Immediate reactions: Saint Peter’s 70, Canisius 53

Saint Peter’s 29 41 – 70
Canisius 20 33 – 53

By Nick Veronica

Canisius had its worst offensive game of the season Saturday in a 70-53 loss to Saint Peter’s that dropped the Griffs to 2-4 in MAAC play and 7-9 overall. Saint Peter’s improved to 6-8 overall and 4-1 in the conference.

What it means: Canisius dropped its third straight conference game in a matinee that was not easy on the eyes.

The Griffs flirted with season lows in most offensive categories and set new low marks with 53 points and 30-percent shooting, while tying the season low with 19 field goals made.

Canisius coach Jim Baron lost to Saint Peter’s for the first time in his career, now owning a 6-1 record against the New Jersey school.

How it happened: For having a season-low 20 points in the first half, Canisius was actually in decent shape at intermission, trailing only 29-20. But once Canisius finally found a spark on offense midway through the second half (mostly from behind the arc), it still couldn’t come up with enough stops to get back in the game.

Trevis Wyche led Saint Peter’s with 16 points and eight assists while going 7-of-11 from the field. Antwon Portely scored 11 points.

Canisius’ largest lead in the entire game was only one point. Kassius Robertson led Canisius with 15 points while Jermaine Crumpton and Jamal Reynolds had 10. Malcolm McMillan, the team’s leading scorer, was 0-7 from the field and 4-7 at the free-throw line.

Unsung hero: Saint Peter’s Quadir Welton. I thought the Peacocks big man had an effective day on offense, even if he didn’t blow up the stat sheet.

Welton finished with 10 points of 4-of-6 shooting and had a team-high six rebounds and two blocked shots. He isn’t silky smooth in the low post but made a great no-look pass on a fast break that gave Rodney Hawkins as uncontested slam dunk with just over five minutes to play.

Defensive woes summed up: Jim Baron’s teams like to run the floor and put up as many points as possible. That’s fun to watch and great when it works, but makes winning extra difficult if you can’t stop anybody. That was the case again Saturday, when Canisius allowed Saint Peter’s to shoot 51 percent.

Canisius entered Saturday 338th in scoring defense, allowing opponents 83.1 points per game. Some of that can be attributed to the Griffs’ up-tempo pace (they rank 62nd in possessions per 40 minutes – and dropped more than 30 places after the Manhattan game Thursday), but a lot of the time the Griffs just aren’t stopping teams.

Canisius’ field-goal percentage defense is also poor, ranking 335th. It’s not like a few bad games have killed them, either. The median team shooting percentage in college basketball so far this year is 44.1 percent, but Canisius has only held opponents below that level twice all year, and not since Dec. 4.

If the Griffs are going to make a run in the MAAC, they can start by tightening up the defense.

Quotable: Guard Kassius Robertson on how the defensive can improve: “Just sticking with it for 30 seconds. Sometimes we’ll have great outs for 10 seconds, we’ll keep guys in front, keep guys in front, and then there’s some defensive lapse within, like, the last five seconds of the other team’s play and then it’s a bucket.

“We just have to be focused the whole time and don’t conserve ourselves. Sometimes it feels like we’re conserving ourselves for offense. And we just gotta give all out on the defensive end.”

Vegas line: Canisius -8, over/under 151 … Saint Peter’s covered, total was was under.

Starters: Canisius – Malcolm McMillan, Kassius Robertson, Jamal Reynolds, Phil Valenti, Kevin Bleeker. Saint Peter’s – Elisha Boone, Antwon Portley, Chazz Patterson, Rodney Hawkins, Quadir Welton.

Refs: Gary Pucino, Ken Clark, Harold Drumgoole.

Next: Canisius travels to Dartmouth for a nonleague game on Tuesday, playing a return game for last year’s CIT opening-round matchup, which Canisius won 87-72. Canisius resumes MAAC play next Friday and Sunday with games against Manhattan and Quinnipiac.

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