Canisius fights off Quinnipiac for 75-70 win

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Canisius sophomore Takal Molson scored a team-high 22 points, freshman Jordan Henderson posted a career-high 14 points off the bench and junior Malik Johnson added 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as the Golden Griffins posted a 75-70 win over Quinnipiac Friday night at the Koessler Athletic Center. The win, Canisius’ fourth in its last five outings, moved the Blue and Gold to 9-12 overall and 6-3 in MAAC play, while the Bobcats fell to 10-10 overall and 5-4 in league action.

Seventeen of Molson’s 22 points came after halftime, and 11 of those were found at the free-throw line, as the Buffalo, N.Y., native also tallied five boards, an assist and three steals in the victory. Henderson’s 14 points came after he went 5-for-8 from the field, 2-for-3 from 3-point land and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line, while Johnson matched his career-high with nine assists for the second-straight game. Canisius ended the night shooting 40.0 percent from the floor, 44.0 percent from 3-point land and 80.0 percent from the charity stripe, while out-rebounding the Bobcats by a 40-33 count.

“We are growing, and we are learning,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “I’m proud of the effort we had in the second half against Niagara [Wednesday] and we kind of rolled that into the effort in the first half here tonight. We now have to find that mental endurance to sustain it. We had a couple of break-downs in composure that turned the game around, but you have to give Quinnipiac credit, they fought their way back in. It was a learning experience for us.”

For Quinnipiac, graduate student Cameron Young scored a game-high 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while sophomore Jacob Rigoni added 18 points. The Bobcats shot 42.0 percent for the game, made 9-of-25 shots (36.0 percent) from behind the arc and shot 73.1 percent from the free-throw line for the night.

In a game that Canisius never trailed, the Griffs jumped out to an early 10-0 lead just 3:01 into the contest, with Molson accounting for five of those 10 points. In the later stages of the opening frame, Quinnipiac cut the Griffs’ cushion to a dozen at 35-23 before the Blue and Gold went on a 7-0 run over the span of 2:59 to take their biggest lead of the night at 42-23. The Griffs led at halftime by a 44-29 count, with the 44 points being the most points scored by Canisius in the first half of a MAAC game this season.

“One thing Quinnipiac did that they haven’t been doing, but we kind of expected if we got our man-to-man offense moving well, is that they might switch to a zone defense,” Witherspoon added. “We moved the ball really well and forced them to have to go zone. We got a little bit out of synch, but we got good shots and that’s what we have to focus in on. Again, this was a learning experience for us, but our assists numbers were pretty good again tonight.”

In the second half, four of Quinnipiac’s first seven makes were from 3-point range, allowing the Bobcats to get back into the game. A 3-pointer by Young with 12:45 left in the contest cut Canisius’ lead to six at 58-52, and a 3-point field goal by sophomore Rich Kelly with 9:30 left to play made the score 60-57 in favor of Canisius. Another 3-ball, this time from Rigoni with 7:37 left in the contest, trimmed the Griffs’ lead to 64-60, but a put-back off an offensive rebound by junior Dantai St. Louis and a lay-up by Molson in transition gave Canisius an eight-point lead at 68-60 with 4:07 left in the game.

Quinnipiac was not done, however, and an 8-0 Bobcat run over 2:27 tied the game at 68-68 with 1:09 remaining. Molson ended that run with a driving lay-up with 41.7 seconds left to play, and after Quinnipiac missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 chance at the free-throw line, Molson drilled a pair of charity tosses at the other end of the floor to put Canisius up four at 72-68. Down the stretch, Molson and Johnson combined to make three free-throws in the closing 13 seconds to seal the win for the Griffs, the team’s sixth victory this season in games decided by five points or less.

Game Notes
• This was the 13th all-time meeting between the two schools. Canisius leads the series 9-4 and the Griffs have now swept Quinnipiac in the regular-season in each of the last two years.
• Six of the 13 games between these two schools have been decided by five points or less, including each of the last three meetings, dating back to last season. All-time, that portion of the series is tied at 3-3.
• As a team, Canisius was credited with 17 assists on the night, the eighth time in nine league games where the team has posted 15-or more assists in a game.
• The nine assists for Johnson gives him 381 for his career, which ranks sixth in school history.

  • After seeing his string of 23-straight games scoring in double-figures end at Niagara on Wednesday, Molson’s 22-point effort on Friday stands as his fifth 20-point game this season, and the 11th of his career.
  • Sophomore Jalanni White matched a career-high with two assists and he also recorded a blocked shot in the win, the eighth time in nine MAAC games where he’s had at least one block to his credit.
  • Senior Jonathan Sanks scored seven points to go with two rebounds and two assists in his first collegiate start.Up Next
    Canisius will be back in action Monday, Feb. 4, when the Griffs play host to Marist at the Koessler Athletic Center. Game time is set for 7 p.m. The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN3, with the radio call available on WECK-Radio Buffalo, and the TuneIn app.

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