The last time Iona and Canisius met, the Gaels dropped nearly 100 on the Griffs. This time around, not so much.
This MAAC contest was hyped as a track meet and as both teams nailed perimiter shots, it was a few key defensive stands and free throws down the stretch that sealed a 77-74 win for Canisius to move into a tie for second-place in the conference.
“A number of guys stepped up,” said head coach Jim Baron. ”We got to the free throw line. We made the free throws we needed to make and again, we rebounded and shared the basketball, 13 assists. We limited our turnovers to under ten and that gave us an opportunity to get more possessions.”
Iona led by two with 58 seconds left when Billy Baron was fouled on a deep three point attempt by Momo Jones, which resulted in three successful free throws.
“Billy kicks his legs out, so when he kicks his legs forward, it’s actually an offensive foul,” said a frustrated Iona coach Tim Cluess. ”That was the only contact made when Billy kicked his legs forward.”
The Griffs then forced a turnover by Jones; a travel call atop the three point arch. Jordan Heath followed that by hitting one of two free throws at the line.
You could feel Canisius giving Iona one-too-many lives. After a swap on a ball screen, Canisius forward switched to cover DaShawn Gomez who tried to drive around Manhertz to the bucket but was disallowed and eventually lost the handle on the ball resulting in another crucial turnover with 2.6 seconds left.
Isaas Sosa made one of two at the line and Iona’s half-court heave hit nothing but the ground at the buzzer.
“That’s how we’re going to win the MAAC Championship. That’s how we’re going to get to the tournament,” said Billy Baron on his teams defensive effort down the stretch. ”Good teams win close games so we have to keep playing team defense.”
Iona leads the MAAC in scoring with 82.2 points per game but were held in check by the Griffs. Down by as many as ten in the first half, the Gaels rallied to hold Canisius scoreless for four minutes and 53 seconds while going on a 19-2 run to take a seven point lead.
They out-rebounded Canisius by a sizable margin in the game, 49-35. David Laury had a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. Momo Jones, the nation’s fourth leading scorer averaging 22.2 points per game, was held to just 13 points on five of 16 shots.
The electric atmosphere hit it’s peak late in the second half when Jim Baron began pumping up the crowd the best he could. It worked.
“Finally we got the crowd into it, it took a while,” said Baron. ”I was trying my best to get the crowd into it. The newspaper guys, you guys have to help me. Western New York basketball, this has to be spirited.”
Canisius knocked down 14 triples in the game and all five starters scored in double figures for the second straight game. Baron led the way with 23 points and six assists. Harold Washington scored 13 points and had four of those three-pointers.
Coach Baron also got valuable minutes off the bench from senior Alshwan Hymes who scored six points on two of three shooting in 16 minutes of action while also providing very strong defense.
“I thought Alshwan Hymes played a terrific game coming in off the bench,” said Baron. ”We really needed him to really step up and he was the first guy I congratulated coming into the locker room.”
Chris Manhertz got the Griffs going early, scoring the Griffs’ first five points. Baron said they wanted Manhertz to get the ball inside early and often.
“Me getting the ball just opens up the floor for everyone else,” said Manhertz. ”It spaces the floor, and opens up shots for Isaac [Sosa], Billy, and Harold so the more we dump it in, the more confident I get, and the more we strive on the offensive end.”
“I think Chris poses a difficult match-up with the guys that are guarding him because of his strength,” said Billy. ”You can see he’s getting more patient down there with pump-fakes and going to his left… We have to give him the ball. He’s a beast down there.”
Photo courtesy of GoGriffs.com
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