Immediate reactions: Canisius 63, Lehigh 51 — 11/18/14

Canisius 24 39 — 63
Lehigh 26 25 — 51

By Nick Veronica

What it means: Who saw this coming? Canisius improved to 2-0 and showed good resiliency after a shaky start. This team has plenty to clean up, but looks much deeper than originally expected. That exhibition loss to Daemen seems like a lifetime ago.

Lehigh lost its first game by 11 points at 12th-ranked Villanova, then lost by 12 at home vs. Canisius. Take from that what you will.

Canisius goes to 2-0, 1-0 road, and 2-0 when trailing at halftime. Lehigh goes to 0-2. The Griffs are 2-0 for the second time in three years under Jim Baron and just the third time since 2000.

How it happened: The Griffs made plays. Zach Lewis hit 5 of his 8 shots in the second half to finish with 24 points after going just 3 for 12 in the first half. Jamal Reynolds had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Kevin Bleeker was strong late and finished with 7 points and 5 rebounds in just 10 minutes. Jermaine Crumpton had 6 points and 3 boards in 16 minutes, and Jim Baron made a point to credit him in the postgame radio interview.

After a career-high 24 points in the opener, Phil Valenti had only three points Tuesday and Josiah Heath was shut out as both were in foul trouble. Canisius made 19 of 21 free throws. Tim Kempton had 19 points and 7 rebounds for Lehigh.

Lehigh led 36-32 with 14:13 to go before Canisius took the lead for good with a 16-2 run over the next six minutes.

Both teams struggled mightily in the first half. It took Lehigh more than 10 minutes to score 10 points, but the Mountain Hawks came back to lead at halftime as the Griffs shot just 22.9% in the first half, including 2 of 18 from three-point range. Both teams finished under 33 percent from the field.

Forcing it: Zach Lewis is the best player on a young team. It’s natural for him to want to take the reins on offense. But it was obvious in the exhibitions that he was forcing up a ton of shots, and the problem has continued in the regular season.

Lewis was 2 of 10 shooting against Vermont and had a tough first half against Lehigh before finishing with 24 points on 20 shots. Billy Baron only took 20 shots six times last year. The offense is running better when five guys work the ball around until a lane opens. We know Lewis is a great shooter, but can help the team by letting the game come to him and not forcing what isn’t there.

Foul trouble: Canisius’ bigs were in foul trouble early, with Josiah Heath and Kevin Bleeker picking up three fouls in the first half and Phil Valenti getting his third less than a minute into the second half. Crumpton played big minutes off the bench and Bleeker was effective when he got on the floor. Valenti and Heath played just 21 minuets each and had three points between them. Canisius overcame that tonight but may not always be able to in the future.

Point guard watch: Jan Grzelinski started and played 22 minutes with a team-high four assists. He scored five points (1-5 shooting, 1-4 from 3) and had two turnovers. Kassius Robertson had two points and one assist in 12 minutes.

Redshirt candidates: When the bigs got into foul trouble, Jim Baron put Cassidy Ryan into the game. I thought Baron might redshirt Ryan after he didn’t play against Vermont, but now that looks like it won’t be the case. … Isaiah Gurley didn’t play again and looks like a redshirt. … Raven Owen still hasn’t played as he recovers from a stress fracture in his foot.

New threads: Check out the new road jerseys the Griffs debuted Tuesday.

Starters: Canisius – Grzelinski, Lewis, Reynolds, Valenti, Heath. Lehigh – Ross, Price, Schaeffer, Chuku, Kempton.

Next game: Canisius goes down to Olean for a 4 p.m. contest against Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure on Saturday.

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