Canisius 47 38 – 85
Hofstra 45 51 – 96
By Nick Veronica
How it happened: Malcolm McMillan’s first performance as a Griff was even better than Billy Baron’s, but Canisius couldn’t hold a huge first-half lead as Colonial Athletic Association favorite Hofstra came back to win 96-85 in the season opener for both teams.
Canisius flew out of the gates, opening up an 18-point lead on Isaiah Gurley’s 3-pointer with 8:08 left in the first half. But Hofstra cut the deficit to just two points at halftime as Canisius struggled against Hofstra’s 1-3-1 zone defense.
Canisius pushed the lead back to 11 with just nine minutes to go, but Hofstra outscored Canisius 18-5 over the next six minutes. Save for an uncontested, last-second layup, Canisius was held scoreless over the final 2:39, missing all four shots it took.
McMillan led all players with a career-high 33 points, but that wasn’t enough to top the Pride, which had six players in double-digits. (I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that in a Canisius opponent before. Didn’t happen in any of Billy Baron’s games against Iona, or even in VMI’s 111-100 thrashing in the 2013 CIT.) Jamal Reynold and Kassius Robertson had 13 points each.
What it means: The Griffs will be frustrated with how they lost, but hanging with a team as well-respected as Hofstra is an encouraging sign for Canisius, which was missing two forwards Friday (more on that below).
We also learned that Malcolm McMillan has some serious game. The fifth-year transfer from Central Connecticut scored a career-high 33 points in his first Canisius game and showed a veteran savvy throughout the contest. The lefty was 13 of 20 from the field and 4 of 9 from deep while handing out six assists and recording two blocks, including one huge block on a shot that would’ve cut Canisius’ lead to one just before halftime. He was credited with three turnovers.
McMillan left with an injury late in the second half (Hofstra TV said he was being checked for a concussion), but he returned shortly after.
By the way, Billy Baron only scored 27 points in his first game as a Griff. Just sayin’ :).
Crumpton suspended, Ryan out: Canisius announced before the game that sophomore forward Jermaine Crumpton (Niagara Falls) was suspended three games for a violation of team rules. He’ll return against St. Bonaventure on Nov. 24. Crumpton was suspended for the preseason in 2014-15.
Sophomore forward Cassidy Ryan didn’t travel with the team due to a death in his immediate family.
The loss of two forwards certainly hurt the Griffs in this one, as the Pride controlled the glass, 41-34.
Hot start: Canisius’ 47 first-half points would’ve been a season-high last year. Most of those came from McMillan, who had 22 at intermission. Both teams shot above 50 percent in the first half. The most points Canisius allowed in the first half a game last year was 46 against UMass.
Remember me?: Former Niagara stud Juan’ya Green struggled early but finished with 16 points and an impressive 11 assists. Ameen Tanksley had 12 points and coach Joe Mihalich improved to 25-9 all-time vs Canisius.
Brian Bernardi led Hofstra with 26 points while Malik Nichols and Rokas Gustys had 10 rebounds each.
T’d up: Valenti was given a technical for a hard foul on Green in the final minute.
Starters: Malcolm McMillan, Kassius Robertson, Jamal Reynolds, Phil Valenti, Kevin Bleeker.
Next game: Canisius hosts Lehigh on Monday, 7 p.m.