MAAC midpoint awards

There are 10 teams in the MAAC, and each team plays the other nine twice in league play. Nine times two is 18, and with every team having played nine games, that means everyone’s league season is at least half over.

I’m fantastic at math, I know.

What being halfway through the season really means is that it’s time for halftime awards. I’ll give you my favorite to win the MAAC, and my First Team All-MAAC at the halfway point.

Thus far through league play, Ryan Rossiter and Mike Glover are shoe-ins for the First Team. That doesn’t mean they will be shoe-ins for the real thing come March, but for the halfway point, I don’t think anyone would argue against this.

I have three spaces left to fill. The only players in my mind who have legitimate claims to the title are Derek Needham, Justin Robinson and Scott Machado.

Others can make a case, but they don’t have the connotation of “First Team All-League” just yet, not to me at least.

Anthony Nelson and George Beamon probably won’t enjoy reading this. Mike Ringgold and Nick Leon can ball, and Novar Gadson is no slouch either.

There are a handful of good players in the league who are putting up good numbers, people like Kyle Smith, Kashief Edwards, Elton Frazier and Rhamel Brown, but there’s no way they crack the league’s top-5.

I’m more of a “that guy can play, I’d want him on my team” type of observer of college basketball.  Justin Robinson might fit this description better than anyone.  He handles the ball well and always seems to come up with a clutch shot.

Scott Machado can flat-out play, and Derek Needham is one of the best scorers in the conference, not to mention he’s only a sophomore.

I’d like to say I don’t count playing on a bad team against a player, but looking at my list I guess I did. We’ll call this an isolated incident. Beamon and Nelson have the scoring numbers, but they have to be doing something wrong too if their teams are only 1-8. When you are getting blown out of games, the opponent’s defense tends to soften up a little bit.

For MAAC Champ, my pick at this point is Fairfield. I know it’s easy to pick a team with a 2.5 game lead with 9 to play, but the Stags have the intangibles I haven’t seen out of any other team yet.

It starts and ends with head coach Ed Cooley. I’d put Cooley up against any other MAAC coach with the game on the line, and what he said in the press conference last week really stood out for me.

It started with a silly question, really, asking Derek Needham if he was glad he didn’t have to face 7-foot-3 Marial Dhal in the game against Canisius. Derek took the joke, but Cooley was on another level.

Without missing a beat, he made sure to let every reporter in the room know that Fairfield “isn’t afraid of anybody,” and that no matter who the opponent is they are facing, the Stags will prevail with defense and team play.

Not even LeBron James was spared in Cooley’s rant.

How many coaches would put their team against LeBron James? Coach K, Tom Izzo… maybe.  But Ed Cooley? Bring ‘em on!

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Career day for Logins lifts Griffs past Iona

Senior Greg Logins.

After losing a close game to Fairfield last Friday at the Koessler Athletic Center and falling to 2-6 in league play, the eldest members of the men’s basketball team knew they had to step up.

The Griffs’ five seniors met with head coach Tom Parrotta in his office for two hours on Saturday, where they vowed to take it upon themselves to get the team where it needs to be.

“We really had some soul-searching that we took care of,” Parrotta said. “We talked as a group with the seniors… about stepping up and doing anything we could do to push this team through.”

Greg Logins took that message to heart.

The senior forward went 6 of 7 from 3-point range on Sunday and finished with a career-high 30 points as Canisius knocked off league-leader Iona, 75-73. Logins was the first Griff to score 30 points at the KAC in almost exactly five years.

After a back-and-forth battle all afternoon, the Gaels’ Jermel Jenkins hit a 3-pointer to tie the score with 10 seconds remaining in the game. Canisius senior Julius Coles got the inbounds pass and threw it the length of the floor to a streaking Gaby Belardo, who scored the game-winning basket with less than four seconds on the clock.

“I thought they were going to foul,” Coles said. “Gaby took off and I just looked up the court and saw him.”

“Nobody was guarding me,” Belardo said. “I just kind of sprinted to the hoop.”

After being torched for 39 points in their first meeting this season, Canisius held the MAAC’s leading scorer Mike Glover to 11 points on the afternoon, and allowed him just one point in the first half. Glover managed to round out the double-double with 10 rebounds but had his worst shooting game of the season.

