Beamon dominant for Manhattan in tale of two halves

Gaby Belardo continues to push through a back injury, tweeting earlier this week that his back needs “a miracle.”

Canisius didn’t win Friday night on its home court against the Manhattan Jaspers – didn’t come close to winning, really, falling 78-66 – but after being dominated by Niagara and Rider start to finish last week, a game in which Canisius played a good first half was an improvement.

The first 20 minutes might be something Canisius can build off in the future. The defense was adequate – another improvement – and the offense made shots, led by 14 points from Alshwan Hymes and 10 from Gaby Belardo. An early 11-1 run put the Griffs ahead, and they even showed some of that resiliency thing good teams have, fending off pushes from Manhattan to keep the lead for the remainder of the half.

Coach Tom Parrotta opened the game in a four guard look, opting for smaller, quicker players who were able to hit 3-pointers and get penetration.

“If I was playing us,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said, “I think that’s a very sound strategy and a good philosophy. We worry about our pressure in our zone, probably [for them] to go small, more skilled guys, and I think that hurt us early in the game.”

Forwards Josiah Heath and Kevin Bleeker played only four minutes combined in the first half (and only nine total) as freshman Franklin Milian earned his first career start while Reggie Groves serves an indefinite suspension Parrotta imposed for academic reasons.

Canisius’ Groves suspended indefinitely by coach

Canisius hit over 40 percent of its shots in the first half and took a 35-33 lead into the locker room. Parrotta came into the game winning exactly 70 percent of games when his team led at halftime, but the Griffs have a tendency to get tired in the second half and fall off.

That’s exactly what happened Friday night, and then some. The Jaspers put on a press that pushed tired Canisius players into bad shots and turnovers while their best player, George Beamon, took command.

Masiello said he got on Beamon, his leading scorer, so hard in the locker room at halftime that he thought other players may not have been able to handle it. But the junior responded, going up, over and around Canisius defenders for 24 points in the second half alone to finish with a season-high 33.

“Beamon, he’s a terror,” Parrotta said. “I thought they wore us down. I thought that was clearly what happened out there.”

Belardo issued the same sentiment, that the Griffs’ lack of depth was cause for tired players who didn’t play to potential down the stretch. Hymes only made one shot after his 14-point first half and all five of Belardo’s turnovers came in the second half. The game was out of reach before Harold Washington finally got his scoring going. He finished with 16 points but had four turnovers in the first half and three more in the second.

“They came at us and we stopped playing hard,” Belardo said. “Me and Harold, for being the main two point guards on this team, he can’t have seven turnovers and I can’t have five. Me and Harold have to do a better job by taking care of the ball better.”

The Jaspers pushed their lead to as many as 16 at 69-53 with 5:31 to go, making it a 60-35 turnaround since the Griffs’ 11-1 first-half run that put them up 18-9.

Rarely-used David Santiago was another beneficiary of Groves’ suspension, logging 18 minutes of action. He scored five points in the game’s final 45 seconds to put Canisius over 65 points for the just the second time in 2012. Without his layup with 11 seconds to go, Friday night would have been the fourth men’s-women’s doubleheader out of five this season in which the Canisius women’s team outscored the men’s team.

Canisius taken to school by Niagara underclassmen

Gaby Belardo had the hot hand early on.

Out-played. Out-hustled. Out-teamworked. Out-coached.

Tom Parrotta and the Canisius basketball team were out-everythinged Thursday night in an embarrassing 75-56 loss on their home court to none other than rival Niagara, dropping Parrotta to 3-8 all-time versus the Purple Eagles.

Antoine Mason scored 22 points and Juan’ya Green captained the floor with 11 assists as Niagara’s young guns showed a sellout crowd of 2,196 Blue and Gold basketball fans what a promising group of recruits looks like.

Canisius led early but limped to the finish line.

“Gaby [Belardo] came out and started on fire, then we kind of leveled off and then we just labored,” Parrotta said. “We labored to score. We’re trying to have our defense keep us in games but until we figure out ways to score points from the guys who need to score points, we’re going to find ourselves in this type of position.

