Niagara wins conference opener vs. Saint Peter’s, 61-59

By Nick Veronica

Rayvon Harris scored 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting to lead Niagara past Saint Peter’s Thursday night, 61-59, in the country’s earliest conference game this season.

niagara_logo_bigSaint Peter’s trailed by 12 points, 53-41, with 6:52 to go, but came back to take a 59-58 lead when Tyler Gaskins hit a three-pointer with 1:23 remaining.

Karonn Davis answered with a three for Niagara, and neither team would score the rest of the way as the Peacocks’ Chazz Patterson missed a game-tying jumper with nine seconds remaining.

Niagara, picked last in the MAAC preseason poll, now sits atop the conference standings at 1-0 and 1-1 overall. The next MAAC game isn’t until Dec. 3, when Canisius travels to Saint Peter’s.

Marvin Dominique led the Peacocks (0-3) with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Gaskins had 16 points.

Ramone Snowden added 12 points and 11 rebounds for Niagara. Wesley Myers was 1 for 7 from the field after going 2 for 8 in the opener, though he added seven rebounds and four assists Thursday.

The Purple Eagles were 5 for 14 from three-point range after going 0 for 14 against Pitt last Friday.

Starters: Niagara – Rayvon Harris, Ramone Snowden, Emile Blackman, Karonn Davis, Wesley Myers. Saint Peter’s – Marvin Dominique, Tyler Gaskins, Chazz Patterson, Trevis Wyche, Quadir Welton.

Next: Niagara returns to nonconference action with a 7 p.m. home game on Saturday against Hartford.

Evans’ 24 lead UB past Texas-Arlington, 74-68

By Nick Veronica

Shannon Evans had 24 points and five rebounds to lead UB past Texas-Arlington, 74-68, Tuesday night in the Bulls’ first game since hanging tough with No. 1 Kentucky.

nybuffalologoWill Regan added 15 points for UB while Jarryn Skeete had 13. Point guard Lamonte Bearden played 23 minutes before fouling out with eight points and seven rebounds.

UB led at halftime, 35-31, and never trailed in the second half while improving to 2-1. Teams shot nearly identical percentages from the field — 38.9 for UB, 38.8 for UT-Arlington — but the Bulls were able to get to the free-throw line 31 times, hitting 24.

Erick Neal scored 15 points off the bench to lead the Mavericks, whose reserves outscored their starters, 43-25.

Xavier Ford led UB with eight rebounds while playing 20 minutes off the bench.

Starters: UB – Lamonte Bearden, Shannon Evans, Jarryn Skeete, Will Regan, Justin Moss.

Next: UB hosts Montana State at 7 p.m. Friday.

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Immediate reactions: Canisius 63, Lehigh 51 — 11/18/14

Canisius 24 39 – 63
Lehigh 26 25 – 51

By Nick Veronica

What it means: Who saw this coming? Canisius improved to 2-0 and showed good resiliency after a shaky start. This team has plenty to clean up, but looks much deeper than originally expected. That exhibition loss to Daemen seems like a lifetime ago.

Lehigh lost its first game by 11 points at 12th-ranked Villanova, then lost by 12 at home vs. Canisius. Take from that what you will.

Canisius goes to 2-0, 1-0 road, and 2-0 when trailing at halftime. Lehigh goes to 0-2. The Griffs are 2-0 for the second time in three years under Jim Baron and just the third time since 2000.

How it happened: The Griffs made plays. Zach Lewis hit 5 of his 8 shots in the second half to finish with 24 points after going just 3 for 12 in the first half. Jamal Reynolds had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Kevin Bleeker was strong late and finished with 7 points and 5 rebounds in just 10 minutes. Jermaine Crumpton had 6 points and 3 boards in 16 minutes, and Jim Baron made a point to credit him in the postgame radio interview.

After a career-high 24 points in the opener, Phil Valenti had only three points Tuesday and Josiah Heath was shut out as both were in foul trouble. Canisius made 19 of 21 free throws. Tim Kempton had 19 points and 7 rebounds for Lehigh.

Lehigh led 36-32 with 14:13 to go before Canisius took the lead for good with a 16-2 run over the next six minutes.

Both teams struggled mightily in the first half. It took Lehigh more than 10 minutes to score 10 points, but the Mountain Hawks came back to lead at halftime as the Griffs shot just 22.9% in the first half, including 2 of 18 from three-point range. Both teams finished under 33 percent from the field.

Forcing it: Zach Lewis is the best player on a young team. It’s natural for him to want to take the reins on offense. But it was obvious in the exhibitions that he was forcing up a ton of shots, and the problem has continued in the regular season.

Lewis was 2 of 10 shooting against Vermont and had a tough first half against Lehigh before finishing with 24 points on 20 shots. Billy Baron only took 20 shots six times last year. The offense is running better when five guys work the ball around until a lane opens. We know Lewis is a great shooter, but can help the team by letting the game come to him and not forcing what isn’t there.

