Courtesy of GoGriffs.com
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Canisius senior Malik Johnson scored a game-high 20 points to go with seven assists and a career-high seven steals, while teammate Jalanni White scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half as the Golden Griffins defeated Holy Cross 80-72 Saturday afternoon at the Koessler Athletic Center.
The win, Canisius’ third home victory of the season, ended the Blue and Gold’s two-game losing skid and moved the team’s record to 5-4 on the year. Holy Cross fell to 1-10 with the loss.
“The first game after final exam week is always a little bit of a challenge and you could see where it took us some time to get going there in the first half,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “These guys spend a lot of time studying for finals and it changes the way we typically prepare for games. I thought once we got to a point where we were guarding with some intensity, it really helped us pick up the rhythm at the offensive end of the floor.”
Johnson finished the day by going 6-for-11 from the field, 3-for-6 from 3-point land and 5-for-10 from the charity stripe en route to his fifth career game of 20-or-more points scored. He had 11 points after halftime, and he was also credited with five assists and four steals in the second half as the Griffs closed out the contest by shooting 53.3 percent from the field in the game’s second stanza. White helped that shooting percentage, as he shot 8-of-10 from the field for the contest, including a 6-for-7 stretch after halftime.
Freshman Armon Harried scored 11 points, fellow freshman Akrum Ahemed chipped in a career-best nine points and juniors Majesty Brandon andScott Hitchon each added eight points off the bench in the victory. Brandon also added seven boards and four assists to the winning effort as the Griffs opened the home portion of their schedule with three-straight wins for the first time since 2014-15.
Coming off final exam week, the Griffs started slow, but the home team went into the locker room at halftime up 37-36 thanks to a 9-2 run over the final 3:45 of the first half. Holy Cross pushed back out of the break and led 46-41 with 15:59 left on the game clock as the Blue and Gold went just 1-for-6 to start the second half, but Canisius regained the lead moments later with a 7-0 scoring spurt of its own over the game’s next 1:06 to put the home team up 48-46 with 15:02 left to play.
“We told our guys that Holy Cross plays so hard, and they are not afraid to be physical, so be ready to go,” Witherspoon added. “To their credit, our guys focused on getting the ball inside and that set us up to get points in the paint. I thought we got a lot of good contributions from a number of guys today, which is what you need to have when you’re playing a team that is scrappy and really gets after you.”
Johnson got that run started with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and after a lay-up by White evened the game at 46-46, Brandon put Canisius ahead for good with a knock-down jumper from just outside the paint. Canisius’ lead would balloon to as many as 13 points midway through the second half as the Blue and Gold was able to turn 10 second-half turnovers by the Crusaders into 11 points.
Three Holy Cross players scored in double-figures in the loss, led by freshman Drew Lowder, who scored a team-high 18 points on the power of four makes from 3-point land. The Crusaders, who turned the ball over 20 times on the day, shot 41.0 percent from the field in the loss, and ended the game with a 41-33 advantage in the rebounding battle.
• This was the 21st all-time meeting between the two Jesuit schools, with Holy Cross now leading the series 14-7.
• The Griffs improved to 25-5 under head coach Reggie Witherspoon when shooting 50 percent or better from the field as a team.
- Canisius was credited with eight steals in the win. The Griffs have five-or-more steals as a team in all nine games this season.
- The seven steals for Johnson are the most for a Canisius player in a game since Jan. 25, 1994, when former Griffs guard Craig Wise had seven steals against St. Bonaventure. Johnson is one of 16 players nationally, and the only player from the MAAC, to have seven-or-more steals in a game this season.
• Johnson’s seven assists on Saturday gives him 498 for his career, leaving him two assists shy of becoming the fourth player in program history to reach the 500-career assists milestone.
• White has scored in double-figures three times this season after posting 10-or-more points in a game just four times total in his previous two years with the program.
Canisius will start a three-game road swing to close out the 2019 calendar year at cross-town rival Buffalo on Dec. 18. Tip-off in UB’s Alumni Arena is set for 7 p.m., and that game will be broadcast live on ESPN+. The radio call will be available through WECK Buffalo Radio (1230-AM, 100.5-FM and 102.9-FM) and GoGriffs.com.