Postgame video: Canisius 60, Stony Brook 59 (OT)

By Nick Veronica

Interviews after Canisius’ 60-59 OT win over Stony Brook:

Canisius’ Jeremiah Williams and Jamal Reynolds

Jeremiah Williams hit a jumper with nine seconds left in overtime to give Canisius a 60-59 win over Stony Brook.

“It was a big-time shot, of course,” Williams said. “The guy, he was playing off of me and I didn’t just want to pull up right away. I knew I could take him … and I pulled up. I work on that every day in practice.”

Jamal Reynolds had a career-high 17 rebounds and added 11 points for his first career double-double.

Canisius coach Jim Baron

“We knew that this was going to be a hard-fought game,” Jim Baron famously opened.

He’s is much more willing to make jokes after wins.

“Jeremiah hit the shot,” he said. “When you make shots, you become a good coach.”

Baron also had high praise for Reynolds.

“I think Jamal getting 17 rebounds was phenomenal,” Baron said. “Thats the one thing he does better than anybody I’ve coached in a long time.”

Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell

“All year long I saw the tapes of them. They’ve been a good defensive team all year long,” Pikiell said. “They’re terrific help defenders, they pressure the ball, force turnovers.”

Immediate reactions: Canisius 60, Stony Brook 59 (OT)

[ POSTGAME VIDEO: Canisius 60, Stony Brook 59 (OT) ]

Stony Brook 23 29 7 — 59
Canisius 28 24 8 — 60

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: Jeremiah Williams hit a pull-up jumper from the elbow with nine seconds left in overtime and Jamal Reynolds collected the rebound on Carson Puriefoy’s late miss to seal a gutty win. Jim Baron had two timeouts left when the Griffs came up the court down by one and chose not the use them.

A layup from Phil Valenti put Canisius up 41-34 with 8:48 to play, but the Griffs went cold after that as Stony Brook used an 11-2 run to take a 45-43 lead with 4:25 remaining. Stony Brook later tied the game at 52 before Jim Baron took timeout with 18.6 seconds remaining. Zach Lewis took a pull-up three-pointer with four seconds left, which rimmed out and sent the game to overtime.

Both teams struggled shooting in a game that crept along until the final minute. Canisius shot 32.1 percent and Stony Brook shot 28.4 percent.

What it means: Canisius goes to 5-4 and will be .500 or better at Christmas for the third straight year under Jim Baron. Iona (6-3) and Rider (5-6) are the only MAAC teams to have as many wins as Canisius. Stony Brook goes to 5-6. It was the first overtime game of the year for both teams.

Game ball: Stony Brook’s 6-foot-8, 255 pound junior forward Jameel Warney absolutely killed Canisius, scoring 17 points and pulling down 17 rebounds in regulation before finishing with 19 and 18.

Point guard watch: Neither Jan Grzelinski nor Jeremiah Williams had a good first half Thursday but Williams made up for it late. Grzelinski didn’t score and committed three turnovers in 15 minutes and is still hesitant to shoot. He only played four minutes after halftime and was called for a lane violation that nullified a Zach Lewis free throw in the first half. Williams finished with nine points on 2-of-4 shooting and 5-for-5 from the line, including three big free throws late in regulation. Kassius Robertson played 18 minutes off the bench. No Griff had more than two assists.

Reynolds’ double-double: Jamal Reynolds logged his first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.

Road woes: Stony Brook entered the game 5-5 on the year, with all five losses coming on the road. They are now 0-6 on the road.

Even matchup? Canisius vs. Stony Brook was a pretty fair fight, according to KenPom.

Owen dresses: Freshman Raven Owen dressed for the first time this season after missing the first eight games with a stress fracture in his left foot. He did not play and may still redshirt.

Starters: Canisius – Zach Lewis, Jan Grzelinski, Jamal Reynolds, Phil Valenti and Josiah Heath. Stony Brook – Carson Puriefoy, Jameel Warney, Rayshaun McGrew, Roland Nyama and Bryan Sekunda.