Foul trouble: Canisius’ bigs were in foul trouble early, with Josiah Heath and Kevin Bleeker picking up three fouls in the first half and Phil Valenti getting his third less than a minute into the second half. Crumpton played big minutes off the bench and Bleeker was effective when he got on the floor. Valenti and Heath played just 21 minuets each and had three points between them. Canisius overcame that tonight but may not always be able to in the future.

Point guard watch: Jan Grzelinski started and played 22 minutes with a team-high four assists. He scored five points (1-5 shooting, 1-4 from 3) and had two turnovers. Kassius Robertson had two points and one assist in 12 minutes.

Redshirt candidates: When the bigs got into foul trouble, Jim Baron put Cassidy Ryan into the game. I thought Baron might redshirt Ryan after he didn’t play against Vermont, but now that looks like it won’t be the case. … Isaiah Gurley didn’t play again and looks like a redshirt. … Raven Owen still hasn’t played as he recovers from a stress fracture in his foot.

New threads: Check out the new road jerseys the Griffs debuted Tuesday.

Starters: Canisius – Grzelinski, Lewis, Reynolds, Valenti, Heath. Lehigh – Ross, Price, Schaeffer, Chuku, Kempton.

Next game: Canisius goes down to Olean for a 4 p.m. contest against Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure on Saturday.

Canisius unveils new road uniforms

Canisius new blue uniform on the left, Billy Baron in last year's on the right.

Canisius’ new uni on the left, Billy Baron in last year’s on the right (click to enlarge)

By Nick Veronica

The Canisius men’s basketball account tweeted a photo of the team’s new blue road uniforms, which will be worn Tuesday night against Lehigh.

They are similar to last season’s blue uniforms (pictured above), with a few differences:

  • The numbers are yellow with a white outline instead of white with yellow.
  • There’s a solid stripe down the side of the jersey and shorts. Last year’s shorts had a thick, broken stripe in alternating colors.
  • The neck is solid yellow all the way around instead of breaking in the center of the throat.
  • The word “Canisius” looks slightly arced instead of straight across, which matches the home white uniforms.
  • The shorts have a Griffin on the bottom. The old shorts had a Canisius “C” on the left hip.

The blue jerseys are still Nike. Only the home whites are Jordan brand.

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Gameday: Canisius at Lehigh — 11/18/14

Canisius at Lehigh, 7 p.m., Stabler Arena, Bethlehem, Pa.

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By Nick Veronica

Canisius Golden Griffins: 1-0, 0-0 MAAC, 0-0 road. RPI: 92. Kenpom: 189. Streak: W1.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks: 0-1, 0-0 Patriot, 0-0 home. RPI: 209. Kenpom: 213. Streak: L5, dating to last February.

What’s at stake: After a moderately surprising opening win over Vermont on Saturday, the Griffs have a chance to open 2-0 for the second time in three years under Jim Baron. Another win would go a long way for the confidence of a team that lost four starters and five of its top six scorers from a season ago.

About Lehigh: The Mountain Hawks are coming off a 77-66 road loss to No. 12 Villanova on Friday — a game that was tied with 11 minutes to play. Sophomore guard Austin Price (6-foot-4, 175) scored 24 points, center Tim Kempton (6-10, 225) had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Kahron Ross added seven assists.

If Lehigh could hang with Villanova for three-quarters of a game, matching up against the Griffs tonight shouldn’t be as daunting.

Lehigh was 14-18 (7-11 Patriot League) last year and graduated leading scorer and assist man Mackey McKnight. Kempton was a preseason all-conference selection and the team was picked to finish seventh out of 10. Brett Reed is in his eighth year as coach.

What the Griffs need to do: It’s only the second game and I already feel like a broken record, but the forwards really need to play big today. Lehigh outrebounded Villanova 29-21 over the weekend. Kempton stands at 6-10 and Jesse Chuku and Justin Goldsborough are 6-8. Josiah Heath and company did a good job limiting Vermont’s Ethan O’Day on Saturday, but Kempton poses a bigger threat. It’ll be interesting to see how Jim Baron uses Kevin Bleeker, as well.

Rings a bell: Does Lehigh basketball sound familiar? You might remember them as the 15-seed that knocked off Duke in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Current Portland Trail Blazer C.J. McCollum scored 30 for Lehigh in that game. Phoenix Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby is also a Lehigh alum.

Wild card: Tim Kempton likes to pose with flowers, I guess.

Wild card II: Jan Grzelinski made all four shots he took on Saturday. Unfortunately for him, he needed one more basket to qualify for ESPN’s list of field goal percentage leaders.

Following up: After losing to Canisius on Saturday, Vermont beat expected MAAC title contender Siena on Monday, 84-76. Go figure.

How to follow the game: There may be video from the Patriot League. Jay Moran has the call on 102.9 FM/1230 AM. I’ll have updates on Twitter and a blog after the game. Tweet with #Griffs to join the discussion.