Postgame video: Monmouth 60, Canisius 54 — MAAC quarterfinals

By Nick Veronica

Jim Baron had plenty to say after Canisius’ exit from the MAAC Tournament. Listen below as Phil Valenti, Jeremiah Williams, Josiah Heath and Baron meet with the media following the loss.

Winning coach King Rice was loose as could be. He was joined by players Deon Jones, Andrew Nicholas and Justin Robinson.

Canisius press conference

Monmouth press conference

Check back later for an end-of-the-year column.


MAAC Tournament Gameday: 5-Canisius vs. 4-Monmouth

MAAC Tournament quarterfinals: 4-Monmouth vs. 5-Canisius,
2:30 p.m., Times Union Center, Albany

By Nick Veronica

After earning a surprising fifth-seed in the MAAC, Canisius meets No. 4 Monmouth today in the quarterfinals.

Canisius Golden Griffins: 16-13 overall, 11-9 MAAC, picked 10th in preseason poll. RPI: 171. BPI: 161. KenPom: 176. Streak: W1.

Monmouth Hawks: 17-14 overall, 13-7 MAAC, picked sixth in preseason poll. RPI: 194. BPI: 182. KenPom: 185. Streak: W1.


Sooo… who’s gonna win? At first glance, Monmouth appears to have an edge in this matchup, given that it’s seeded higher and that it swept the season series from Canisius. But it’s certainly worth noting that Canisius fared better than Monmouth in all three national rankings listed at above. Additional, KenPom’s MAAC Tournament preview favored Canisius over Monmouth, projecting the Griffs to advance to the semifinals 51.2 percent of the time. (KenPom also gave Canisius a 19.9 percent shot of advancing to the championship game and a 9.6 percent chance of winning the whole thing. Iona, of course, is the favorite.)

[Niagara eliminated from MAAC Tournament, 71-54]

Monmouth’s King Rice is seen a slick, up-and-coming coach while Jim Baron is the savvy old vet who brings his lunch pail to work and just the job done. Both teams are known more for their defense than their offense, though Canisius has the edge in rebounding. This one could go either way, but after how the last two seasons ended for Canisius, doesn’t a third meeting with Iona feel imminent?

(What’s that? No? Hmm. Well, like I said. Toss-up.)

If it makes you feel any better, Canisius’ game notes are feeling confident:

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.56.08 PMVegas says: At the time of this writing, Vegas Insider has the game as a pick. Like I said, toss-up.

Players to watch: Monmouth guard Justin Robinson was named First Team All-MAAC by the league’s coaches after averaging 13.4 points and 3.8 assists per game, which was fourth in the conference. Deon Jones adds 12.7 ppg for the Hawks while Brice Kofane leads the team with 5.8 rebounds a night.

[Marist upsets Quinnipiac at MAAC Tournament]

Canisius is led by MAAC Third Team selection Zach Lewis, who averages 12.9 points a night but hits only 33.3 percent of his field goals (120 for 360). Forward Josiah Heath has stepped up his game since Phil Valenti’s injury, averaging 13.6 points and 10.7 rebounds since becoming the go-to forward. Heath’s improved play can also be attributed the senior’s experience, becoming the Griffs’ all-time leader in games played (127) during the final week of the regular season (breaking a record held by Frank Turner). Additionally, Jeremiah Williams has been hot, averaging 15.6 points per game over the last five games.

Series history: Season: Monmouth 2-0. All-time: Monmouth 3-1. Tournament: 0-0. Jim Baron vs. Monmouth: 7-9.

Bleeker honored: Canisius redshirt junior Kevin Bleeker was named to the MAAC’s all-academic team Friday afternoon. Rider’s Kevin Baggett was named Coach of the Year. As I said here, I would’ve voted for Baron, but expected Baggett to win.

Random player tweets: 

Bold prediction: Jim Baron gets hit with a technical foul Saturday. BONUS BOLD PREDICTION: The Tim Horton’s coffee I get before the ride to Albany will be Roll up the Rim winner. (I don’t know which is more likely.)

Score guess: Canisius has outperformed every projection this season, so I won’t pick against it now. Canisius 71, Monmouth 65.

How to follow the game: I’ll have courtside updates on Twitter and will have reactions, video and more posted here shortly after the final buzzer. The game will be available online via ESPN3. You should also send a Twitter follow to Jon Snyder and Pat Malicaro, whom I’ll be bothering with random sports trivia the entire ride down.

Postgame interviews: Niagara 82, Canisius 71

By Nick Veronica

Interviews from Niagara’s road win over Canisius, which stretched Niagara’s winning streak to three games…

Canisius coach Jim Baron

Jim Baron said he knew his team’s “mindset was gonna be fragile” coming into the game. I asked him what he meant by that since Canisius entered the night on a three-game winning streak.

