More coverage from Canisius’ come-from-behind win at the First Niagara Center:
Chris Perez and Billy Baron postgame interviews
Jim Baron postgame interview
How it happened: Just when it looked like UB was hitting enough shots to thwart every Canisius comeback attempt, a late run turned the tide, sparked by unlikely hero Phil Valenti. UB led 51-43 with 10:54 to play. But that’s when Chris Perez finally took advantage of a mismatch against Jarod Oldham and Valenti made a few clutch plays in a row to spark the rally, paced of course by Billy Baron, who led all players with 23. The Griffs closed on a 26-4 run.
What it means: Canisius showed some moxie in this one, and the come-from-behind win in front of an announced crowd of 4,703 at the First Niagara Center will be something to build on. The Griffs are now 1-1 against Big 4 rivals this season, having dropped their meeting with St. Bonaventure earlier this season. It was a coming out party for Perez, finally attacking against smaller players, and should give Jim Baron more confidence with Valenti when the bigs get in foul trouble.
Secondary scoring? Perez and Valenti took care of that in the second half, finishing with 16 and 11 points, respectively. There wasn’t much scoring outside of Baron and Perez in the first half: Those two were 7 for 15 shooting, and all other Griffs were 3 for 17.
Rebounding? Canisius outrebounded an opponent for just the third time this season, collecting 37 boards to UB’s 33. The Griffs pulled down 14 on the offensive end, and Chris Manhertz outrebounded Javon McCrea, 9-6, in eight fewer minutes.
Stats that were good: Canisius shot 55.6 percent (15-27) in the second half after going just 10 for 30 in the first half … Phil Valenti was 4 for 5 for a career-high 11 points with five rebounds and no turnovers in 18 minutes … Canisius had just six turnovers while forcing 15 … held UB to 6 of 23 from three-points range … the second half was 43-20 Canisius.
Stats that were bad: The Griffs were 13 of 25 from the free-throw line … Dominique Raney was 2 of 7 from the field … Zach Lewis and Jeremiah Williams were 0 for 5.
Notes: It was the 21st time Billy Baron scored 20 or more points in a college game. He also turned 23 today.
Next game: Canisius plays at St. Francis (Brooklyn) on Saturday at 4 p.m.Follow @nickveronica
FINAL: Canisius wins, 69-55.
48.2: Valenti down with 48.2 left. Huge gash over his eye. Butterfly bandages are a friend. If that’s the last for him, he had a heck of a game. A flagrant-1 assessed.
1:00: Griffs lead by 10 with a minute to go, 64-55.
2:03: Baron with a fade away dagger. 63-55.
3:18: Zach Lewis misses a 3 but — guess who — Valenti is there for the lay-in.
3:51: McCrea picks up his fourth as Heath draws a charge. Hurley is furious. Phil Valenti is suddenly on a tear. Griffs lead 59-55.
5:02: Valenti takes an ill-advised shot, but draws a foul on Regan. He hits both this time to make it 57-53.
5:43: Baron (finally) hits some free throws, giving Canisius its first lead of the night at 55-53.
6:19: Perez beats Oldham again. That’s a mismatch. 53-53.
Canisius and UB meet at the First Niagara Center tonight in the feature presentation of doubleheader that also includes Niagara against Davidson. NU tips off at 6 p.m., with Canisius-UB to follow around 8.
The teams: Canisius: 5-3, 2-0 MAAC. RPI: 176. Streak: Won two in a row and four of last five.
UB: 4-2, 0-0 MAC. RPI: 217. Streak: Won four straight.
Vegas line: Buffalo -3.5
Previous game: Canisius beat Siena, 93-78, on Sunday at the Koessler Center. It marked the second straight year the Griffs swept the opening weekend of conference play and the first time since 1996-97 that Canisius won consecutive MAAC games by 15 points or more.
UB beat St. Bonaventure, 78-73, on Saturday behind 17 points from Jarynn Skeete and Shannon Evans. SBU is the only common opponent between the teams. Canisius lost to Bonaventure, 86-64, in the second game of the season.
