Reactions: Canisius 86, Quinnipiac 74

By Nick Veronica

What it means: Canisius’ bigs stood up to the country’s top rebounding team and the Griffs beat a quality opponent without relying on Billy Baron.

Baron finished with 20 points but was the only player on the team to make less than half of his shots and most of his scoring came late in the game. Baron had only eight points in the first 30 minutes — the team was instead led offensively by freshman Zach Lewis, who paced Canisius with 17 points, including 14 in the first half.

Jordan Heath had 10 rebounds, Chris Manhertz had seven and Phil Valenti had six as Canisius and Quinnipiac grabbed 38 boards apiece. Quinnipiac entered the game first in the country averaging 47.1 rebounds per game. Canisius owns a half-game lead atop the MAAC at 9-2, but Iona (8-2) has a tough game Friday against Manhattan (7-3).

Threat Level Orange: Canisius has a bad habit of getting big leads and then losing them. I documented the problem here. The Griffs led by as many as 18 points Thursday night and had their lead cut down to two later in the game. We can expect things to start swinging back the other way at some point, but that the Griffs keep losing their entire cushion is concerning. They make things more difficult than they need to be. That’s a red flag come tournament time.

Foul trouble: One factor to losing leads is that the bigs, namely Chris Manhertz and Jordan Heath, have to sit with foul trouble. Canisius is less threatening on defense with those two on the bench and teams have a way of crawling back into the game when they’re forced to watch. Both Manhertz and Heath had four fouls Thursday and both played less than 20 minutes, but calls seemed to be going both ways at least, with Quinnipiac big men Ike Azotam and Ousmane Drame also picking up four fouls.

Scoring list: With 20 points, Baron’s scoring average dropped slightly to 24.0 points per game, but he’s still third nationally. Niagara’s Antoine Mason is first at 27.0 and Doug McDermott of Creighton is second at 25.0. Those numbers look nice, expect

Stats that were good: Dominique Raney scored nine points in 11 minutes, his highest point total since Dec. 8 (15 games) … Chris Perez had five assists, one off his season high, and added 15 points … Canisius held Quinnipiac’s best player, Azotam, below his scoring and rebounding averages … Canisius matched its season-long three-game winning streak.

Stats that were bad: Beside the foul trouble and lead blowing … QU’s Zaid Hearst dropped a career-high 33 points.

Next game: Canisius plays at Fairfield (4-17, 1-9) Saturday at 1 p.m.

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Canisius vs. Quinnipiac gameday 1/30/14

By Nick Veronica

The teams: Canisius: 14-7, 8-2 MAAC, 4-6 road. RPI: 96. Streak: Won two and five of six.

Quinnipiac Bobcats: 12-7, 7-3 MAAC, 8-1 home. RPI: 93. Streak: Won one (vs. Manhattan) and three of four.

Previous game: Canisius beat Marist 78-65 Sunday afternoon while Billy Baron dropped 38 points. 

Quinnipiac beat MAAC favorite Manhattan in overtime on Sunday, 90-86, to sweep the season series.

About Quinnipiac: The Bobcats hit the boards and they hit them hard. Quinnipiac leads the country in rebounding at 47.1 per game and has three players (Ike Azotam, Ousmane Drame and Zaid Hearst) that average more rebounds per game than Canisius’ top rebounder, Chris Manhertz. Azotam (6-foot-7, 239 pounds) ranks third nationally with 11.7 rpg, Drame (6-9, 225) is 21st with 9.8 rpg and Zaid Hearst pulls in 7.7 rpg. (Manhertz averages 6.3 and Jordan Heath averages 5.4.)

But the Bobcats can also score. Azotam, Drame, Hearst and guard Umar Shannon all score well over 10 points per game, helping Quinnipiac to a 77.9 ppg average, more than 3 ppg better than Canisius. Quinnipiac lost in the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament last season to eventual conference champion LIU-Brooklyn and is in its first year in the MAAC. The team is coached by Tom Moore.

Recent history: These teams have never played before. Jim Baron was 2-1 against Quinnipiac at Rhode Island. The schools met last year in the NCAA hockey tournament.

National scoring list: Scoring 24.2 ppg, Billy Baron is ranks third nationally behind Niagara’s Antoine Mason (27.4) and Creighton’s Doug McDermott (25.0). Baron would need to score 43 points to jump McDermott tonight.

Wild card: Ousmane Drame. He missed the Manhattan game last weekend with a sprained knee (and they still won). He was supposed to be reevaluated this week but I haven’t heard anything yet. You can search for his status on Twitter, but as of Wednesday night there’s no news.

The takeaway: Canisius and Quinnipiac are two of the hottest teams in the conference right now. The Griffs are ranked in the latest mid-major poll and Quinnipiac is getting votes. This game will be a battle and Canisius’ bigs can’t afford to get into foul trouble. If Manhertz or Heath have to sit for an extended period of time it could get ugly fast. Baron has been on fire lately (averaging 30.5 ppg since Jan. 10 and shooting 56.6%) but will certainly need some help tonight.

Check out this Twitter list for chatter during the game. I don’t think there’s any (free) video, but if there is let me know.

Billy Baron’s NBA outlook, from Marist coach Jeff Bower

[Live blogImmediate reactions + Postgame interviews]

By Nick Veronica

Before becoming the head coach at Marist this past offseason, Jeff Bower spent 15 years working in the NBA. His resume is extensive.

Jeff_bower_marist

Marist coach Jeff Bower

Working for the Hornets organization in both Charlotte and New Orleans (now the Pelicans) until 2010, Bower’s titles included general manger, head coach, director of player personnel, assistant general manager, assistant coach, director of scouting and advance scout.

Of all people around the MAAC, Bower may be most qualified to assess Billy Baron’s potential in the NBA. He spent a minute and a half answering the question during Sunday’s postgame.

Here’s what he had to say:

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Immediate reactions: Canisius 78, Marist 65

[Live blog + Postgame interviews + Bower on Baron’s NBA odds]

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: Billy Baron dropped 25 points in the first half and matched his career high with 38 as he powered the Griffs back from an early deficit. Marist went on an 11-0 run early in the game and led 11-2, but from there it was all Canisius. At halftime, Baron outscored Marist 25-24.

Chris Manhertz almost had back-to-back double-doubles, finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds and Chris Perez had 14 points. Chavaughn Lewis jump started Marist early but couldn’t keep pace with Baron. He finished with 18 points, Khallid Hart had 17 and Jay Bowie had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Canisius goes to 14-7, 8-2 MAAC. Marist 6-14, 3-7.

What it means: That Billy Baron guy is pretty good. He was the only Canisius player to score for the first 9 minutes and carried the team through a lull as Marist jumped out to an early lead. It looked like one of those games Canisius would have to claw back into, but Baron just kept on scoring. Zach Lewis struggled early but kept shooting until he found his rhythm, finishing with 10 points. Canisius and Iona now have first place in the MAAC to themselves at 8-2 with Quinnipiac knocking off Manhattan in overtime today. No rest for the Griffs, who travel to Quinnipiac on Thursday.

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