Well, it was an improvement from their last game. And after a 2-9 start to the season, the Canisius men’s basketball team will take a victory in any form.
Sixth-year coach Tom Parrotta challenged his team in the week leading up to their game with the 0-10 Binghamton Bearcats.
“I told them flat out, you have a team coming in here that hasn’t won a game. This was probably the first time … that we were clearly the team that should win this basketball game,” Parrotta said.
“I wanted them to say ‘We got this, we’ll take care of it’ [and] that’s what I can take out of it with my guys. The challenge was there … and they found a way to win. And it was as ugly as you could possibly see at times. But they got the win.”
The Griffs even practiced on Christmas in preparation for the game but didn’t overpower a lowly Binghamton squad that came into the Koessler Athletic Center winless and near the bottom of the NCAA in every major category. But the 75-66 victory was a better performance than the unsightly 59-45 loss to Loyola of Chicago six days prior and gave the Griffs their first home win in six tries this year.
Canisius never quite managed to put the Bearcats away but kept the lead with great guard play. Junior transfer Harold Washington led the charge to his first-ever win at the KAC, hitting 9 of 17 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the line to lead all scorers with 27 points. Alshwan Hymes knocked down 3 of 8 from behind the arc and finished with 17.
The stat sheet may have looked clean – both teams finished with 16 assists and only eight turnovers – but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Wednesday night was all about winning the hard way.
Junior guard Gaby Belardo shared a quote from NBA star Chris Paul with his team before the game, which reminded them that wins don’t always have to look good.
“I had him share that quote again afterword because I thought it was pretty ugly at times,” Parrotta said, with “ugly” being the theme of the press conference. “I thought we did some good things but they kind of hang around, and a lot of it was our doing, but at the end of the game we found a way to gut out a win.
“The bottom line is the guys won an ugly game, but nonetheless it goes into the right column.”
Binghamton, which doesn’t have a senior on its roster, came into the contest ranked 336th nationally in scoring offense (55.0 points per game), 340th in field goal percentage (.363) and had been held to 45 and 44 in its last two outings. But that didn’t stop the Bearcats from shooting 43.6 percent against the Griffs and scoring 66 points, their second-highest output of the season.
Even coach Mark Macon, a pure shooter in his NBA days, remarked that his Bearcats 4-of-12 night from behind the arc was impressive, at least by their standards – they came into the game shooting .259 from three.
It’s a win nonetheless for the Griffs (3-9, 0-2 MAAC), who reopen conference play New Year’s Day at Fairfield, which handed Canisius a 68-59 loss at the KAC on Dec. 4.
The scene got even uglier near the end of the game, when Binghamton’s leading scorer, Ben Dickinson, hammered Josiah Heath from behind as Heath went in for a wide-open dunk. The 6-foot-9, 230-pouind freshman crashed hard into the base of the hoop and Dickinson was ejected from the game with 14.5 seconds to play.
Heath would make 1 of 2 ensuing free throws and Parrotta said he suffered no injuries on the play. Macon apologized to Parrotta after the game and neither coach was overly upset about the incident in the postgame.
Byron Brown Jr., son of the Buffalo mayor, played a career-high four minutes for Binghamton and hit a jumper with dad on hand in the gym just a few hundred yards from the house he grew up in on Blaine Avenue.
Canisius has now defeated in-state rival Binghamton two years in a row, but this may be the last time the sides meet for some time. The MAAC Council of Presidents approved a policy in mid-December that prohibits MAAC basketball programs from scheduling nonconference opponents that rank in the bottom 50 of the two-year relative power index (RPI) report.
It’s possible that Binghamton, 8-23 last year and 0-fer this year, will be listed in that report.
The policy is effective starting next season and offers schools an exception for what it calls “traditional” opponents, such as if Buffalo or St. Bonaventure were to ever fall into that category. For more, check out that MAAC’s release.