“We were picked 10th,” he said, referencing the MAAC’s preseason poll.

Well you’re fifth right now, I said.

“We got two guys, two starters out, so we’ve been very fortunate to win those games the way we won,” Baron countered.

Translation: Everything Canisius needed to go right went right in those wins. The Griffs are toast from here on out if they don’t have their A-game.

Canisius’ Jeremiah Williams and Josiah Heath

Tuesday was the final Niagara game for Canisius seniors Josiah Heath and Jeremiah Williams, barring something wild in the conference tournament.

“Really wanted that one,” Williams said. “Really did.”

“Disappointed,” Heath added. “We got outplayed. That’s what happens.”

Niagara’s Chris Casey, Ramone Snowden, Emile Blackman

“You saw the togetherness in that run, and that’s the way they are every day,” NU coach Chris Casey said of his team’s blistering start to the second half.

Blackman was humble about his big alley-oop: “It was a great play call, great screen by Ramone. I told him it was his basket. I got the points but it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t set it.”

Postgame video: Canisius 69, Saint Peter’s 55

By Nick Veronica

Interviews after Canisius’ 14-point win, which snapped a season-long, four-game losing streak…

Canisius coach Jim Baron

“This is a heck of a win for us,” Baron said.

“We executed. Got the ball inside, made the extra pass. We had 14 assists. We looked for each other and we played with confidence.”

Canisius players Jeremiah Williams and Josiah Heath

The last time Williams scored 20 points was … JUCO. Yeah, JUCO. OK, maybe high school.

Williams’ season-high his second year at Vincennes was 13 points, and Jon Snyder went through the box scores from his freshman year and said his high was 16. Looking like high school was the answer. Good game Sunday, though.

Josiah Heath is averaging a double-double since Phil Valenti was injured.

Saint Peter’s coach John Dunne

“You never wanna say you lost the game in the first eight, nine minutes — you want to be a better, grittier team than that — but at the end of the day, I think if we don’t miss those chippies (easy lay-ups) and keep it even, then it’s a game.”

Sure, John.

Immediate reactions: Canisius 69, Saint Peter’s 55

Saint Peter’s 18 37 — 55
Canisius 33 36 — 69

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: The temperatures Sunday may have been below zero, but Canisius’ shooting was hot. The Griffs made 56.5 percent of their shots in the first half and 50 percent overall — just shy of their best field-goal percentage of the season, 50.8 — against a Saint Peter’s team that entered the game first in the MAAC in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and three-point percentage defense. The Griffs coasted to a 14-point win.

Jeremiah Williams led Canisius with a career-high 22 points, including 14 in the first half, while Josiah Heath had 15 and Kevin Bleeker had a season-high 10. Zach Lewis had his right wrist and thumb were taped up and took only six shots, matching his season-low.

Marvin Dominique led Saint Peter’s with 15 points, but Desi Washington (14.3 ppg) was held to three.

What it means: Canisius won its first game since losing Phil Valenti at the end of January and got back to .500 in the MAAC at 8-8 (13-12 overall) while Saint Peter’s fell to 13-14, 7-9. Canisius sits in sixth place with four games to go (and could move into a tie for fifth if Quinnipiac loses to Iona Sunday evening) and still has a chance to avoid the play-in game at the conference tournament, which pits seeds 6-11 against each other while seeds 1-5 have a first-round bye.

Heath trending up: Heath, one of Canisius’ two seniors, has stepped up his game as the calendar winds down on his collegiate eligibility. Not only is his physical presence become much more noticeable, Heath is averaging 12.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in the five games since Valenti was injured, up from his season averages of 8.3 ppg and 6.1 rpg.

Grzelinski trending down: Starting point guard Jan Grzelinski was held without a point for the fourth consecutive game and played only 11 minutes Sunday while sitting much of the second half. Grzelinski has shown promising flashes this year but has not been consistently effective. Williams started the second half Sunday and has been much more efficient. Baron just seems to like having Williams come off the bench.

Good first half: The 15-point halftime lead was Canisius’ largest of the season.

T’d up: Saint Peter’s Jamel Fields received a technical foul with 15:04 left in the game after angrily reacting to call on a ball that was deflected out of bounds. Zach Lewis missed both free throws.

Dunne denied 100th: Saint Peter’s coach John Dunne won his 99th career game Friday at Niagara but was denied his 100th win against Canisius. It’s strange to say a ninth-year coach is still looking for his 100th win. Most coaches don’t last that long. Dunne’s career record is 99-174.

Vegas line: Vegas Insider had Canisius -2.5 and over/under 115.5. Canisius covered; total was 124.

Next: Canisius travels to Siena on Thursday and Quinnipiac on Saturday.