Canisius downs Mercer, wins fourth straight

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Canisius junior Majesty Brandon and freshman Jacco Fritz each scored 16 points and senior Malik Johnson added 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists to help lead the Golden Griffins to a 76-66 victory over Mercer Sunday afternoon in the first game of the Naismith Bracket of the Boca Raton Beach Classic in Boca Raton, Fla.


The victory, which is Canisius’ fourth straight, improves the Griffs to 4-2 on the season and moves the Blue and Gold into the championship game of the Naismith Bracket on Monday, where the team will either Hofstra. The loss drops Mercer to 4-4 on the season.


Brandon came off the bench and posted his 16 points after he went 7-for-10 from the field to go along with four assists, three rebounds and two steals in 31 minutes of action. Fritz scored his 16 points after he went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and 6-for-8 from the free-throw line to go along with six rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot. Johnson went 5-for-11 from the field in the victory, including two of the team’s three 3-point field goals on the day, and led all Canisius players with his seven rebounds. Senior Corey Brown and junior Jalanni White each added nine points to the winning effort for the Griffs, as the Blue and Gold shot 50.9 percent from the floor in the win despite making just 3-of-15 shots from 3-point land.


For Mercer, guard Ethan Stair posted a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Victor Bafutto added 12 points and four rebounds in the losing effort. The Bears shot 40.7 percent from the field and just 25 percent from 3-point land for the game.


Canisius led by as many as eight points with 12:04 left in the game, but Mercer made push and eventually took a 57-54 lead thanks to a 13-2 run over the span of 3:41. That Mercer lead would be short-lived however, as Brown and sophomore Jordan Henderson scored the Griffs’ next five points to put the Blue and Gold in the lead at 59-57 with 6:23 left in the ball game.


A jumper by Stair with 2:44 left in the contest cut the Griffs’ lead to 67-65, but that would be the last field goal of the day for the Bears’ offense, as Canisius closed the game on a 9-1 run over the final 2:21 of the afternoon to seal the victory. In that 9-1 spurt, Canisius got scoring from four different players, capped by a traditional three-point play by Brandon with 16 seconds left on the clock. 


Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon’s Postgame Comments
“This is the first time this season we’ve out-rebounded our opponent, we limited turnovers and we shot well from the free-throw line in the same game. We’ve been talking as a group about focusing on those three areas, and I thought we did a good job with all three aspects today.”


“Mercer is really well-coached, and they are very discipline at both ends of the floor. They presented us with a physical challenge as well, and we knew coming in we were going to need a real solid effort on defense to be able to grind-it-out and get the win.”


“When you look at our scoring, I like the way we’ve become balanced in a short-amount of time. When you have a lot of different guys who can score, it makes you much tougher to guard, because teams can’t focus on shutting down just one or two guys. It also shows a high-level of unselfish basketball, which is again illustrated by the fact that we had 17 assists on 29 field goals.”


Game Notes
• This was the first meeting between the two schools.

  • This four-game win streak is Canisius’ longest since the team won six straight from Feb. 2-16, 2018.
    • Canisius moved to 48-21 when scoring 70-or-more points in a game under head coach Reggie Witherspoon.
  • Brandon has now scored in double-figures in two-straight games and three of the team’s first six contests of the season.
    • After grabbing three offensive rebounds on Sunday, Fritz leads the Griffs with 18 offensive boards.
    • Johnson’s two steals moves him into a tie for eighth on the school’s career steals list with 152.


Up Next
Canisius will take on Hofstra Monday at 2 p.m., in the championship game of the Naismith Bracket of the Boca Raton Beach Classic. That game will be streamed through, and the radio call will be available through WECK Buffalo Radio (1230-AM, 100.5-FM and 102.9-FM).

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