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

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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.

Canisius vs. Iona gameday 2/9/14

By Nick Veronica

The teams: Canisius Golden Griffins 16-8, 10-3 MAAC, 8-1 home. RPI: 93. Streak: Lost one, won four of five.

Iona Gaels: 14-8, 11-2 MAAC, 6-6 road. RPI: 97. Streak: Won six.

Previous game: Canisius lost its first home game of the season on Friday, falling 84-73 to Manhattan in a game it was outmuscled from start to finish. The Jaspers opened an early 15-1 lead and Canisius never led.

Iona looked as if it was going to be upset by Niagara Friday night, but overcame a late, double-digit deficit to eek out a 90-89 victory to stay on top of the conference standings.

About Iona: Iona ranks ninth nationally in scoring and Sean Armand is the man who makes the team tick. He dropped 24 on Canisius last year while eliminating them from the MAAC tournament and had 19 in their first meeting this year. Armand is fourth in the conference at 18.6 ppg and is followed by sophomore A.J. English, who scores 17.6 ppg. Five players average double-digit points, while Daivid Laury cleans up the glass with 7.4 rebounds per game. Iona is known more for fast-paced play than for defense, so expect a high-scoring game.

What’s at stake: Canisius and Iona entered the weekend tied for first in the MAAC at 10-2. The Griffs lost to Manhattan Friday and need this game to keep pace for first place. A win for Iona would put them two games up in the conference, the largest lead any team has had on first place so far. With a loss, Canisius could join Manhattan and Quinnipiac as four-loss teams in the conference with six games to play.

Recent history: I touched on it earlier — their first meeting this season was an emotional one for Billy Baron, getting back at Iona for ending Canisius’ season last year. He scored 29 points as Canisius blew a 20-point lead and had to come back for a victory in mid-January. If there’s one thing these teams can do, it’s score. Take the over.

Wild card: Sean Armand does not like snow.

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No live blog today but you can follow along on Twitter @NickVeronica.

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

Tweets:

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.

Durham’s 29 lead Canisius to Kid’s Day comeback

Ashley Durham outshined Damika Martinez Monday afternoon, finishing with a career-high 29 points.

You might as well call it a Kid’s Day miracle.

The Canisius women’s basketball team trailed by 14 points in the second half but stormed back to tie the game on an Allison Braun jumper with five seconds left and then won it in overtime in front of 2,196 screaming Buffalo public school children Monday afternoon, all of whom received free admission as part of the annual Kid’s Day promotion.

Canisius didn’t have the lead for any of the regulation period but never trailed in overtime as 29 points from Ashley Durham and a late surge from Jamie Ruttle lifted the Griffs to a 85-74 win, much to the delight of the screaming  fans who may never have a better school day the rest of their lives.

“I feel like the kids definitely give us an extra energy that we need, especially being down 14. It’s like you don’t want to disappoint them,” Durham said.

“That’s a really great thing for women’s basketball because we get a feel of what it’s like,” Canisius coach Terry Zeh added. “You want to know why Duke wins every time on [its] home court? It’s because they get that every night.”

Iona coach Anthony Bozzella and his Gaels have had more than their fair share of feeling “what it’s like” this season – this was the third time just this year that they were scheduled as the Kid’s Day opponent, losing all three.

The 14-point comeback matched the largest of Zeh’s career, a 70-60 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore in December 2007. The Griffs trailed 40-26 at halftime in that game but had the entire second half to mount the comeback. Monday afternoon, the deficit was still 12 points with just over seven minutes to go.

“I try not to [think about it],” Zeh said. “We just kind of want to have our heads down and keep grinding. If you’re down 30 or up 30, you should just try to continue to play the same kind of basketball that you want to play.”

The Griffs’ leading scorer, Jamie Ruttle, was held without a field goal for the first 31 minutes of the game but turned it on late, adding eight points before the end of regulation and seven more in overtime to seal the deal.

Ruttle hit two free throws to open scoring in the overtime session, giving Canisius its first lead of the day, and Durham hit a 3-pointer 40 seconds later put Canisius up five. Then Ruttle hit a jumper and Jen Morabito got a runner to fall to give Canisius a 9-0 start to overtime as Iona missed its first five shots.

The Griffs ending up outscoring Iona 18-7 in overtime and 44-19 since the 12:23 mark of the second half, when the Gaels went up 55-41.

According to Durham, the most important thing for her team was “believing in each other.”

“We trust each other to another level,” she said. “We’re really close. We can tell each other stuff during the game and say ‘you did this wrong and you need to change it’ and we take it the right way.

“Trusting each other makes it easier … I trust when I dish them the ball that they’re going to make it every time.”

Durham’s career-best 29 points that led the comeback stole the spotlight and headlines from Iona’s freshman guard Damika Martinez, who hit 10 of 17 from the floor for 28 points, giving her consecutive 28-, 29- and 28-point performances in her last three games.

The Griffs are now 8-7 overall and 2-2 in MAAC play. The team has also won eight of its last 10 Kid’s Day games at the KAC, with one of the losses coming last year at the hands of the nationally-ranked Marist Red Foxes.

The final seconds of regulation were crazy. After an Iona timeout, the Griffs let Damika Martinez get open right under the basket and she converted the layup to put the Gaels up 67-65 with 13 seconds left.

Terry Zeh joked after the game that letting her score was exactly what his team wanted to let her do so it would have enough time to come down the court and make a shot without any timeouts.

Durham had the hot hand but couldn’t get free, so she turned and passed to Allison Braun, open from about 15 feet out.

“Everyone asks what I was thinking when I took that shot, and I think most answers you find when you ask players that happens to is ‘nothing,’ ” Braun said. “It’s just simple thoughts, what did they give me, am I open, and knock it down.”

Zeh, Canisius’ all-time wins leader for women’s basketball and a former assistant on the men’s team, couldn’t say enough about Braun. “She makes that jump shot better than any player I’ve ever coached. Men’s, women’s, doesn’t matter.”

Braun, in turn, couldn’t say enough about Durham.

“Ashley made me feel calm. I think that’s the most important thing with a point guard is you should make your players feel calm, and that’s what happened today. She gave me confidence to shoot that, really.”

Iona’s Aleesha Powell raced down the court to try for a buzzer-beater but had her shot blocked by Melissa Gardner, who didn’t get off the bench in the first half but played strong in the second half and overtime.

It took the Griffs 40 minutes and 49 seconds to take the lead, but once they got it they held it the rest of the game.