About UB: Senior forward Javon McCrea leads the Bulls in scoring and rebounding and averages nearly a double-double at 16.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game. Senior Joshua Freelove, and Alabama State transfer, is next at 12.2 points per game. Jarod Oldham (9.7 ppg) is also a threat to score, and he averages more assists per game than Billy Baron.
UB is coached by Bobby Hurley, who was brought in after Reggie Witherspoon was fired last spring.
Series history: Canisius won last year’s meeting, 71-64, but lost seven of the last eight before that. In November 2011, UB players took offense to Canisius allegedly disrespecting the Bulls’ center-court logo at Alumni Arena after the Griffs’ 73-71 win. Canisius players said it had something to do with what UB did the year before. It hasn’t come up since. Jim Baron is 6-2 against UB in his career.
Manhertz vs. McCrea: The Griffs can stay with anyone in the country if they shoot like they did Sunday (made 15 three-pointers), but how Canisius handles Javon McCrea and UB’s bigs will likely determine the outcome of the game. Interior defense hasn’t been a strong spot for the Griffs and they’ve been getting killed on the glass. McCrea vs. Chris Manhertz has the potential to be the best matchup in the Big 4, but it’s never materialized.
McCrea has a slight size advantage on Manhertz, but in head-to-head meetings, he’s played gargantuan. Manhertz played only five minutes against UB as a freshman and fouled out in each of their last two meeting. He has nine rebounds, 15 points and six turnovers in three games against the Bulls. McCrea, in those games, has 40 points and 20 rebounds.
Noteworthy: The games are being played downtown tonight because Buffalo is hosting NCAA tournament games this season, and the NCAA says all host teams must play a game where the tournament will be held — essentially in a dress rehearsal for the doubleheaders coming in March. Tonight also marks Canisius’ first-ever “away” game at the First Niagara Center (or HSBC Arena or any other name it held). The trip from FNC to Canisius’ Koessler Center is 3.5 miles. FNC to UB’s Alumni Arena? 11.9 miles.
Check back for a live blog around 7:45.Follow @nickveronica
The temperature spiked to 80 degrees that day, but aside from giving students in the Quad a few final hours of a fleeting Buffalo summer, it seemed like just another day on campus.
Last Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, turned out to be anything but ordinary. It will go down near the top of the list as one of the best single days Canisius athletics has had. There have been championships and upset wins before, but rarely, if ever, such a combination of events in the national spotlight all in one day.
It’s a big day when one of your former players, Cory Conacher, scores a goal for an NHL team. It’s a big day when one of your athletes, Andrew Incho, gets on SportsCenter and it’s a big day when two of your former all-stars, Adam Jones and Dave Coates, are first-round draft picks. When all three happen in the span of a few hours, it’s a gigantic day.
“It ranks up there as one that I won’t forget,” said Matt Reitnour, director of Athletic Communications who has spent the last decade at Canisius. “It was kind of crazy because we knew about Cory… we knew Jones and Coates had a chance to get drafted in the first round… the Incho thing kind of came out of nowhere. It was just cool to be a part of it.”
“There’s a lot of positive things going on here. I don’t know where it ranks, but certainly it’s near the top,” Associate Athletic Director John Maddock said. “I’ve been here since 1981, and obviously we’ve had a lot of good days, but to have all three of those things go on at the same time is pretty neat.”
Forecasts called for rain as the men’s soccer team boarded its bus and drove the 6.8 miles from the Koessler Athletic Center to UB Stadium, well in advance of their 7:30 kickoff.
Weather.com will have you know there was a light rain shower just after 7 p.m. in Toronto, where the National Lacrosse League’s draft was taking place. The Colorado Mammoth owned the third and eighth overall draft picks, both coming before the Buffalo Bandits’ first selection at ninth overall.
After Philadelphia and Rochester had selected, Colorado went up and grabbed former Griff Adam Jones, a left-handed forward who was Canisius’ first lacrosse player ever to be named an All-American. When the Mammoth got back up at eight, they selected former Canisius defender Dan Coates, a First Team All-MAAC selection a year ago.
