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 CollegeInsider.com 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.Follow @NickVeronica