After trailing 4-0 early on, the Blue and Gold ripped off an 11-0 run, highlighted by a huge alley-oop from Belardo to Frazier. Frazier himself accounted for nine of the 11 points over the stretch.

Canisius was down by four at halftime, 38-34, before Logins took over. He scored seven points in the first three minutes of the second half, and finished with 22 in the period. The win marked just the ninth time out of 80 games that coach Parrotta’s teams have won after trailing at the break.

Scott Machado led Iona with 17 points, while Coles added 12 for Canisius. Eight players scored double digits in the game.

The Griffs shot 53.8 percent from the floor and had a season-high 21 assists as Frazier, Coles and Rob Goldsberry each had five apiece.

The win was the first Sunday victory for the Griffs since 2006, breaking a 24-game losing streak.

Canisius (9-10, 3-6 MAAC) looks to take this momentum into Friday night’s contest with long-time rival Niagara. The Purple Eagles sit dead last in the division at 1-8 and are 4-17 on the season. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the KAC and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

USMNT vs. Chile quick recap

Six players earned their first career cap Friday night at the Home Depot Center as a young Team USA drew with Chile, 1-1.

None of the 19 players who dressed for the match were part of the 23-man World Cup roster last summer.

Chris Wondolowski led the MLS with 18 goals last season.

Chile took the lead in the 54th minute on an athletic finish in the box from Esteban Parades. The States answered 20 minutes later when Teal Bunbury buried a penalty kick into the lower right corner (video here, awesome call from the announcer).

2010 MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski played 59 minutes in his first-ever game with the national team. According to US Soccer’s Twitter, Wondolowsi started the game as the lone striker for USA.

It listed Bob Bradley’s formation as a 4-2-3-1, but you wouldn’t have known by watching the game. Like the 4-3-3 he tried against Colombia, it ended it mushing into a 4-4-2, even with completely different players.

Twenty-year-old Brek Shea started his second straight game for the States. I don’t think he cracks the roster when Bradley has his pick of players, but he has showed some good things so far. If only he could take a decent picture.

The defensive unit showed its youth today and would have been exposed by a more talented opponent. There were a few breakdowns and some looks Chile should have finished.

It takes a while to get used to playing with new people, but the general feeling is that the United States should be able to beat Chile, no matter who is playing. It feels like yet another game that the soccer powers of the world would have found a way to win.

In the last four games on U.S. soil, the USMNT is 0-1-3.

Wondonlowski
Bedoya-Diskerud-Shea
Larentowicz-McCarty
Franklin-Ream-Gonzalez-Loyd
Rimando

Shots: Chile 9, USA 4
On target: Chile 3, USA 4
Corners: Chile 0, USA 2
Subs: Chile 2, USA 7
Yellow cards: Chile 2, USA 1
Red cards: None

League-leader Marist too much for Griffs on Kid’s Day

The Marist Red Foxes opened the second half with a 15-2 run and never looked back Friday afternoon in the Koessler Athletic Center, defeating Canisius 59-40.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s fourth-leading scorer Erica Allenspach had 18 points for the Red Foxes and 6-foot-4 Kate Oliver had 12. Freshman Jamie Ruttle led Canisius with 10.

A rambunctious crowd of 2,196 was on hand for Kid’s Day at the KAC, where students from schools across the city got to cheer on the Griffs free of charge.

“It’s a fun atmosphere for our team,” head coach Terry Zeh said. “The kids are great. [Associate Athletics Director] John Maddock and his staff have done a really good job because it’s really grown over the years.

“We sort of started this a long time ago… and now the whole league is doing it. But we do it the best, by far.”

There was plenty to cheer for early on. The Griffs played Marist tight and briefly took the lead on the five-time defending MAAC champions.

After falling behind 16-8, the Griffs went on a 9-0 run to take the lead with 8:39 to play in the half. Two free throws from Ruttle put Canisus up by one, but it was the only lead the Griffs would have in the game.

The Red Foxes heavily outrebounded Canisius, 48-30, and pulled down 20 offensive boards.

Canisius struggled mightily from the floor, shooting just 28.3 percent from the field and 26.3 percent behind the arc. The Griffs made only 13 field goals and matched a season-low 40 points.

“The key to the game was certainly the glass,” Zeh said. “They controlled the rebounds. On a night they didn’t shoot well and we played good defense, they got all the offensive rebounds, and that hurt us.”

