Buffalo, NY - They say that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder – but I’m not sure anyone would deem Wednesday night’s CIT opening round showdown between Canisius and Elon anything but ugly.
Harold Washington scored 19 points and Canisius (19-13) forced the Phoenix (21-12) into 19 turnovers as the Griffs defeated Elon 69-53 in front of 1,187 at the Koessler Center Wednesday evening on Coach Jim Baron’s birthday. It was the Griffs’ first postseason win since they won three games in the 1995 NIT to advance to the Final Four.
“I’m really really happy for the upperclassmen,” said Baron. ”This is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.”
Both teams struggled shooting in the first half with Canisius shooting under 43 percent and Elon, 31 percent. Elon led by three midway through the first but Canisius was able to maintain a steady lead for most of the half as an Isaac Sosa three at the buzzer gave the Griffs their first double-digit lead of the game at 35-23.
Harold Washington came out in the second half attacking the bucket and creating for his team. Ten of his team-high 19 points came in the second half. Four of the five starters were in double-figures as well as Josiah Heath who scored ten points off the bench.
“I just felt like early on I was doing a good job of getting to the rim,” said Washington. ”At first it was some tough looks but I felt like if I showed some patience and still attacked that things would open up and it did. Other things opened up – People started getting open shots and I think that mentality helped overall on the offensive end.”
Elon played without 6-8 junior guard Sebastian Koch who averaged 9.6 points this season. He missed the game with an apparent ankle injury. Baron said they didn’t find out Koch was out until right before the game.
On a night where Billy Baron didn’t shoot the ball well, and Alshwan Hymes didn’t score, it was others stepping up, including Chris Manhertz and Jordan Heath on the defensive end. They combined to block seven shots in the game and grab 14 rebounds. They also scored 17 points.
“When some guys are falling short, we have other guys who are stepping up and making plays,” said Baron. ”That’s a positive, especially now.”
The Griffs scored 30 points in the pain, cashed in for 20 points off turnovers, ran-up 24 points in transition, and got 12 points from the bench – all better than their opponent in each category.
Elon was led by Ryley Beaumont who scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Canisius was able to hold the Phoenix’ leading scorer Lucas Troutman to just eight points on four of ten shooting.
“We did a heck of a job on Troutman,” said Baron. ”I was really worried about that kid coming in. We got him into foul trouble. We took a couple of charges early, which was huge and it took them out of their momentum as far as what they wanted to do.”
Elon shot just 29.4 percent for the game which is the lowest field goal percentage defense of the season for the Griffs.
The Golden Griffin’s next round opponent is yet to be determined but is expected to be announced either late Wednesday or early Thursday. There is speculation that it will be Youngstown state based on the CIT’s preference to make the first two rounds “travel-friendly” to teams.
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