“We have some holes to fill, obviously.”

Canisius junior guard Gaby Belardo started the game emotionally charged, dedicating his performance to his late grandfather, who passed away earlier this week. Belardo opened the scoring with a layup and followed it with a 3-pointer that was deep from NBA standards.

He assisted Chris Manhertz’s jumper on the next possession and then came back with another bucket from 3-point range. After a Niagara timeout, he cut through the lane and put up an acrobatic reverse layup, which circled the rim and fell in.

It looked like this could be the start of one of those Canisius-Niagara rivalry performances where one player takes his game to another level and steals the show. Three minutes and 13 seconds into the game, Belardo already 10 points and the Griffs led 12-4.

Then they forgot to play the rest of the half.

Marvin Jordan came off the bench for Niagara and turned the tide with 12 straight points – four consecutive 3-pointers – during a 12-minute stretch of basketball when Niagara tripled Canisius, 33-11.

A small burst at the end of the half brought the Griffs back within 10 at the break, 37-27, but catch-up is not a good game for a team to play when it came into the contest 0-10 this year when trailing at the break or for a coach who came in 6-52 in his career when losing at halftime of conference games.

Canisius made things interesting in the second half, as it tends to, cutting it to a two-possession game at 58-53 with 5:45 to go. But after spending themselves to close the gap, the Griffs – whose bench played only 18 minutes and was outscored by Niagara’s, 25-0 – ran out of gas.

Junior guard Alshwan Hymes led Canisius on offense with 20 points and could be found instructing younger players during breaks in the action. He usually remains stoic at press conferences, but Thursday night he spoke out at length about one of his team’s overarching problems.

“I think that’s something that shows up in a lot of our games: We get down early by a lot of points and we end up coming back, getting it to single digits, and then it comes down to a string of plays [where] we just can’t convert on the offensive end and can’t get stops on the defensive end and it goes right back,” he said. “By that time it’s too late. Those strings where we get the score down to single digits and we start coming back, people can see how good of a team we can be. Once we can put 40 minutes of that together, we’ll be at the top of this league.”

The Griffs don’t even have the inexperience excuse to use after this game. They got beat by a group of underclassmen. Niagara started one junior, one sophomore and three freshmen. Jordan, a sophomore, came off the bench for his big night. Seniors played only three minutes in the entire game, with Canisius’ Marial Dhal logging all 180 seconds. The Griffs’ first-year players, including transfers, were 3-for-19 from the field for 10 points. Niagara’s freshmen went 18-of-38 for 48.

Parrotta is now 3-8 in his career vs. Niagara.

Junior transfer Harold Washington, the Griffs’ leading scorer who was recruited by Mihalich long before he heard of Canisius College, had another night to forget. He was shut out for the first three-quarters of the game and finished with six points on 2-of-10 shooting. Outside of Hymes, Manhertz had the only other respectable night for Canisius, finishing with a double-double of 13 points and 15 rebounds, including nine of the offensive end.

Belardo started the game red hot, going 4-for-4 for 10 points in the first 200 seconds of the game, but went 0-for-12 with three free throws in the 2,220 seconds that followed.

“This game was probably one of the most important games of my life,” Belardo said. “It was really emotional and it was really important to me. I really wanted to get this win but unfortunately it didn’t go that way.”

Belardo closed by saying that his Griffs will return the favor on Niagara’s home court later in the year. They’ll have their work cut out for them – the teams meet again in the Gallagher Center in 26 days, a building Canisius hasn’t won in since 2002.

Bench production has been a struggle for Canisius all season, but the climb got even steeper Thursday when redshirt sophomore Reggie Groves was unable to play. He has been limited all season long by an arthritic knee that has been through three surgeries, but Parrotta said after the game Groves tweaked it further in the week leading up to the game.

Groves switched between a hard brace and a soft brace earlier in the season but settled on the soft brace for comfort. He participated in warm-ups Thursday but Parrotta used freshman Franklin Milian in his place.