Marist entered the contest averaging the fewest turnovers per game in the country (11.3), and gave the ball away only 12 times on Friday. The Griffs scored 10 points off the Marist turnovers, while the Red Foxes scored 23 on Canisius’ 19 giveaways.

The visitors struggled from the floor in the first half (22.9 percent), but got it together in the second before coasting to victory. Marist improved on its MAAC-leading team free-throw percentage, hitting 14 of 15 from the line.

Up next for the Griffs (5-11, 1-4 MAAC) is a home game this Sunday at 2 p.m. against Siena, which is tied with Marist atop the league standings at 5-0. The Saints are fresh off a 40-point drubbing of Niagara Friday afternoon.

Griffs first-half report card

Canisius' own Fab Five (left to right): Rob Goldsberry, Tomas Vazquez-Simmons, Elton Frazier, Greg Logins, Julius Coles.

Don’t look now, but Canisius’ 2010-2011 men’s basketball season is already halfway over.

Through 15 games, the Griffs have compiled a record of 7-8 and are just 1-4 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play.

Surely this is not the position the program hoped to be in at this point in the season, especially in a year it has five seniors who all contribute significant minutes.

Canisius currently sits in eighth place in the MAAC, on pace to finish bottom-four in the conference for the 12th straight year.

Canisius has played well at points this season but struggles with consistency. The Griffs have the potential to win on any given night, but even head coach Tom Parrotta admits the team hasn’t played to potential.

With the second (and more important) half of the season ahead, here are the Griffs midterm grades:

Offense: B-

Canisius is third in the league in scoring average at 69.8, which puts the team in the top half of the country. However, the emergence of Alshwan Hymes as a 3-point threat is the only thing that keeps the Griffs out of C-range.

The first half against Rider last Sunday was about as well as the offense has been running all season. A shooting percentage over .500 and 20 points in the paint led to a 42-point outburst against a good team. The Griffs moved the ball well and the defense created offense.

Elton Frazier dunks in the Carrier Dome.

But over the next 20 minutes, Canisius went back to old habits. Settling for bad shots early in the shot clock is a good way to lose a lead. So is missing free throws. And giving up huge runs.

Giving up runs has been a major problem for the team. Even after getting ahead early, Canisius frequently allows huge, momentum-swinging, lead-changing runs. Five or six minutes of bad basketball is more than enough to blow a game. The defense is just as much to blame for giving up runs, but if you keep scoring then it isn’t really a run.

People in sports love talking about the “eye test”—whether or not it simply “looks good”—and that can be a good way to judge the Griffs. The half-court offense always seems lethargic and there isn’t really any killer instinct. Even against Siena’s zone last Friday, Canisius got the ball moving, but it just wasn’t moving fast enough.

The individual play isn’t there either. No players are in the top-10 in the MAAC in scoring. Elton Frazier leads the team at 11.9 points per game (ppg). Julius Coles, a Preseason Second Team All-MAAC selection who averaged 13.6 points last year, is second on the team at 11.1.

Hymes is third 10.6, and Gaby Belardo and Greg Logins are close behind at 9.9 and 9.5, respectively. Canisius could potentially have five players scoring in double-digits, but again, were talking about potential and not the real thing.

Defense: B-

The Griffs have been equally as shoddy on the defensive end as the offensive. Whatever points the unit earned against Siena, it handed right back against Rider.

Tomas Vazquez-Simmons is tied for second in MAAC history with 248 blocks, but it’s going to take more than a few blocks to start winning some basketball games. The Griffs’ 70.5 points allowed per game puts them fifth in the league and 234th in the country.

Though Canisius is thought to have decent size, a lot of the players are tall but not very wide. This difference between “big men” and “tall men” was exposed in the game against Syracuse. You can argue that Syracuse exposes weaknesses in everyone, but take the Rider game for example. Even one of the bigger men, Logins, was no match inside for Mike Ringgold.

Their size does help them rebound, which is one of the few things they do well night in and night out. The Griffs lead the MAAC in rebounding average and are 80th in the country. Not allowing second chances is especially important for stopping runs, and can help in the transition game.

Again, it goes back to the eye test. Far too often, opponents have open looks at the hoop before knocking down shots. Not sort-of open, wide open. If Division-I players have time to set their feet and look right at the rim, they are going to make shots.