Next: Canisius hosts Holy Cross at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 21.

Canisius smoked by UMass, 75-58

By Nick Veronica

Canisius struggled in all phases of the game Saturday in a 75-58 road loss to UMass, falling to 4-4 on the year.

CCLogobigThe Griffs trailed by 25 points at halftime, 46-21, and as many as 27 in the game while allowing the Minutemen to shoot 50 percent from the floor (25 for 50). Canisius was outrebounded 38-28 and committed 24 fouls, which matches a season-high.

Zach Lewis led the Griffs with 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting, which will actually help his season shooting percentage. Josiah Heath scored 10 and added four rebounds, three steals and two assists. Phil Valenti had six points and five assists before fouling out.

UMass senior forward Maxie Esho had 20 points and nine rebounds — both game highs — while playing just 26 minutes. Center Cady Lalanne added 16 points and eight boards for the Minutemen, who have also beaten MAAC foes Manhattan and Siena.

UMass (6-4) was a six-seed in last year’s NCAA tournament and was the highlight of Canisius’ nonconference schedule.

The loss was the 400th of Jim Baron’s career. He is 434-400 all-time.

Point guard watch: Freshman Jan Grzelinski started at point guard, as expected after Jim Baron’s Niagara press conference, and scored three points on 1-of-4 shooting, dished out three assists and had two turnovers in 25 minutes. Jeremiah Williams had eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range, and added an assist, a rebound, a block and a turnover in 15 minutes off the bench.

Starters: Canisius – Jan Grzelinski, Zach Lewis, Jamal Reynolds, Phil Valenti, Josiah Heath. UMass – Trey Davis, Jabarie Hinds, Derrick Gordon, Maxie Esho, Cady Lalanne.

Next: Canisius hosts Stony Brook at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 18.

Gameday: Canisius vs. Ryerson (exhibition) 11/1/14

Ryerson University at Canisius (exhibition), 1 p.m., Koessler Athletic Center

By Nick Veronica

Canisius Golden Griffins: 0-0, 0-0 home.

Ryerson Rams: 7-0, 3-0 away.

First look: Today’s game is the first look we have at the Griffs ahead of what will be a rebuilding year. It is the first of two exhibitions ahead of the Nov. 15 opener, with the other coming against Daemen on Nov. 11. Winning an exhibition should never be in question, but the game should give us a look at how coach Jim Baron plans to attack the MAAC in his first season without his son Billy.

Who plays what?: Projected starting forward Phil Valenti is out with an ankle injury, freshman guard Raven Owen is out with a stress fracture, redshirt freshman forward Jermaine Crumpton will sit out both exhibitions due to a violation of team rules and Baron also mentioned at Big 4 Media Day that guard Jeremiah Williams was injured over the weekend.

Josiah Heath and maybe Kevin Bleeker will start at forward and Zach Lewis will be in at one of the guard spots. Baron said they’ve been trying a number players at point guard “by committee,” including, in the order he mentioned them, Kassius Robertson, Jan Grzelinski and Williams.

I asked Baron if he had thought about having Lewis play point guard.

“He’s part of the committee,” Baron said. “Everyone’s part of the committee. We’re looking at everybody.”

About Ryerson: Ryerson is a massive university in Toronto with 38,000 undergrads. The basketball team had its first game in August (?) and is undefeated against Canadian competition. The school website does not have up-to-date stats, but guards Jahmal Jones and Adika Peter-McNeilly have been leading the offensive surge. The Rams’ roster boast five players 6-foot-7 or better, while the Griffs have only three. The Rams coach is Roy Rana.

What to watch for: With Valenti and Crumpton out, Heath, Bleeker and Cassidy Ryan are the only active forwards. They’ll likely all log large minutes. The most floor time Heath had last season was 24 minutes in the 3OT game against Siena, so we’ll see how he responds to the increase in usage. The Griffs are counting on him to make a big leap this year.