Griffs get back on track with win over Marist

All winning streaks have to start somewhere. Friday night’s win over Marist at the Koessler Athletic Center may just be one in a row for Canisius, but after an 0-5 start to MAAC play, the Griffs are taking a conference game in which they led by as many as 21 points as a sign they’re turning the page.

“We really tried to close the chapter on the first part of the season,” head coach Tom Parrotta said. “We tried to deal with a lot of different things coming our way. Lack of numbers, depth, injuries … so we tried to close the chapter and say let’s put percentages out the window and let’s just try to do what we can. We knew from a tactical standpoint if we do the things we need to do, we would win the game.”

Alshwan Hymes had 18 points Friday night, including 10 straight on a key first half run.

Canisius jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Marist responded with an 11-0 run to regain control and it looked like it might yet another game where the Griffs give up a big run and never recover. Then Alshwan Hymes got hot.

The junior sharpshooter hit two jumpers and two 3-pointers in just over two minutes of game time as the Griffs came back with a 19-2 run of their own to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Canisius led by double-digits at the break for the first time this year and went on to lead by as many as 21 points – its largest lead at any point this season – before taking down Marist 67-57 for its first conference win of the year. Marist (7-10, 2-5 MAAC) dropped its third straight and still hasn’t won on the road this season.

Though the Griffs are winless this season when they trail at halftime, Parrotta said his team’s 35-23 lead at intermission was “good and bad at the same time.”

“I told them before the game that this league is crazy,” Parrotta said. “A lot of leads evaporate. It just happened last night [when Iona blew a 17-point lead to Manhattan]. You’re never safe. We talked about it before the game though, and then it started to go that way. I don’t think you’re ever up enough in this league.

“But now that it’s over, it was nice.”

Some players had to step up when Hymes fouled out with 7:25 to go, and Parrotta leaned on his big-minute guys to hold down the lead.

“Gaby [Belardo] came to me and he said ‘Listen, we’re dead out there.’ We kind of looked up at the clock and said we’re going to have to fight through this. I don’t think it would have been fair to put some of the other guys in at that particular moment.”

Belardo had one of his best games of the season. He hit an emphatic 3-pointer in the first half as the shot clock expired that gave some much-needed moxie to the Griffs’ offense while logging 35 strong minutes and hitting shots from near and far. Hymes and Belardo finished with nearly identical stat lines: 18 points, four rebounds and 4-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. Hymes hit 7 of 13 field goals while Belardo knocked down 7 of 14.

Belardo said his back, though not perfect, is feeling “much better.” He recently saw another specialist and is responding well to this type of treatment, which he will continue to receive for the remainder of the season. Belardo has now played upwards of 30 minutes three games in a row.

Harold Washington was held to eight points on a 3-of-12 shooting night but collected eight assists, which were part of the team’s season-high 17 assist performance. Chris Manhertz continued his domination of the glass with 15 rebounds – eight coming on the offensive end. Kevin Bleeker hit two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points.

Oddly enough, the Griffs didn’t get to the free throw line until there were 12.5 seconds left in the game while the Red Foxes scored 14 points from the line. Parrotta was concerned his team didn’t get to the line most of the game – especially at home – but couldn’t explain it.

“I don’t know why, but that’s kind of what happened. But it is kind of weird, right? Forty minutes and you only get two free throws? I’d rather win by eight then. What are you going to do with those two?” Parrotta asked dryly.

His team gets another shot against Saint Peter’s Sunday afternoon
. The Griffs trailed by 15 with five minutes to go last week in Jersey City, N.J. before Washington led a one-man comeback that gave the Griffs a chance to send it to overtime at the buzzer, but the 3-pointer fell short. The Peacocks are 3-13 overall but ahead of Canisius in conference play at 2-3, with a game at Niagara late Friday night.

Washington’s 27 put Griffs over winless Binghamton

Washington, a JUCO transfer from Cecil College, leads the Griffs at 18.9 ppg.

