Immediate reactions: UB 98, Canisius 96 (OT)

Canisius 33 54 9 – 96
Buffalo 42 45 11 – 98

By Nick Veronica

What it means: This was a great college basketball game that both teams should be able to build on. Canisius and UB both looked like they were done for at different points in the final two minutes of regulation, but showed plenty of heart to rally. UB’s depth and size was on display while Canisius flashed its guard play. In the end it was a lapse in the backbone of Canisius’ defense that allowed UB the winning basket.

The Bulls have won three straight ahead of their Wednesday meeting with St. Bonaventure after dropping their first two Division I games of the year. Canisius is expected to be stronger this year than last season but was swept by UB and St. Bonaventure for the second year in a row. Only two conference games against Niagara remain on Canisius’ Big 4 slate.


How it happened: UB had the ball in a tie game as the final seconds ran off in overtime. Lamonte Bearden nearly lost control of the ball, but that scramble led to Canisius losing forward Nick Perkins under the hoop. A wide-open Perkins slammed the ball home and Canisius didn’t have enough time for a final shot.

Just when it looked like UB was about to put the game away in the second half, Canisius’ Jamal Reynolds missed an and-1 free throw down by two points with 1:43 to go – but refs blew the play dead, apparently thinking Reynolds was shooting two shots, and Canisius got the ball back via the possession arrow. The Griffs tied it on that possession and went ahead on the next. Then Jarryn Skeete hit a fade-away three-pointer with 6 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

Kassius Robertson had a career-high 24 points to lead Canisius while Bearden had 18 for UB as six Bulls were in double figures.

UB opened the game on a  7-0 run and teams traded the lead most of the first half. Canisius was up 27-24 when McMillan picked up his 3rd foul … UB ended half on 18-6 run while he sat to take a nine-point lead into the locker room.

Series history: This was the highest-scoring game in Canisius-UB history, which dates back to 1912. Canisius won the only other overtime game between the teams, 77-63, in 1991. The all-time Canisius-UB series is now Canisius 31-17. Nate Oats won his first game against Canisius; Jim Baron is now 7-4 against UB and 2-2 against them with the Griffs.

Stat check: McMillan entered the game fifth nationally in scoring at 25.5 points per game. He finished with 16, bringing his average to 23.6.

Strong like Bulls: I didn’t realize how much size UB has, even on its bench. Nate Oats doesn’t use anyone under 6-foot-3. That’s helped UB’s bench to outscore its opponents’ bench in every game this season, and that continued Saturday, with UB’s bench outscoring Canisius’, 48-21. Rebounds were 42-39 Canisius, but UB’s size affected Canisius’ offense in other ways, deflecting shots and passes and clogging up lanes.

Crumpton tweaks knee: Canisius forward Jermaine Crumpton, playing in his second game of the year, went down holding his right knee with 12:16 left in the second half. He was able to limp off the court. … He checked back in with 8:31 to go and promptly took a charge but didn’t look 100 percent.

In the house: This game was played at First Niagara Center the last two years as part of the Big 4 Classic, but all four schools couldn’t reach an agreement for this season. Attendance Saturday was not immediately available, but I’m guessing an announced crowd of roughly 3,000, which included UB’s all-time leading scorer, Javon McCrea.

Starters: Canisius – McMillan, Robertson, Reynolds, Valenti, Bleeker. UB – Bearden, Conner, Skeete, Wigginton, Smart.

Next: UB hosts St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, Canisius opens league play next Friday when Monmouth comes to Buffalo.


Gameday: Canisius at UB, 2 p.m.

By Nick Veronica

Canisius will make the 6 1/2-mile trip to UB Saturday afternoon for a 2 p.m. tipoff at Alumni Arena.

Canisius Golden Griffins: 2-2 overall, 0-1 road. Streak: L1. KenPom rank: 158. RPI: 241.

University at Buffalo, the State University of New York Bulls: 3-2 overall, 2-2 vs. Division I teams, 0-0 home. Streak: W2. KenPom rank: 150. RPI: 166.

Vegas line: UB -1.5, over/under 153.5.

What’s at stake: Local bragging rights are always on the line when Big 4 teams meet, and this game is especially important for Canisius in that regard. The Griffs are coming off a four-point home loss to St. Bonaventure, so a loss Saturday would mean they’d have to sweep Niagara just to go .500 against local opponents. UB hosts St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and doesn’t play Niagara, so this appears to be the more winnable of its Big 4 games this season.

Series history: Canisius leads the all-time series, 31-16, but UB won seven of the last 10.

Canisius players to watch: Start with Malcolm McMillan, the point guard who’s fifth nationally in scoring at 25.5 points per game (it would take a 37-point game would spring him to first). Jamal Reynolds is averaging 9.8 rebounds per game, good for 49th in the country, and his 23 offensive rebounds rank 10th. Junior Phil Valenti scored 11 points in both of his first two games against UB.