How to follow the game: No live blog for this one, but I’ll have some updates Twitter and a blog or two after. There’s no link on Canisius site for an audio broadcast yet, but there may be one closer to game time.

5 questions for Canisius basketball in 2014-15


By Nick Veronica

Canisius has its first official basketball practice of the season today. Here’s a look at five questions facing the Griffs in 2014-15.

1. Wait, before we start, remind me who’s on this team again:

Canisius lost six players from last year’s team and added five new ones (don’t forget Billy Baron wasn’t using a scholarship).

G Billy Baron (graduation)
G Chris Perez (graduation)
G Dominique Raney (scholarship not renewed)
G Lou Dunbar (scholarship not renewed/pursuing other opportunities)
F Chris Manhertz (graduation)
F Jordan Heath (graduation)
Asst. coach Mike Mennenga (Oregon)

Kassius Robertson

Kassius Robertson

G Jamal Reynolds (JR)
G Raven Owen (FR)
G Jan Grzelinski (FR)
G Isaiah Gurley (FR)
F Cassidy Ryan (FR)
Asst. coach Mike Iuzzolino

Last season’s redshirts:
G Kassius Robertson
G Adam Weir
F Jermaine Crumpton

Which bring us to the 13-man roster:

Guards (8)

Jeremiah Williams, senior
Jamal Reynolds, junior
Zach Lewis, sophomore
Kassius Robertson, redshirt freshman
Adam Weir, redshirt freshman
Jan Grzelinski, freshman
Isaiah Gurley, freshman
Raven Owen, freshman

Forwards (5)

Josiah Heath, senior
Kevin Bleeker, junior
Phil Valenti, sophomore
Jermaine Crumpton, redshirt freshman
Cassidy Ryan, freshman

Don’t blink on Senior Day this year. You might miss the ceremony.

1. Thanks for that. Question 1 for real this time: I need some optimism in my life. What’s the absolute best-case scenario for this year’s Griffs?

Well, the Griffs only return one starter from last season, so there will be plenty of new faces in the lineup. That usually doesn’t bode well for a team’s outlook, but since you’re looking for unbridled optimism here, let’s imagine everyone outperforms their projections, fits into their roles perfectly and no one gets injured.

Zach Lewis

Zach Lewis

Zach Lewis becomes a stud and starts torching teams for 18 points a game, getting into consideration for Second Team All-MAAC. Josiah Heath brings it every night, finds his scoring touch and hauls in nine rebounds a game, combining with Phil Valenti to form a respectable inside game. Kevin Bleeker breaks out, Jeremiah Williams comes back with a chip on his shoulder after being ruled academically ineligible last year, Jan Grzelinski brings some Polish flair, Kassius Robertson is as good or better than advertised, Jamal Reynolds and Cassidy Ryan play at a level that forces Jim Baron to give them some floor time and local kids Jermaine Crumpton and Adam Weir are forces off the bench. (Switch Isaiah Gurley or Raven Owen in there anywhere you like.)

If all of those things go right, the Griffs play lock-down defense, catch some breaks in the schedule, get a handful of lucky bounces, calls go their way and they go on a tear through February, then maybe they sneak into the fifth seed and avoid the play-in round at the MAAC Tournament. That would be more impressive than anything Jim Baron has done at Canisius.

[RELATED: Lewis’ ankle has ‘significant sprain,’ no breaks after CIT scare]

2. Seems like a longshot. What’s the absolute worst-case scenario this year?

Remember 2012? That was the last time Canisius lost a lot of veterans all at once. If you’ve tried to erase that season from your memory, it was the year after Elton Frazier, Greg Logins, Julius Coles, Rob Goldsberry and Tomas Vazquez-Simmons all graduated and the team went 5-25. This year could be similar to that if things don’t go well.