Six of Canisius’ seven wins this season came when they held opponents to under 40 percent from the field. That’s not a challenge, that’s something to work on.

Coaching: C+

Marial Dhal has been a waste thus far, averaging just 4.3 minutes per game… in the ones he actually gets in to. There’s a problem when we’re getting excited over a season-high four points.

Parrotta after Canisius beat Niagara in overtime last year (the white shoes were part of a promotion).

The team is still falling into the same issues it had last season and the senior core is not as far along as one might have hoped.

Two things Tom Parrotta teams are known for are rebounding and free-throw shooting. They have rebounding. Converting from the charity stripe is another story. The team works hard at this in practice, often hitting around 80 percent, but it hasn’t translated to the games. Not only does the team struggle to get to the line (last in the conference in FTs attempted per game), once they get there, the Griffs only convert 65.7 percent of the time.

Parrotta was given an extension in the offseason to keep him with Canisius through the 2012-13 season, but the classroom aspect and potential recruiting issues played just as large a role in the decision as actual performance on the court. Graduating all seniors with master’s degrees is certainly honorable and looks great for the institution, but it doesn’t do much for the win-loss column.

The fifth-year head coach has also had trouble getting change out of his team following halftime. The second half almost always plays out like the first, for better or for worse. Parrotta’s teams have held the halftime lead 57 times in his tenure, and they went on to win 40 of those games, good for a .702 percentage.

However, when trailing at halftime, Parrotta-led teams rarely come back. When behind at halftime since 2006, Canisius’ record is 8-69. Looking at only MAAC games, the record falls to 4-42, or .087.

Over the last two seasons, Canisius has never come back to win a game after trailing by more than 10 points, but as recently as last Sunday the Griffs blew a 14-point lead.

The players certainly seem to like playing for Coach P, but alumni and fans need more.

Bench: B

The matchup between Canisius freshman Chris Manhertz and UB freshman Javon McCrea will be a good one for years to come, but first Manhertz has to get himself on the court. While McCrea is atop the country in shooting percentage, Manhertz has been limited to only six games all season with an ankle injury.

Reggie Groves.

Canisius is getting fairly good production from its bench, which scores 24.1 ppg, or 35 percent of the offense.

A few players have battled the injury bug this season, but depth is somewhat of a concern. Hymes usually comes off the bench, as does either Logins or Vazquez-Simmons. Redshirt freshman Reggie Groves has provided a spark and looks more and more confident with the ball in his hands. After those players, there are some question marks.

Dhal has played 47 minutes all season and often looks lost. Ashton Khan looks like he can finish at the hoop, but hasn’t gotten into Parrotta’s rotation. Rokas Gricius hasn’t played since Nov. 23 against UB, sometimes due to injury, but usually due to coach’s decision. Eric Kindler played in every game but one in December, but still has work to do before he can think about being a regular contributor.

Overall: C+

A team searching for an identity after Frank Turner is yet to find it, unless inconsistency is what they are going with.

Turner (left) and Belardo.

A lot of excitement surrounded Belardo before the season as many slated him the next big thing for Canisius. The main knock on Belardo’s predecessor, Turner, was his turnover issues, but thus far Belardo has followed suit.

Through 15 games, Belardo has 56 turnovers, more per game than Turner, which puts him 40th in the country. Belardo has 56 assists for an even assist/turnover ratio of 1.0., not comparable with the better guards in the league like Derek Needham (1.31), Justin Robinson (1.65) or Scott Machado (2.27).

To be fair, Belardo is seventh in the MAAC in assists per game and has done a lot of good things too. Almost every opposing coach comments about him, and twice he has scored 19 points in a game.

However, after UB showed how to eliminate Belardo from the game, opponents have watched that tape and adjusted their defense accordingly, at times stymieing the Canisius offense.

Belardo’s 19 helped power the Griffs past St. Bonaventure in the opening game of the year, but we haven’t seen any fire from the Griffs since. A few alley-oops and heated moments here and there, but no defining, coming together moment.

The MAAC is wide open this season and is there for the taking for a team with five seniors. But it’s going to take more than one win against a team above .500, which is how many Canisius has right now (Bonaventure).

The MAAC Tournament is less than 50 days away. There’s light at the end of the tunnel if the Griffs can turn this thing around, but Parrotta’s group is going to have to put the pedal to the metal for that to happen.

Stats as of 1/11/11