Well, it was an improvement from their last game. And after a 2-9 start to the season, the Canisius men’s basketball team will take a victory in any form.

Sixth-year coach Tom Parrotta challenged his team in the week leading up to their game with the 0-10 Binghamton Bearcats.

“I told them flat out, you have a team coming in here that hasn’t won a game. This was probably the first time … that we were clearly the team that should win this basketball game,” Parrotta said.

“I wanted them to say ‘We got this, we’ll take care of it’ [and] that’s what I can take out of it with my guys. The challenge was there … and they found a way to win. And it was as ugly as you could possibly see at times. But they got the win.”

The Griffs even practiced on Christmas in preparation for the game but didn’t overpower a lowly Binghamton squad that came into the Koessler Athletic Center winless and near the bottom of the NCAA in every major category. But the 75-66 victory was a better performance than the unsightly 59-45 loss to Loyola of Chicago six days prior and gave the Griffs their first home win in six tries this year.

Canisius never quite managed to put the Bearcats away but kept the lead with great guard play. Junior transfer Harold Washington led the charge to his first-ever win at the KAC, hitting 9 of 17 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the line to lead all scorers with 27 points. Alshwan Hymes knocked down 3 of 8 from behind the arc and finished with 17.

The stat sheet may have looked clean – both teams finished with 16 assists and only eight turnovers – but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Wednesday night was all about winning the hard way.

Junior guard Gaby Belardo shared a quote from NBA star Chris Paul with his team before the game, which reminded them that wins don’t always have to look good.

“I had him share that quote again afterword because I thought it was pretty ugly at times,” Parrotta said, with “ugly” being the theme of the press conference. “I thought we did some good things but they kind of hang around, and a lot of it was our doing, but at the end of the game we found a way to gut out a win.

“The bottom line is the guys won an ugly game, but nonetheless it goes into the right column.”

Binghamton, which doesn’t have a senior on its roster, came into the contest ranked 336th nationally in scoring offense (55.0 points per game), 340th in field goal percentage (.363) and had been held to 45 and 44 in its last two outings. But that didn’t stop the Bearcats from shooting 43.6 percent against the Griffs and scoring 66 points, their second-highest output of the season.

Even coach Mark Macon, a pure shooter in his NBA days, remarked that his Bearcats 4-of-12 night from behind the arc was impressive, at least by their standards – they came into the game shooting .259 from three.

It’s a win nonetheless for the Griffs (3-9, 0-2 MAAC), who reopen conference play New Year’s Day at Fairfield, which handed Canisius a 68-59 loss at the KAC on Dec. 4.

The scene got even uglier near the end of the game, when Binghamton’s leading scorer, Ben Dickinson, hammered Josiah Heath from behind as Heath went in for a wide-open dunk. The 6-foot-9, 230-pouind freshman crashed hard into the base of the hoop and Dickinson was ejected from the game with 14.5 seconds to play.

Heath would make 1 of 2 ensuing free throws and Parrotta said he suffered no injuries on the play. Macon apologized to Parrotta after the game and neither coach was overly upset about the incident in the postgame.

Byron Brown Jr., son of the Buffalo mayor, played a career-high four minutes for Binghamton and hit a jumper with dad on hand in the gym just a few hundred yards from the house he grew up in on Blaine Avenue.

Canisius has now defeated in-state rival Binghamton two years in a row, but this may be the last time the sides meet for some time. The MAAC Council of Presidents approved a policy in mid-December that prohibits MAAC basketball programs from scheduling nonconference opponents that rank in the bottom 50 of the two-year relative power index (RPI) report.

It’s possible that Binghamton, 8-23 last year and 0-fer this year, will be listed in that report.

The policy is effective starting next season and offers schools an exception for what it calls “traditional” opponents, such as if Buffalo or St. Bonaventure were to ever fall into that category. For more, check out that MAAC’s release.

