Griffs rebound from loss to Siena with largest MAAC win in 16 years

The Canisius bench cheers on a three-pointer.

The Canisius bench cheers on a three-pointer.

Eight days after trudging through 40 minutes of basketball and losing to last-place Siena on a shot at the buzzer, Canisius responded with the type of game you’d expect from a conference favorite against a depleted cellar-dweller.

The Griffs hit three-pointers against the Saints’ zone defense and scored in transition repeatedly. They passed well and shot well and did a phenomenal job of securing the ball, with a season-low four turnovers. The defense responded after a few sloppy performances by limiting Siena’s offensive threats and coming up with 13 steals.

The numbers say Canisius’ 76-44 dismantling of Siena was its largest conference win since 1997, but the eye test shows more: After a string of sloppy games, the Griffs put the pedal to the floor right from the start and never slowed down. They were prepared.

“Absolutely,” Isaac Sosa agreed. “We did a really good job today especially defensively against this team and understanding the scouting report. … We understood that today and we took pride in our defense.”

It was a vast improvement from the 57-54 loss at Siena last week, in which Canisius led by as many as 13 before the Saints won on a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Siena’s Evan Hymes, the reigning MAAC Rookie of the Year, scored 20 points in that game and killed Canisius down the stretch. The Griffs made it a point Saturday to stop him.

“We cranked up the defensive intensity,” Chris Manhertz said. “We kept Hymes out of the game. Keeping him contained throughout the game was one of the main things we had to in order to win.”

Hymes finished with only four points and had a whopping nine turnovers – more than double Canisius’ entire team, which committed only one turnover at halftime and four in the game. No Canisius starter had a turnover.

Manhertz and the Canisius defense also did a good job limiting big man O.D. Anosike, who is the only player in the MAAC to average a double-double at 13.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. He didn’t reach double-figures in either category Saturday.

“The best way to not have him score is to not let him touch the ball,” Manhertz said. “So I tried my best to make it hard for him to even get the ball.”

Siena’s attack went no further, though, as several key players were injured. Rakeem Brookins, who hit the winning shot last week, did not return after the first half due to a nagging back injury. Second-leading scorer Rob Poole has missed the last four games with the flu and Ryan Oliver hurt his knee last week.

“We’re missing three key players,” Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro said. “I’m not making excuses but I’m looking at the box score here and …  two walk-ons got 16 minutes. Trying to beat a really good team on the road is tough.”

Siena’s leading scorer was Rich Audu, who had a career-best 11 points.

The Griffs scored 42 points before halftime and went on to lead by as many as 34, their largest lead at any point this season. Sosa finished with 18 and Manhertz had his second double-double of the year with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Alshwan Hymes had 11 points in his first action since being suspended on Jan. 4.

Notes:

—44 ties the fewest points by opponent in history of the KAC. Liberty scored 44 on Nov. 17, 1990, as did Colgate on Jan. 10, 1984.

—It was Canisius’ biggest conference win since beating Fairfield 91-45 on Feb. 8, 1997.

—The 42-19 halftime lead was the largest for the Griffs this season.

—It was Hall of Fame Day at the KAC, with former Canisius basketball player Darren Fenn being inducted.

Follow on Twitter: @NickVeronica

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