Immediate reactions: Iona 73, Canisius 55 (MAAC quarterfinals)

7-Canisius 28 27 – 55
2-Iona 43 30 – 73

By Nick Veronica

What it means: Iona eliminated Canisius from the MAAC Tournament for the third time in the last four years behind a barrage of three-pointers and its classic high-speed offense. The Gaels will face the Siena-Manhattan winner Sunday in the semifinals.

Canisius finishes the year 14-19 while Iona (20-10) clinched its seventh straight 20-win season.


How it happened: Canisius kept the game close for about eight minutes before Iona ran away with it.

The Griffs had kept up early coming off Thursday night’s triple-overtime game against Niagara, but Iona’s press and three-point shooting caught up with them quickly.

A late 10-1 run pushed Iona’s lead to 18 late in the first half (43-25), and Canisius didn’t fare much better after intermission. Iona pushed its lead to as many as 24 points while MAAC Player of the Year runner-up A.J. English dished out 10 assists and added a game-high 20 points. The Griffs led for only 29 seconds all night.

Phil Valenti paced Canisius with 13 points, Kassius Robertson scored 11 and Kevin Bleeker had 10. Leading scorer Malcolm McMillan, who didn’t seem 100 percent this weekend, finished with eight points.

Iona hit 13 of 30 three-pointers (43%) and shot 47 percent for the game.

End of the road: Canisius can’t play in the Tournament this year because it didn’t have a winning record, so the loss marked the final game for seniors Kevin Bleeker, Malcolm McMillan and Jamal Reynolds. Bleeker was the last player remaining from the Tom Parrotta years.

Tired legs? The scoreboard did a pretty good job of proving Canisius was feeling the effects from Thursday’s marathon game. But if you were looking for areas where tired legs might show up on the stat sheet, three places I guessed before the game were inability to close out on opponent’s three-point attempts, not being able to step into your own threes, and lack of turnovers created.

Iona was on fire from deep hitting 13 three-pointers, including nine in the first half. Canisius made only 6 of 21 threes for 29 percent. Iona was credited with seven turnovers while Canisius committed 11 after giving it away only eight times in 55 minutes Thursday.

Looking at the final stats, maybe the best indicator was fast-break points: Iona 17, Canisius 0. Rebounds were 39-31 Iona.

Better late than never:

In the house: Attendance at the Times Union Center was not strong, which is typical for the early rounds. The Buffalo News last week called for a move to campus sites, which I tend to agree with, at least for the opening round. Here’s what the crowd looked like at Canisius’ games:

Baron’s numbers: Coach Jim Baron signed a three-year extension this week. Through his first four years at Canisius, he has made one MAAC semifinal and owns a 73-61 record (54.5%), better than his career winning percentage of 51.8 percent. In the two years since Billy Baron graduated, Canisius is 32-34.

Baron can hit some notable milestones next year. With four wins, he’ll pass Niagara coaching legend Taps Gallagher for 78th on the NCAA’s all-time wins list (465). He also needs eight games to reach 900 for his career, which only 39 coaches have done. Becoming the NCAA’s all-time leader in losses is probably two years away; Friday’s loss moved him into a tie for fourth on the list with 430.

Vegas line: Iona -12.5, over/under 158.5. Iona covered, total was 128.

Next: That’s all, folks. See you for exhibitions in November. Enjoy the NCAA Tournament.


2015 All-MAAC team announced; Canisius’ Lewis Third Team All-MAAC

By Nick Veronica

maaclogoIona’s A.J. English and David Laury were unanimous First Team All-MAAC selections, the league announced during Monday’s conference call.

English averaged 19.5 points and 5.2 assists per game while Laury scored 20.1 ppg and pulled in 9.5 rebonds per game.

Canisius’ Zach Lewis was named to the MAAC’s Third Team while Canisius’ Kassius Robertson and Niagara’s Dominique Reid were named to the All-Rookie Team.

All-star teams are selected by the MAAC’s head coaches. The conference Player of the Year will be announced at 5 p.m. Friday.

