Canisius at Notre Dame gameday 12/29/13

Canisius’ final nonconference game of the season is at 5 p.m. tonight at Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion. The game is televised nationally on ESPNU and I’ll be in attendance.

The teams: Canisius: 8-4, 2-0 MAAC, 2-3 road. RPI: 118. Streak: Won two and five of their last six.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: 8-4, 0-0 ACC, 7-2 home. RPI: 127. Streak: Lost one and two of their last three.

Previous game: Five Griffs scored in double figures as Canisius beat Lamar 87-74 on Dec. 21. Canisius was outrebounded 36-32 by a 1-10 Lamar team, which was a point of emphasis from coach Jim Baron in the postgame.

Notre Dame led No. 3 Ohio State by eight points in the final minute but couldn’t hold on as the Buckeyes rallied for a 64-61 win on Dec. 21. Four players were in double digits and the Irish shot 45.1 percent from the field but made only 11 of 19 free throws and had only one point off the bench.

About Notre Dame: The big story in this game is how Notre Dame responds to the loss of its leading scorer, Jerian Grant, who left the school for academic reasons following the conclusion of the fall semester. Grant, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, was averaging 19.0 points per game and also led the team with 6.2 assists per game and 2.0 steals per game. “It’s almost like [having] practice No. 1 on Dec. 26,” ND coach Mike Brey told reporters in his teleconference.

Center Garrick Sherman (6-foot-11, 255 pounds) is second on the team in scoring at 14.3 ppg and will be a load to handle inside for Chris Manhertz and Jordan Heath. Combo guard Pat Connaughton scores 13.8 ppg and guard Eric Atkins adds 11.8 ppg. The team also announced this week that sophomore Cam Biedscheid, who planned to redhshirt this season, will transfer instead.

Series history: Canisius last beat Notre Dame in 1961 and has never won on the road (0-7).

The takeaway: Notre Dame is one of the best teams Canisius will play all season. The Irish pose matchup problems for the Griffs even without Grant, but if their offense sputters in their first game without their best player, the Griffs need to be ready to pounce on the opportunity. The game will be dictated by how Mike Brey’s team can respond to the loss, but even without its leading scorer, Notre Dame still has enough talent to give the Griffs trouble. That said, this is likely Canisius’ best shot to pull in upset in quite some time.

No live blog tonight, but follow along on Twitter @NickVeronica and tune to ESPNU for a national broadcast.


NFL Week 17 picks 2013

Buffalo +9.5 at New England — Buffalo

Carolina -6.5 at Atlanta — Carolina

Green Bay +3.5 at Chicago — Green Bay*

Houston +7 at Tennessee — Tennessee

Cleveland +7 at Pittsburgh — Pittsburgh

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Canisius vs. Lamar gameday 12/21/13

Canisius hosts Lamar at the Koessler Center in a Griff doubleheader this afternoon. The women tip off against Quinnipiac at 2 p.m., with the men to follow at about 4:15.

The teams: Canisius: 7-4, 2-0 MAAC, 3-0 home. RPI: 115. Streak: Won one and four of their last five.

Lamar Cardinals: 1-9, 0-0 Southland, 0-4 road. RPI: 344 (out of 351). Streak: Lost six straight.

Previous game: Billy Baron had a season-high 31 points and matched a career-best nine rebounds to lead an 83-73 victory over Holy Cross on Monday.

Lamar gave up a three-pointer with one second left and lost to LIU-Brooklyn, 82-79, on Wednesday. Guard Nimrod Hilliard and forward Rhon Mitchell scored 21 and 20 points, respectively, for the Cardinals.

About LamarLamar ranks near the bottom of the country in RPI and gives up, on average, 11.1 more points than it scores. The Cardinals’ only win this season was against Savannah State, which is 0-10 against Division I teams (coincidentally, I saw Savannah State play earlier this year against Robert Morris … not good). As a team, Lamar actually shoots a higher percentage than Canisius (.443 to .441), but score effects likely have a hand in that, with opponents relaxing on defense when they’re up by a bunch. Where the Cardinals really lack is defense (their opponents shoot 49.0 percent from the field) and rebounding (averaging only 31.2 per game).

Hillard leads the team at 15.8 points per game, with Amos Wilson (13.4 ppg), Donovan Ross (11.1) and Mitchell (9.8) chipping in. Lamar is coached by Pat Knight, son of legendary coach Bob Knight. Hopefully no chairs will be thrown.

Series history: Canisius and Lamar have met only once, with Canisius winning 78-72, nearly three years ago to the day (it was 12/22/10).

The takeaway: The Griffs really need to use this game to get their bigs back on track. Rebounding has been a huge issue this season, with Chris Manhertz leading the team at only 5.5 rebounds per game. Billy Baron was the leading rebounder in each of the last two games. That’s great for him, but the trend must stop. After today’s game, Canisius faces Notre Dame and then gets into conference play. If Manhertz and Jordan Heath can’t be forces on the glass against Lamar, that paints a bleak picture for the future, because it only gets harder from here.

I’ll have a live blog up at the Buffalo News around 4:15 p.m.