UB players to watch: The Bulls have received very balanced scoring through five games, with Lamonte Bearden, Rodell Wigginton, Blake Hamilton and Willie Conner all averaging double-figures. Bearden leads the team at 13.0 ppg, and he’ll look to put up another strong game against the Griffs – he had his coming out party last year at First Niagara Center against Canisius, scoring a game-high 23 points.

Home opener, of sorts: UB hosted Division III Pitt-Bradford two weeks ago, but Saturday is Nate Oats’ first true home game against real competition. It’ll be nice for the Bulls to return home following four games in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic, and a good crowd should be on hand to welcome Oats, the first-year coach who’s been dealing with his wife’s cancer diagnosis.

Saturday’s game is also UB’s first basketball game since Allen Greene was named athletic director, following Danny White’s departure. Just don’t lobby Greene to remove UB’s “New York Bulls Initiative” – that’s not up to him.

Potpourri: I missed the Canisius-Bona game, but it looks like Jim Baron had some interesting things to say in his press conference:

How to follow the game: Tickets are available at the UB box office; streaming is available via ESPN3; tweets are available via my feed and probably most of the Big 4 basketball Twitter list (are you a writer who needs to be added? DM me); and immediate reactions will be posted here shortly after the final buzzer.


Baron loves Griffs’ willpower – Postgame interviews: Canisius 98, Lehigh 89

By Nick Veronica

Canisius is only two games into the 2015-16 season, but Jim Baron already thinks this year’s Griffs have “more will” than any team he’s coached in his 29-year career.

“We got will. That’s the one thing I think: this team has more will than any team I’ve ever had,” Baron said after Canisius’ 98-89 comeback win over Lehigh Monday night at the Koessler Athletic Center.

“We play with a lot of intensity and a lot of grit. To be honest, that’s the type of team I love to coach. Because you do it on heart, soul, grit, all the dirty points.”

Baron doesn’t throw compliments like that around lightly, but there was plenty for him to be proud of Monday.

Kevin Bleeker drew a charge in the final minute that forced Lehigh’s best player out of the game. Jamal Reynolds had 10 offensive rebounds. Malcolm McMillan got hammered twice on the way to the basket in key situations, but got the shot to fall both times before taking on the free throws.

The end result was a nine-point victory over Patriot League favorite Lehigh, which stayed within 10 points of Syracuse in their game Friday.

“We made shots when we needed to make shots and we got rebounds when we needed to get rebounds,” Baron said. “This was an excellent win for us.”

Here’s Baron’s full press conference. (Sorry in advance for Baron reclining behind the mic cube midway through the video :) )

On forward Cassidy Ryan, whose father died last Thursday, Baron said: “We did it for Mr. Ryan. I told our guys, we’re doing it for Cassidy’s dad.”

Baron also talked about coaching the father of Lehigh center Tim Kempton (Tim Kempton Sr.), when he was at Notre Dame.

Canisius’ Phil Valenti, Malcolm McMillan

Canisius guard Malcolm McMillan said he’d never had back-to-back 30-point games before.

“All season I just worked extremely hard on my jump shot, and it’s showing. Even tonight … I was 2 for 7 (on 3-pointers), but I put a lot of work on it and it’s paying off.”

Asked about Ryan, Valenti and McMillan both said: “That game was for him.”

“We played our hearts and soul out for him,” Valenti said. “He’s a tough kid. It’s … too bad. I mean, not much to say about that. He’s great for coming back and being with us. I can’t say much more about that. God bless him.”

Lehigh coach Brett Reed

“When they came up empty with there possessions, Reynolds was there to grab an extra rebound,” Reed said.


Immediate reactions: Canisius 98, Lehigh 89

Lehigh 41 48 – 89
Canisius 39 59 – 98

By Nick Veronica

What it means: Canisius picked up its first win of the season and avoided falling two games below .500 for the first time under Jim Baron. Malcolm McMillan played great again, following his 33-point opener with 31 points, which is especially impressive considering both games so far have come against teams picked to win their conferences. Lehigh dropped to 0-2.

How it happened: McMillan made big play after big play to become the first Griff with consecutive 30-point games since Billy Baron while Phil Valenti hit a career-high five 3-pointers.

Lehigh had a 12-point lead when center Tim Kempton – the Patriot League Player of the Year – picked up his fourth foul and checked out with 13 minutes to go. By the time he checked back in four minutes later, Canisius had stormed back to take a 70-65 lead, fueled by eight points from Valenti.

McMillan and Valenti both hit shots to break ties in the final two minutes, and after Valenti’s last 3-pointer with 1:11 to go, Kevin Bleeker drew a charge on Kempton for his fifth foul. Bleeker followed that up a two-landed slam on the ensuing possession to seal the win.

