Baron loves Griffs’ willpower – Postgame interviews: Canisius 98, Lehigh 89

By Nick Veronica

Canisius is only two games into the 2015-16 season, but Jim Baron already thinks this year’s Griffs have “more will” than any team he’s coached in his 29-year career.

“We got will. That’s the one thing I think: this team has more will than any team I’ve ever had,” Baron said after Canisius’ 98-89 comeback win over Lehigh Monday night at the Koessler Athletic Center.

“We play with a lot of intensity and a lot of grit. To be honest, that’s the type of team I love to coach. Because you do it on heart, soul, grit, all the dirty points.”

Baron doesn’t throw compliments like that around lightly, but there was plenty for him to be proud of Monday.

Kevin Bleeker drew a charge in the final minute that forced Lehigh’s best player out of the game. Jamal Reynolds had 10 offensive rebounds. Malcolm McMillan got hammered twice on the way to the basket in key situations, but got the shot to fall both times before taking on the free throws.

The end result was a nine-point victory over Patriot League favorite Lehigh, which stayed within 10 points of Syracuse in their game Friday.

“We made shots when we needed to make shots and we got rebounds when we needed to get rebounds,” Baron said. “This was an excellent win for us.”

Here’s Baron’s full press conference. (Sorry in advance for Baron reclining behind the mic cube midway through the video 🙂 )

On forward Cassidy Ryan, whose father died last Thursday, Baron said: “We did it for Mr. Ryan. I told our guys, we’re doing it for Cassidy’s dad.”

Baron also talked about coaching the father of Lehigh center Tim Kempton (Tim Kempton Sr.), when he was at Notre Dame.

Canisius’ Phil Valenti, Malcolm McMillan

Canisius guard Malcolm McMillan said he’d never had back-to-back 30-point games before.

“All season I just worked extremely hard on my jump shot, and it’s showing. Even tonight … I was 2 for 7 (on 3-pointers), but I put a lot of work on it and it’s paying off.”

Asked about Ryan, Valenti and McMillan both said: “That game was for him.”

“We played our hearts and soul out for him,” Valenti said. “He’s a tough kid. It’s … too bad. I mean, not much to say about that. He’s great for coming back and being with us. I can’t say much more about that. God bless him.”

Lehigh coach Brett Reed

“When they came up empty with there possessions, Reynolds was there to grab an extra rebound,” Reed said.