Immediate reactions: Canisius 63, Quinnipiac 57

[Valenti injury update + Postgame video]

Quinnipiac 25 32 — 57
Canisius 33 30 — 63

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: Canisius led by five points early in the second half when forward Phil Valenti went down with a gruesome ankle injury. The pace of the game slowed significantly after he was wheeled off the court, but overall the team responded well and gritted out a 63-57 victory.

Phil Valenti was in serious pain after injuring his ankle during Friday's game.

Phil Valenti was in serious pain after injuring his ankle during Friday’s game.

Kassius Roberston stepped up with Valenti out and scored a career-high 16 points while Zach Lewis added 12 and Jermaine Crumpton had nine. Canisius had only five turnovers.

The Griffs’ defense was effective, holding Quinnipiac to 33.3 percent shooting — including 13.3 percent on 3-pointers (2-for-15) — blocking three shots at opportune times and coming up with seven steals. QU’s big man Ousmane Drame had an off day but still led all players with 20 points while Zaid Hearst had 19 points (one under his 20.1 average) but took 24 field goals.

Canisius pulled ahead in the first half with a 9-0 run out of the under-12 media timeout that put it up 22-13, giving it the cushion it held the rest of the way.

It was over when: Josiah Heath followed a slam dunk with the most empathic blocked shot of his career, slamming Kasim Chandler’s shot against the backboard with 45 seconds left.

What it means: It was another scrappy conference win for Jim Baron’s “Junkyard Griffs,” who are now 12-8 overall and 7-4 in the MAAC. Valenti will certainly be missed, but the Griffs’ strength this year has been team defense and their ability to play multiple roles. Baron has made good use of his bench so far but the team’s depth will certainly be put to the test now. Baron has already told Cassidy Ryan to be ready for a bigger role.

Canisius has now beat four of the top five teams in the MAAC Preseason Poll: 1) Iona, 2) Siena, 4) Saint Peter’s and 5) Quinnipiac. With the loss, Quinnipiac is now 11-9, 5-6.

Valenti down: Two sources told IAGS that Valenti’s injury was a dislocated ankle. The medical team was able to pop it back in place and was optimistic that nothing was broken. Valenti was at the hospital for X-rays when the game ended. (Update: no broken bones, the team said. More info in that link.)

Glass battle: Quinnipiac leads the country in rebounding average (44.8) and rebounding margin (13.0). Canisius kept it close Friday, grabbing only one fewer rebound in the first half (21-20) and eight fewer overall, 48-40 (Canisius’ season high is 42).

Ousmane Drame, who entered the weekend ninth nationally at 10.9 rebounds per game, pulled in 11 Friday but was not as effective as his numbers showed. Eight of his 20 points came from the free-throw line and he was just 6-of-14 from the field. His presence on the glass was felt, but he certainly was not the defensive monster who terrorized Canisius last season.

Vegas line: Vegas Insider had Canisius -5 and over/under 127 before tip. Canisius covered, total was 120.

Fear the stache: Canisius gave out some mean ‘fear the stache’ T-shirts to students before the game. A+.

Next: Canisius is back on its home court Sunday, Feb. 1, for a 2 p.m. game against Marist.

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