Griffs first-half report card

Canisius' own Fab Five (left to right): Rob Goldsberry, Tomas Vazquez-Simmons, Elton Frazier, Greg Logins, Julius Coles.

Don’t look now, but Canisius’ 2010-2011 men’s basketball season is already halfway over.

Through 15 games, the Griffs have compiled a record of 7-8 and are just 1-4 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play.

Surely this is not the position the program hoped to be in at this point in the season, especially in a year it has five seniors who all contribute significant minutes.

Canisius currently sits in eighth place in the MAAC, on pace to finish bottom-four in the conference for the 12th straight year.

Canisius has played well at points this season but struggles with consistency. The Griffs have the potential to win on any given night, but even head coach Tom Parrotta admits the team hasn’t played to potential.

With the second (and more important) half of the season ahead, here are the Griffs midterm grades:

Offense: B-

Canisius is third in the league in scoring average at 69.8, which puts the team in the top half of the country. However, the emergence of Alshwan Hymes as a 3-point threat is the only thing that keeps the Griffs out of C-range.

The first half against Rider last Sunday was about as well as the offense has been running all season. A shooting percentage over .500 and 20 points in the paint led to a 42-point outburst against a good team. The Griffs moved the ball well and the defense created offense.

Elton Frazier dunks in the Carrier Dome.

But over the next 20 minutes, Canisius went back to old habits. Settling for bad shots early in the shot clock is a good way to lose a lead. So is missing free throws. And giving up huge runs.

Giving up runs has been a major problem for the team. Even after getting ahead early, Canisius frequently allows huge, momentum-swinging, lead-changing runs. Five or six minutes of bad basketball is more than enough to blow a game. The defense is just as much to blame for giving up runs, but if you keep scoring then it isn’t really a run.

People in sports love talking about the “eye test”—whether or not it simply “looks good”—and that can be a good way to judge the Griffs. The half-court offense always seems lethargic and there isn’t really any killer instinct. Even against Siena’s zone last Friday, Canisius got the ball moving, but it just wasn’t moving fast enough.

The individual play isn’t there either. No players are in the top-10 in the MAAC in scoring. Elton Frazier leads the team at 11.9 points per game (ppg). Julius Coles, a Preseason Second Team All-MAAC selection who averaged 13.6 points last year, is second on the team at 11.1.

Hymes is third 10.6, and Gaby Belardo and Greg Logins are close behind at 9.9 and 9.5, respectively. Canisius could potentially have five players scoring in double-digits, but again, were talking about potential and not the real thing.

Defense: B-

The Griffs have been equally as shoddy on the defensive end as the offensive. Whatever points the unit earned against Siena, it handed right back against Rider.

Tomas Vazquez-Simmons is tied for second in MAAC history with 248 blocks, but it’s going to take more than a few blocks to start winning some basketball games. The Griffs’ 70.5 points allowed per game puts them fifth in the league and 234th in the country.

Though Canisius is thought to have decent size, a lot of the players are tall but not very wide. This difference between “big men” and “tall men” was exposed in the game against Syracuse. You can argue that Syracuse exposes weaknesses in everyone, but take the Rider game for example. Even one of the bigger men, Logins, was no match inside for Mike Ringgold.

Their size does help them rebound, which is one of the few things they do well night in and night out. The Griffs lead the MAAC in rebounding average and are 80th in the country. Not allowing second chances is especially important for stopping runs, and can help in the transition game.

Again, it goes back to the eye test. Far too often, opponents have open looks at the hoop before knocking down shots. Not sort-of open, wide open. If Division-I players have time to set their feet and look right at the rim, they are going to make shots.

Six of Canisius’ seven wins this season came when they held opponents to under 40 percent from the field. That’s not a challenge, that’s something to work on.

Coaching: C+

Marial Dhal has been a waste thus far, averaging just 4.3 minutes per game… in the ones he actually gets in to. There’s a problem when we’re getting excited over a season-high four points.

Parrotta after Canisius beat Niagara in overtime last year (the white shoes were part of a promotion).

