Courtesy of GoGriffs.com
Canisius junior forward Jacco Fritz hit one-of-two free-throws with 1.1 seconds left on the clock to help the Golden Griffins erase a three-point deficit in the game’s closing minute to cap off a 76-75 victory over Coppin State in the final game of the Cerebro Sports Lake Erie Challenge Wednesday afternoon at the Koessler Athletic Center.
Canisius trailed Coppin State 75-72 with 58.6 seconds left after Coppin State guard Jesse Zarzuela hit a pair of free-throws. Out of a Canisius timeout, Fritz found a wide-open Jordan Henderson, who knocked down a 3-pointer from in front of the Griffs’ bench to knot the game at 75-75 with 36 ticks left on the clock. On the ensuing possession, Coppin State came up empty after Zarzuela missed on a long-range jumper, setting up Canisius’ final possession with less than 15 seconds showing on the game clock.
The Griffs’ used some crafty ball movement as the clock ticked down to find Fritz on the baseline, where he was fouled with 1.1 seconds left to play. He made the first of two free-throws to put the Blue and Gold up 76-75. Coppin State’s last-second desperation attempt as the horn sounded fell way short, as Canisius scored its second-straight home victory in 40 hours.
“That was a really hard-fought basketball game, for sure,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “Give Coppin State credit, they force you to change the way you are playing, because they have zero intention of changing their style. I was impressed with how hard they compete, and we told our guys, be ready for a battle today. Credit to our guys for hanging in there and showing a some resiliency when things got tight at the end.”
Canisius led 44-39 at the break after junior Armon Harried poured in 19 first-half points, highlighted by five makes from behind the arc in the game’s opening 20 minutes. The Eagles scored the first six points of the second half to take a 45-44 lead, and later on in the half, Coppin State stretched its lead to as many as seven points at 61-54 with 8:48 remaining. Canisius battled back, using an 11-4 run over the span of 2:32 to even the contest at 65-65 with 5:52 left on the clock. In that run, senior Ahamadou Fofana scored five points and fellow senior Malek Green added four more, but Coppin State answered the call, outscoring the Griffs 6-1 to push its lead back to five points at 71-66 with 3:53 remaining.
Harried ended the day with a game-high 22 points for Canisius after he went 8-for-14 from the field and 6-for-9 from 3-point land. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out two assists. Green posted a double-double off the bench with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Fritz was good for eight points, eight rebounds and two assists. Fofana scored five of his eight points in the game’s second half as the Blue and Gold shot 42.9 percent from the field, 40.5 percent (15-for-37) from 3-point land and 70 percent from the line.
“I liked our ball movement a lot in the first half,” Witherspoon added. “In the second half, the ball got sticky at times and that didn’t allow us to get the open looks we had in the first half. A lot of that was to [Coppin State’s] credit. They got down and guarded us there for a while. For the most part, we took care of the ball in the second half, we only had six turnovers, and we didn’t let ourselves slip into a bad place when we weren’t hitting shots. We just kept working.”
Zarzuela had a team-high 19 points in the loss for Coppin State, one of four Eagles to record double-figures in the losing effort. Coppin State turned the ball over just eight times in the game, and Canisius ended the contest with a slight rebounding margin, grabbing 39 boards against 38 rebounds for Coppin State.
The win moves Canisius to 2-4 on the year, while Coppin State fell to 1-8 with the loss.
This was the first meeting between the two schools. Canisius has now won three of its last five games decided by five points or less, going back to last year. The Griffs improved to 4-0 in the 2021 calendar year at home with the win.
Canisius has now made 10-or more 3-pointers in a game four times this season. The Griffs entered the game ranked 34th in the nation in 3-point field goal makes per contest this year. Harried’s 22 points tied his career high, set Nov. 12 at East Carolina. His 19 points in the first half are the most for a Canisius player in a single half since former Griff and Monroe CC Tribune Majesty Brandon scored 20 points in the second half at Manhattan Feb. 23, 20202. The six 3-pointers by Harried are the most for a Griff since teammate Jordan Henderson drained six treys at UIC on Nov. 26, 2019.
Green’s double-double effort was his first of the season and the sixth of his career. Green has now scored 20-or more points in a game twice this season and five times in his career. Green and Fritz were both named to the Cerebro Sports Lake Erie Challenge All-Tournament Team for their efforts Wednesday and last Saturday at Cleveland State.
Canisius will continue its five-game homestand on Monday, Nov. 29, when the Griffs play host to Cornell at the Koessler Athletic Center. Game time is set for 7 p.m., and the contest will be broadcast live on ESPN3.