated Monmouth three-straight times, dating back to last season. The win ended Canisius’ four-game home losing streak, which dated back to Dec. 29. Canisius is 20-5 in its last 25 league games, dating back to last season. That is the best 25-game MAAC stretch for the program since the 1993-94 and 1994-95 teams also went 20-5 in a 25-game span. Canisius’ 52.4 percent effort from 3-point land marks the best 3-point shooting percentage for the team since Nov. 25, 2017 when the team shot 52.2 percent from behind the arc in a win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff.
Molson has now scored in double-figures in all 19 games this year and in 23-straight games, dating back to last season. Reese’s seven assists gives him 339 for his career, which ranks 12th in school history. Junior Malik Johnson had a season-high six assists on the night. He now has 363 career assists, making him just the seventh player in school history to dish out 360-plus assists in his time on Main Street. The 14 points for Sanks matches his career-high, a number he’s posted in three previous career games prior to Thursday night. The win on Thursday marks the first time Canisius has won a game played on Jan. 24 since the 1986-87 campaign.
Canisius will be off for six days before traveling north to meet long-time rival Niagara in a “Battle of the Bridge” game Jan. 30 in Lewiston, N.Y. Game time in the Gallager Center is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on MAAC.tv, with the radio call available on WECK-Radio Buffalo, GoGriffs.com and the TuneIn app.