Canisius didn’t win Friday night on its home court against the Manhattan Jaspers – didn’t come close to winning, really, falling 78-66 – but after being dominated by Niagara and Rider start to finish last week, a game in which Canisius played a good first half was an improvement.
The first 20 minutes might be something Canisius can build off in the future. The defense was adequate – another improvement – and the offense made shots, led by 14 points from Alshwan Hymes and 10 from Gaby Belardo. An early 11-1 run put the Griffs ahead, and they even showed some of that resiliency thing good teams have, fending off pushes from Manhattan to keep the lead for the remainder of the half.
Coach Tom Parrotta opened the game in a four guard look, opting for smaller, quicker players who were able to hit 3-pointers and get penetration.
“If I was playing us,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said, “I think that’s a very sound strategy and a good philosophy. We worry about our pressure in our zone, probably [for them] to go small, more skilled guys, and I think that hurt us early in the game.”
Forwards Josiah Heath and Kevin Bleeker played only four minutes combined in the first half (and only nine total) as freshman Franklin Milian earned his first career start while Reggie Groves serves an indefinite suspension Parrotta imposed for academic reasons.
Canisius hit over 40 percent of its shots in the first half and took a 35-33 lead into the locker room. Parrotta came into the game winning exactly 70 percent of games when his team led at halftime, but the Griffs have a tendency to get tired in the second half and fall off.
That’s exactly what happened Friday night, and then some. The Jaspers put on a press that pushed tired Canisius players into bad shots and turnovers while their best player, George Beamon, took command.
Masiello said he got on Beamon, his leading scorer, so hard in the locker room at halftime that he thought other players may not have been able to handle it. But the junior responded, going up, over and around Canisius defenders for 24 points in the second half alone to finish with a season-high 33.
“Beamon, he’s a terror,” Parrotta said. “I thought they wore us down. I thought that was clearly what happened out there.”
Belardo issued the same sentiment, that the Griffs’ lack of depth was cause for tired players who didn’t play to potential down the stretch. Hymes only made one shot after his 14-point first half and all five of Belardo’s turnovers came in the second half. The game was out of reach before Harold Washington finally got his scoring going. He finished with 16 points but had four turnovers in the first half and three more in the second.
“They came at us and we stopped playing hard,” Belardo said. “Me and Harold, for being the main two point guards on this team, he can’t have seven turnovers and I can’t have five. Me and Harold have to do a better job by taking care of the ball better.”
The Jaspers pushed their lead to as many as 16 at 69-53 with 5:31 to go, making it a 60-35 turnaround since the Griffs’ 11-1 first-half run that put them up 18-9.
Rarely-used David Santiago was another beneficiary of Groves’ suspension, logging 18 minutes of action. He scored five points in the game’s final 45 seconds to put Canisius over 65 points for the just the second time in 2012. Without his layup with 11 seconds to go, Friday night would have been the fourth men’s-women’s doubleheader out of five this season in which the Canisius women’s team outscored the men’s team.