Siena 48 51 – 99
Canisius 38 40 – 78
By Nick Veronica
What it means: Canisius honored its John Beilein-era teams Sunday afternoon, inviting players from the 1996 NCAA Tournament team and 1994 and ’95 NIT teams back for a ceremony at the Koessler Athletic Center. Even Beilein, the current Michigan coach, made it back to the KAC.
So the Griffs picked a pretty bad day to get embarrassed on their home court, suffering a thorough beatdown by Siena, 99-78. Only a late missed free throw by walk-on Nick Cunningham prevented Siena from hitting triple-digits, which would’ve been the first time Canisius gave up 100 points since its 110-100 loss to high-scoring Virginia Military in the 2014 CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Canisius is now back under .500 at 10-11 overall and 5-5 in the MAAC. Siena improved to 13-7, 6-3.
“They ran us out of our own gym today,” senior Malcolm McMillan said.
How it happened: Canisius’ defense has been suspect all season. That’s been written about. It seemed like the Griffs might have turned the corner on defending over the last week or so, holding teams under 59 points a game during a three-game winning streak.
But whatever progress Jim Baron’s group made went out the window Sunday. Siena shot 62.5 percent in the first half … and got hotter in the second half, making 72.2 percent of its field goals for a total shooting percentage of 66.0 percent. The Saints were also 10 for 19 (52.6%) on 3-point attempts.
Siena’s Brett Bisping led all players with 27 points, Lavon Long scored 25 and Nico Clareth added 19. Canisius trailed 90-60 before making the final score more respectable. Phil Valenti led Canisius with 17 points.
“Guys gotta man up,” McMillan said of Canisius’ defense. “In every way possible. Physically on defense, we all have to play defense. One play it might be me messing up, next play might be another guy. We gotta be solid every time down. Make them make tough shots.”
Did anything go right for Canisius? At least the backboard didn’t shatter before the game. (But Siena’s Jimmy Patsos said the check-engine light on their bus popped on right before they left for Buffalo, delaying the trip half an hour.)
Game ball: Siena’s Lavon Long. Dude was feeling it Sunday, connecting on all seven field goals he attempted and all 11 free throws. That’s 18 shots taken, 18 shots made. Eight assists didn’t hurt either.
’90s Griffs honored: Michigan coach John Beilein was in the house Sunday as Canisius honored the 20th anniversary of its 1996 NCAA Tournament team coached by Beilein, as well as the 1994 and 1995 NIT teams.
Beilein said he still follows the Griffs and joked that hiring Jim Baron, who coached at St. Bonaventure while Beilein was at Canisius, was like bringing in Darth Vader. Full video of Beilein’s press conference and halftime speech are here.
Vegas line: Line was Canisius -2.5, over/under 150. Siena covered, total was well over.
Starters: Canisius – Malcolm McMillan, Kassius Robertson, Jamal Reynolds, Phil Valenti, Kevin Bleeker. Siena – Javion Ogunyemi, Ryan Oliver, Kenny Wormley, Lavon Long, Brett Bisping.
Refs: DJ Carstensen, Jeff Anderson, Kevin Ferguson.
Next: Canisius travels to Fairfield on Friday, where former coach Tom Parrotta is now an assistant.Follow @NickVeronica