Here’s the rest of the All-MAAC teams:

[RELATED: 2015 MAAC Tournament bracket set]

All-MAAC First Team

G A.J. English, Iona (repeat selection, unanimous)
F David Laury, Iona (unanimous)
F Emmy Andujar, Manhattan – 16.5 ppg 7.5 rpg
G Justin Robinson, Monmouth – 13.4 ppg, 3.8 apg
G Zaid Hearst, Quinnipiac – 18.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg
C Matt Lopez, Rider – 12.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg

Second Team

G Schadrac Casimir, Iona – 15.2 ppg, 48.3 3pt%
G/F Chavaughn Lewis, Marist – 20.3 ppg, 2.2 spg
F Ousmane Drame, Quinnipiac – 14.4 ppg, 10.8 rpg
G Teddy Okereafor, Rider – 11.3 ppg, 4.0 apg
F Marvin Dominque, Saint Peter’s – 14.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg

Third Team

G Zach Lewis, Canisius – 12.9 ppg, 1.7 spg
F Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield – 16.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg
F Ashton Pankey, Manhattan – 13.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg
G Deon Jones, Monmouth – 127 ppg, 46.5 FG%
G Rob Poole, Siena – 14.2 ppg, 83.3 FT%

All-Rookie Team

Kassius Robertson, Canisius
Tyler Nelson, Fairfield
Schadrac Casimir, Iona
Dominique Reid, Niagara
Ayron Hutton, Quinnipiac

Postgame interviews: Iona 101, Canisius 91

[Manhertz update + Immediate reactions]

By Nick Veronica

Canisius coach Jim Baron had some strong words in the press conference about a play that injured Zach Lewis in the second half.

Lewis was on a fast break, looked behind him before going to the hoop, and was caught by Iona’s Isaiah Williams, who bumped Lewis on his way up and sent him crashing into the base of the hoop. Williams was assessed a flagrant foul but it did not appear to be a malicious play.

“The kid could’ve been killed,” Baron said.

Lewis appeared to be holding his left shoulder after the play and Baron said Lewis was woozy on the bench. It apparently wasn’t serious enough to go through concussion protocol, though, and Lewis re-entered the game shortly after. Billy Baron said later that he expects Lewis to be fine.

Jim Baron opened his press conference talking about the incident and said the momentum changed after that play. Listen for yourself:

Jim Baron

(sorry about the weird buzz in the room)

Canisius players Billy Baron and Phil Valenti

Iona coach Tim Cluess and players David Laury and A.J. English


Immediate reactions: Iona 101, Canisius 91

[Manhertz update + Postgame interviews]

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: A back-and-forth game was settled by Iona’s offense late in the contest. The Gaels never stopped scoring and took the lead for good with a 10-2 run that gave them a 10-point lead at 87-77 with three minutes to go. The run was capped when A.J. English missed a three-pointer badly but Sean Armand got the rebound for an easy bucket, and DaShawn Gomez followed it up with a three. Canisius played well without Chris Manhertz, who missed the game with a broken nose, but could never really contain Iona’s offense.

Chris Perez led Canisius with 25 points and Billy Baron had 24 while Jordan Heath and Phil Valenti just missed double-doubles. Armand, Iona’s leading scorer, was kept quiet most of the game and finished with 10 points but English and David Laury stepped up in his place, finishing with 32 and 23 points, respectively. Canisius rolled seven players in the absence of Chris Manhertz.

What it means: Iona gained two games of separation atop the MAAC, improving to 12-2. Canisius lost back-to-back games for the second time this season and both losses this weekend came against fellow conference title contenders. The Griffs fall to 10-4 in the conference with six games to go. Improving on defense will continue to be a point of emphasis.

Manhertz out, Valenti plays well: Canisius’ leading rebounder Chris Manhertz missed the game with a broken nose he suffered Friday against Manhattan. Phil Valenti got his first career start in Manhertz’s place and finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists and no turnovers in 34 minutes (his career high is 16 pts). While he was effective, Valenti didn’t provide Manhertz’s strength on defense. Total rebounds in the game were 39-38 Iona.

Lewis takes a tumble: Zach Lewis was bumped on a fast break midway through the second half and went down hard, holding his left shoulder. A flagrant foul was assessed Isaiah Williams. Lewis checked back in shortly after.

MAAC standings: Manhattan edged Niagara today, 78-77, for Niagara’s second consecutive one-point loss. With six games to play, here is how the top of the conference shapes up:

Iona 12-2
Canisius 10-4
Manhattan 10-4
Quinnipiac 9-4
Rider 8-6

Attendance: This game was officially listed as a sellout with 2,196 people in attendance, which is why you don’t trust announced attendances. It was a good Sunday crowd, but there were empty seats.

Hall of Fame Day: Former Canisius basketball player Brian Dux was inducted into the school Hall of Fame today. If you don’t know his story, I suggest spending a few minutes Googling his name. Other members inducted Sunday were Derrick Bishop (hockey), Mark Miyashita (men’s lacrosse), Jill Wright (synchronized swimming) and the 1994 softball team. Dr. Keith Stube (team physician) was awarded the first Rev. Paul J. Dugan, S.J. Award, which recognizes individuals for significant contributions to Canisius athletics.

