All winning streaks have to start somewhere. Friday night’s win over Marist at the Koessler Athletic Center may just be one in a row for Canisius, but after an 0-5 start to MAAC play, the Griffs are taking a conference game in which they led by as many as 21 points as a sign they’re turning the page.
“We really tried to close the chapter on the first part of the season,” head coach Tom Parrotta said. “We tried to deal with a lot of different things coming our way. Lack of numbers, depth, injuries … so we tried to close the chapter and say let’s put percentages out the window and let’s just try to do what we can. We knew from a tactical standpoint if we do the things we need to do, we would win the game.”
Canisius jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Marist responded with an 11-0 run to regain control and it looked like it might yet another game where the Griffs give up a big run and never recover. Then Alshwan Hymes got hot.
The junior sharpshooter hit two jumpers and two 3-pointers in just over two minutes of game time as the Griffs came back with a 19-2 run of their own to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Canisius led by double-digits at the break for the first time this year and went on to lead by as many as 21 points – its largest lead at any point this season – before taking down Marist 67-57 for its first conference win of the year. Marist (7-10, 2-5 MAAC) dropped its third straight and still hasn’t won on the road this season.
Though the Griffs are winless this season when they trail at halftime, Parrotta said his team’s 35-23 lead at intermission was “good and bad at the same time.”
“I told them before the game that this league is crazy,” Parrotta said. “A lot of leads evaporate. It just happened last night [when Iona blew a 17-point lead to Manhattan]. You’re never safe. We talked about it before the game though, and then it started to go that way. I don’t think you’re ever up enough in this league.
“But now that it’s over, it was nice.”
Some players had to step up when Hymes fouled out with 7:25 to go, and Parrotta leaned on his big-minute guys to hold down the lead.
“Gaby [Belardo] came to me and he said ‘Listen, we’re dead out there.’ We kind of looked up at the clock and said we’re going to have to fight through this. I don’t think it would have been fair to put some of the other guys in at that particular moment.”
Belardo had one of his best games of the season. He hit an emphatic 3-pointer in the first half as the shot clock expired that gave some much-needed moxie to the Griffs’ offense while logging 35 strong minutes and hitting shots from near and far. Hymes and Belardo finished with nearly identical stat lines: 18 points, four rebounds and 4-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. Hymes hit 7 of 13 field goals while Belardo knocked down 7 of 14.
Belardo said his back, though not perfect, is feeling “much better.” He recently saw another specialist and is responding well to this type of treatment, which he will continue to receive for the remainder of the season. Belardo has now played upwards of 30 minutes three games in a row.
Harold Washington was held to eight points on a 3-of-12 shooting night but collected eight assists, which were part of the team’s season-high 17 assist performance. Chris Manhertz continued his domination of the glass with 15 rebounds – eight coming on the offensive end. Kevin Bleeker hit two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points.
Oddly enough, the Griffs didn’t get to the free throw line until there were 12.5 seconds left in the game while the Red Foxes scored 14 points from the line. Parrotta was concerned his team didn’t get to the line most of the game – especially at home – but couldn’t explain it.
“I don’t know why, but that’s kind of what happened. But it is kind of weird, right? Forty minutes and you only get two free throws? I’d rather win by eight then. What are you going to do with those two?” Parrotta asked dryly.
His team gets another shot against Saint Peter’s Sunday afternoon
. The Griffs trailed by 15 with five minutes to go last week in Jersey City, N.J. before Washington led a one-man comeback that gave the Griffs a chance to send it to overtime at the buzzer, but the 3-pointer fell short. The Peacocks are 3-13 overall but ahead of Canisius in conference play at 2-3, with a game at Niagara late Friday night.