South of the border, a strong but short-lived thunderstorm moved through the Buffalo area during the 8 o’clock hour. Canisius athletics’ @GoGriffs twitter feed noted at 8:16 that the soccer game at UB (played in Amherst) was suspended due to weather, and picked up just after 8:45.
Lightning struck again minutes later beneath mostly cloudy skies in Orlando, Fla., where former Griff Cory Conacher slammed in a power-play goal in a preseason game for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Cory Conacher,” @BoltProspects tweeted at 9:14. “We told you.”
Jason Veniskey from Athletic Communications, who coincidentally happens to be the sports information contact for the ice hockey, men’s soccer and men’s lacrosse teams, almost couldn’t keep up fast enough.
A Canisius throw in took three hops before junior Andrew Incho planted his left foot and drove his right foot through the ball toward the UB net from distance. “Andrew Incho with a perfect lob over the UB goalie gives Canisius a 2-1 lead,” @GoGriffs posted just three minutes after Conacher’s goal, at 9:17.
“It was a tremendously difficult strike,” men’s soccer coach Dermot McGrane said. “It was probably about 35 yards out and it both dipped over the goalkeeper and swerved away from him as well. We were right behind it so we could see it. It was tremendous.”
The circus strike sprung Canisius to a victory in a big meeting of local schools, but it wasn’t done traveling. Word — or perhaps video — of the goal made it all the way to ESPN headquarters before landing as the No. 2 top play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 the next morning, even beating out two highlight goals from the Serie A, Italy’s top professional soccer league.
Reitnour was taking his daughter to day care when he first got the word.
“I checked my cell phone and I had missed some calls. I didn’t know where the 860 area code was from. And then I checked my email on my BlackBerry and the producer from SportsCenter said, ‘We’d like to use a goal from your men’s soccer game on Top Plays today. Can we get permission to use it?’ Yeah you can use it.
“When ESPN calls and leaves you a voicemail at 6:48 or whatever time it was in the morning looking to get permission to use video, that’s a pretty good jump to your Thursday.”
Top 10 got cut from the 9 o’clock SportsCenter because of time constraints, but it aired on every episode from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “We all had TVs on in the whole building,” Maddock said. “As soon as they showed it you could hear people yelling down the hallway.”
“It was crazy,” Incho added. “I’m speechless about it.”
You would be too if you didn’t know you were about to be on SportsCenter.
“I was in study hall, actually. One of my roommates texted me and told me and I almost had a heart attack. I didn’t think it was real. It was amazing, really.
“My Facebook wall is blowing up beyond belief. My parents were ecstatic. It was a once in a lifetime thing and I’m glad we caught it on tape so I can see it again.”
Speaking of that, props to Jeff Rahmlow, Athletic Com’s multimedia graduate assistant, who not only traveled to the away game but also braved the weather to get the shot.
In his first year as Canisius coach after spending nine seasons at Niagara, McGrane could only smile while admitting that no, this type of thing never happened when he was with the Purple Eagles.
He has fielded calls and emails from all over the country, from friends, coaches, and even random alumni who were excited to see good things about the program. Even one of the coaches from Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire, a friend a McGrane’s, dropped him a line.
“I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a college goal on Top 10 plays,” McGrane said. “I don’t know another soccer program in the country that could tell their recruits, ‘Yeah, our goals were on ESPN.’ ”
Canisius has been in the national spotlight before. Not even two years ago, Elton Frazier had the No. 1 Top Play when he threw down a half-court alley-oop from Frank Turner. But never have the Griffs received this much national recognition for so many different sports, especially not all on one day. It’s one thing when Canisius athletes can be the best in Western New York or the best in the MAAC; it’s another when they can not only compete with, but excel against the best athletes this country – this planet – has to offer.
When Canisius dropped its football program in 2002, the school said its resources were spread too thin, that football was hindering other sports. The school promised to develop its other teams, and this one day – this one hour – shows maybe, just maybe, the school is reaping the benefits of that decision. The Griffs have arrived.