Reynolds crashes the boards: Jamal Reynolds scored 16 points and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds, propelling him to his fifth career double-double. His 13 total rebounds helped give Canisius a 40-35 advantage on the glass.

McMillan, again: Through two games, McMillan looks like an absolute steal for Jim Baron. His 64 points are the most in his first two games as a Griff since Larry Fogle, who went on to lead the country in scoring in 1973-74.

And again, just sayin’ here with the Billy Baron comparison:

McMillan’s first two Canisius games: 64 points, 8 assists, 1-1 record.
Billy Baron’s first two Canisius games: 50 points, 7 assists, 1-1 record.

Cassidy Ryan

Cassidy Ryan

Ryan returns: Cassidy Ryan missed the team’s first game after returning home to be with his family following the death of his father. The Griffs had a moment of silence before the game for both Ryan’s father and the victims of the terrorist attacks in France. Valenti and Baron both said the team dedicated the game to Ryan.

Ryan, a reserve forward, played six minutes in the game, covering Kempton while Bleeker sat in the first half.

Quote of the night: Kempton kept it simple: “Tonight we couldn’t finish the freakin’ game.”

First look: Monday was also the first chance to see the team’s new players in action. In person, it was Ron Gombe who stood out the most. The 6-foot-8 sophomore transfer is muscularly built and moves well for a big man.

Getting the band back together: For the first time in about four years, Canisius has a pep band playing in the student section. The Canisius High School pep band used to play, but that seemed to fade away after Tom Parrotta was let go. The new band, composed of all Canisius College students, probably has something to do with Canisius broadcasting games on ESPN3.

Next game: Canisius hosts Cornell on Saturday, 3:15 p.m.



Gameday: Canisius home opener vs. Lehigh, 7 p.m.

By Nick Veronica

Canisius looks to bounce back from a season-opening loss to Hofstra when Lehigh visits the Koessler Athletic Center tonight at 7 p.m.

Canisius Golden Griffins: 0-1 overall, 0-0 home. Streak: L1. KenPom rank: 160.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks: 0-1 overall, 0-1 road. Streak: L1. KenPom rank: 122.

What’s at stake: Both teams are looking for their first win of the season after losing Friday night. It’s the home opener for Canisius, while Lehigh continues a tough opening stretch that features six of its first seven games on the road. Canisius has never been more than one game below .500 under fourth-year coach Jim Baron (and it was never more than two games above .500 under Tom Parrotta).

Canisius has never been two games below .500 under Jim Baron.

Canisius has never been two games below .500 under Jim Baron.

Top dogs: For the second game in a row, Canisius faces both a team that was picked first in its preseason poll and the player who was named the league’s preseason Player of the Year. Tonight Canisius will have to deal with Lehigh center Tim Kempton, who averaged 15.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last year before being named Patriot League Player of the Year.

Hawks hang with Orange: Lehigh actually made a run on Syracuse in Friday’s opener, cutting the Orange’s lead to just six points midway through the second half. The Orange went on to win 57-47, but not before Kempton posted a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Encore performance: How does Malcolm McMillan follow up his stellar first game? The Central Connecticut transfer dropped a career-high 33 points and recorded six assists Friday in his first game. According to Canisius SID Matt Reitnour, that was the most points for a player in his Griff debut since Larry Fogle opened with 35 points in 1973.

Fogle went on to lead the nation in scoring that year at 33.4 points per game. McMillan obviously can’t be expected to continue scoring at that pace, but if he can consistently produce even half of what he put up Friday, he’s going to make the Griffs a very dangerous team in the MAAC.

Short up front: Canisius will again be without forward Jermaine Crumpton, who serves the second game of his three-game suspension Monday. The status of forward Cassidy Ryan, who didn’t travel to the last game due to a death in his immediate family, is unknown. Six-foot-8 sophomore transfer Ron Gombe played two minutes in the opener but didn’t record a stat.

Return game: Canisius played Lehigh in its second game of last season as well, winning 63-51 on the road. Zach Lewis had 24 points and Jamal Reynolds had 12. Kempton led Lehigh with 19. It was Baron’s first career game against the Mountain Hawks.

Good home-opening numbers: Canisius is 53-21 all-time in home openers and 14-9 in home openers at the KAC. Canisius hasn’t lost a home opener under Baron.

Random player tweet: Goals, Timothy. Goals.

As an interesting aside, Kemtpon is actually Tim Kempton Jr., and his dad, Tim Sr., played college basketball at Notre Dame in the 1980s while Jim Baron was an assistant there.

How to follow the game: You could go to the game, or watch online via WatchESPN. Jay Moran’s radio call goes out on 102.9 FM and 1230 AM. I’ll tweet updates @NickVeronica, and I probably should update the Twitter list of Big 4 basketball writers. I’ll have a recap posted shortly after the final buzzer.