Next game: Canisius heads up to Niagara on Friday for a 9 p.m. Valentine’s Day game that will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Thoughts on Canisius 85, Iona 83

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: If you missed this one on ESPNU, you missed quite a game. Iona stormed back from a 20-point deficit in the second half and took the lead on Canisius before Billy Baron and the Griffs stole a road win.

With the game tied at 83 and Iona looking to go ahead with less than 20 seconds to play, Baron intercepted a pass from A.J. English and took it the length of the floor, hitting both free-throws after he was fouled on a layup attempt. Iona’s best player, Sean Armand, had a good look at a three-pointer — albeit a deep one — at the buzzer but couldn’t make the shot.

Canisius (12-6, 6-1) scored 50 in the first half and led 61-41 with 16:39 remaining. Iona answered with an 11-0 run, but Canisius pushed it back to a 16-point lead at 70-54 with 11:59 left. From there, Iona went on an 18-0 run in just 4 1/2 minutes to go up 74-71. It was a back-and-forth the rest of the way. Baron led all players with 29 points and eight assists, Chris Perez had a nice game with 17 points and Zach Lewis stayed hot with 14. Armand led Iona with 19, English had 18 and Tre Bowman had 15.

What it means: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Canisius is pretty clutch late in the game. (No, really, stop me if you’ve heard that. I don’t know how long it’s been since this was true.) Yes, the Griffs almost blew a gigantic lead, but when it was crunch time late, they came through. More tellingly, even despite giving up the lead, it still felt like Canisius was going to win. The Griffs are now 5-1 this season in games decided by five points or less (wins against South Dakota, Elon, Saint Peter’s, Rider, Iona; loss against Marist … Notre Dame won by six in OT) and they stayed even with Manhattan on top of the MAAC standings at 6-1. It was another great game for Baron on national television. A three-game win streak matches Canisius’ longest of the season.

Billy being Billy: Big players make the big plays in the big games (or at least Ray Lewis says so). This one was personal for Baron after losing to Iona in last year’s MAAC tournament. He got back at the Gaels in a big way, finishing with 29 points (10 of 17 shooting, 5 of 8 from three), eight assists, four rebounds and two steals in 39 minutes. He also made a gigantic play to get a steal in the last 20 seconds of the game, picking off a pass from English, a sophomore, and going to the hoop. Canisius probably would’ve gotten the ball back either way because the shot clock would’ve run out long before the game clock, but not allowing Iona a shot was huge. Only one question: going in on that break, can Billy Baron dunk?

homelandsecuritycolorwarningsRed flags? How much can we glean from Canisius losing a 20-point lead? On the meta level, games have ebbs and flows and Canisius beating Iona by 20 isn’t sustainable. In layman’s terms, the Griffs may have been up by 20 but we know they’re not really 20 points better than the Gaels. Iona was shooting a miserable percentage from the field and it was rational to expect things to start swinging their way. But in people terms, that was a 20-point lead! Canisius gave up runs of 11-0 and 18-0 in the second half. Plus, this was the second time in the last two weeks something like this happened. On Jan. 4, Canisius led Saint Peter’s by 24 points in the first half and had to hold on in the second half as the Peacocks cut the deficit to one. If this happens again I’m moving the Griffs to orange.

T Party: Coach Jim Baron picked up a technical foul during Iona’s big run that captured the lead. Canisius’ Chris Manhertz and Iona’s Isaiah Williams got tangled up under the Canisius basket — they were both assessed technicals as well — but Baron ran halfway across the court, presumably to argue with an official. The timing to give Iona free throws was exceptionally poor — they had just gone up 72-71 — and English hit both shots. However …

MAAC outlook:

1. Manhattan 6-1 (13-3)
1. Canisius 6-1 (12-6)
3. Quinnipiac 5-2 (10-6)
3. Iona 5-2 (8-8)
5. Rider 4-3
6. Saint Peter’s 3-4
7. Siena 3-4
8. Marist 2-4
9. Monmouth 2-5 (8-10)
9. Niagara 2-5 (5-13)
11. Fairfield 0-7

Saturday: Manhattan @ Fairfield, Niagara @ Quinnipiac, Rider @ Marist
Sunday: Canisius @ Monmouth, Siena @ Iona
Monday: Saint Peter’s @ Marist


Noteworthy: Baron scored his 1,000th point as a Griff Friday. He has played 52 games for Canisius …. The Griffs improved to 6-0 when outrebounding the opponent, 4-0 when shooting 50 percent or better from the field and 8-1 when scoring at least 80 points.