The team is still falling into the same issues it had last season and the senior core is not as far along as one might have hoped.

Two things Tom Parrotta teams are known for are rebounding and free-throw shooting. They have rebounding. Converting from the charity stripe is another story. The team works hard at this in practice, often hitting around 80 percent, but it hasn’t translated to the games. Not only does the team struggle to get to the line (last in the conference in FTs attempted per game), once they get there, the Griffs only convert 65.7 percent of the time.

Parrotta was given an extension in the offseason to keep him with Canisius through the 2012-13 season, but the classroom aspect and potential recruiting issues played just as large a role in the decision as actual performance on the court. Graduating all seniors with master’s degrees is certainly honorable and looks great for the institution, but it doesn’t do much for the win-loss column.

The fifth-year head coach has also had trouble getting change out of his team following halftime. The second half almost always plays out like the first, for better or for worse. Parrotta’s teams have held the halftime lead 57 times in his tenure, and they went on to win 40 of those games, good for a .702 percentage.

However, when trailing at halftime, Parrotta-led teams rarely come back. When behind at halftime since 2006, Canisius’ record is 8-69. Looking at only MAAC games, the record falls to 4-42, or .087.

Over the last two seasons, Canisius has never come back to win a game after trailing by more than 10 points, but as recently as last Sunday the Griffs blew a 14-point lead.

The players certainly seem to like playing for Coach P, but alumni and fans need more.

Bench: B

The matchup between Canisius freshman Chris Manhertz and UB freshman Javon McCrea will be a good one for years to come, but first Manhertz has to get himself on the court. While McCrea is atop the country in shooting percentage, Manhertz has been limited to only six games all season with an ankle injury.

Reggie Groves.

Canisius is getting fairly good production from its bench, which scores 24.1 ppg, or 35 percent of the offense.

A few players have battled the injury bug this season, but depth is somewhat of a concern. Hymes usually comes off the bench, as does either Logins or Vazquez-Simmons. Redshirt freshman Reggie Groves has provided a spark and looks more and more confident with the ball in his hands. After those players, there are some question marks.

Dhal has played 47 minutes all season and often looks lost. Ashton Khan looks like he can finish at the hoop, but hasn’t gotten into Parrotta’s rotation. Rokas Gricius hasn’t played since Nov. 23 against UB, sometimes due to injury, but usually due to coach’s decision. Eric Kindler played in every game but one in December, but still has work to do before he can think about being a regular contributor.

Overall: C+

A team searching for an identity after Frank Turner is yet to find it, unless inconsistency is what they are going with.

Turner (left) and Belardo.

A lot of excitement surrounded Belardo before the season as many slated him the next big thing for Canisius. The main knock on Belardo’s predecessor, Turner, was his turnover issues, but thus far Belardo has followed suit.

Through 15 games, Belardo has 56 turnovers, more per game than Turner, which puts him 40th in the country. Belardo has 56 assists for an even assist/turnover ratio of 1.0., not comparable with the better guards in the league like Derek Needham (1.31), Justin Robinson (1.65) or Scott Machado (2.27).

To be fair, Belardo is seventh in the MAAC in assists per game and has done a lot of good things too. Almost every opposing coach comments about him, and twice he has scored 19 points in a game.

However, after UB showed how to eliminate Belardo from the game, opponents have watched that tape and adjusted their defense accordingly, at times stymieing the Canisius offense.

Belardo’s 19 helped power the Griffs past St. Bonaventure in the opening game of the year, but we haven’t seen any fire from the Griffs since. A few alley-oops and heated moments here and there, but no defining, coming together moment.

The MAAC is wide open this season and is there for the taking for a team with five seniors. But it’s going to take more than one win against a team above .500, which is how many Canisius has right now (Bonaventure).

The MAAC Tournament is less than 50 days away. There’s light at the end of the tunnel if the Griffs can turn this thing around, but Parrotta’s group is going to have to put the pedal to the metal for that to happen.

Stats as of 1/11/11