[Live blog + Postgame interviews]
By Nick Veronica
What it means: Canisius got down early but came back for a big conference win, drawing even with Manhattan for third place in the MAAC (13-5) with two games remaining. As a reminder, finishing third in the conference is greatly preferred to finishing fourth because of MAAC Tournament pairings – the top three seeds open the tournament against a team that had to win play-in game the night before, while the fourth- and fifth-place teams open against each other.
Baron’s Buffalo finale: Billy Baron was valiant in the final home game of his career, finishing with 22 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 turnovers in 37 minutes. Oddly enough, he finished just 2 for 8 shooting – both makes were three-pointers in the first half – and all 16 of his second-half points came from the free-throw line.
Baron gave a salute to the crowd when he checked out but kept his emotions inside (hearing him talk after the game, those emotions are there, believe me). Jim Baron talked about the emotions of sending his second son through Senior Day at length in his press conference.
Canisius has two road games next week before the MAAC Tournament. The only way Baron could have another home game is if the Griffs qualify for the CIT Tournament and Canisius pays to host a game.
Skirmish becomes turning point: A shoving match broke out under the Canisius net with 14:22 left in the game. Jordan Heath was called for an offensive foul and accidentally kicked a Fairfield player in the head when he tried to step over him. Fairfield’s Amadou Sidibe took offense to that. He came over for a word with Heath, which may have been justified, but escalated the incident further by shoving Heath and K.J. Rose went after Billy Baron for reasons we’re still not sure about. (Here’s a picture of the incident happening but it kind of sucks.)
The referees took a ridiculous 19 minutes to settle fouls, eventually giving Heath and Sidibe technical fouls and Rose two technical fouls, which ejected him from the game. After the free throws (Fairfield’s Marcus Gilbert made 2 of 2, Baron hit 5 of 6), Canisius went from down 51-47 to down 53-52 and took control of the game, going up 56-55 shorty after and never losing the lead again.
Supporting cast: Zach Lewis had a nice day with 21 points and 6 rebounds and made 4 of his 6 three-point attempts while five Griffs scored in double figures. Chris Manhertz had 8 rebounds in his second game back from injury, picking up the slack for Jordan Heath, who had two. … Gilbert led Fairfield with 26 points.
Technology is amazing: Jimmy Baron, Billy’s older brother and a professional basketball player in Italy, tweeted that he “walked” with Billy for his Senior Day presentation through the magic of FaceTime.
Odds & ends: Winning after trailing by 12 points is the largest deficit Canisius has overcome this season … Canisius set a new school record for MAAC wins in a season (13) — and did in 18 games, which is how many they used to play before the conference expanded this year.
Next weekend: Canisius wraps up the regular season with games at Rider and Manhattan next Friday and Sunday, which will determine conference seeding. Canisius can finish no lower than fourth.