Those Griffs couldn’t stop anybody. They had injuries up the wazoo and averaged the fewest assists in school history. That team needed a point guard like those walruses in Alaska need ice. Who runs the point this year? I don’t know, but it will be somebody who’s never done it before at this level. Lewis started 19 games last year but Billy Baron ran the show. Grzelinski is a point guard, but who knows if he’ll be able to adjust to Division I fast enough. Robertson and Gurley are supposed to be decent but were recruited as a shooting guards. Maybe Jeremiah Williams? The Griffs have eight guards on the roster so there should be some decent competition.

After that, there are still plenty of questions. Not only did the Griffs lose four starters, they lost five of their top six scorers from last season and four of their top five rebounders. Those numbers aren’t easily replaced. Last year’s team had the conference Player of the Year and only finished in fourth place. This year’s team is asking freshmen and sophomores to do jobs seniors had trouble with last year. The 2014-15 Griffs have more talent than the 2011-12 version, but the worst case here is the same: Canisius gets throttled all season and loses the battle with Niagara for last place in the MAAC.

[RELATED: Exit interview with former Griffs assistant Mike Mennenga]

3. Dang. So if those are the two extremes … does Canisius fall in the middle? Seventh or eighth place?

Falling in between two extremes is usually a safe bet. But if you’re being realistic, the Griffs’ worst-case scenario is a lot more likely than the best-case scenario. I’d say Iona, Siena, Manhattan and Quinnipiac are the conference favorites this year. Then there’s a bunch of teams in the middle, and then Canisius, Niagara and Marist will battle it out for the last three seeds.

Phil Valenti

Phil Valenti

Offense might be hard to come by, and scoring will be especially thin in comparison with last year’s team, which set the school record for points in a season. Every returning player combined scored less than 20 points per game last year. Zach Lewis, an all-Rookie selection, has shown he can score, but what’s to stop teams from shifting their defense to take him out of the game? Can Phil Valenti and Josiah Heath score enough to make them pay? If not, it’ll likely be up to a rookie.

Canisius will almost certainly be in the play-in round at the MAAC Tournament. Having a play-in game doesn’t have the same stigma as it used to (before the conference expanded, seeds 7-10 had a play-in game; now it’s seeds 6-11), but those games are Thursday evening before the weekend of the tournament. If the Griffs are seeded low enough, there’s a chance they could be headed home before the party even starts.

[RELATED: Baron: ‘It’s going to be a rebuilding type of year for us’]

4. Speaking of all the players who graduated, is this team going to get any rebounds?

Good question. On the surface, it looks bad with Chris Manhertz and Jordan Heath out of the picture. But when you think about it, the Griffs didn’t rebound well last year, anyway. They had formidable players, but that didn’t translate to the stats. Canisius was dead last in the MAAC in rebounding. Dead last! So even if the Griffs are poor rebounders again, it’s not like it’ll be a big drop-off in production from what they were getting before. The only difference is if this year’s team is bad at rebounding, you’ll probably notice it more. Billy Baron & Co. were efficient enough on offense to make up for it. This year’s Griffs may not be.

[RELATED: Billy Baron signs with Lithuanian club

5. There’s a lot of young guys on the team. Who redshirts?

We know Jim Baron loves his redshirts. Three players sat out last year and I’d expect at least three to sit out again this year. Baron usually keeps a short rotation but may be forced to go a little deeper this year. I don’t think any forwards will redshirt. Heath is a senior, Bleeker, Valenti and Crumpton already have, and if Ryan redshirted, an injury would make the Griffs seriously thin at the position.

That leaves guards. Grzelinski, Gurley and Owen are all true freshman. If Baron doesn’t get early indication that they could make an impact right away, they’ll be watching this year. Lewis won’t redshirt; he’s already established. Reynolds is a JUCO transfer, which should put him ahead of other players developmentally, but could mean he needs more seasoning. Williams is a senior so he probably won’t redshirt unless something is off academically. Exhibitions don’t count toward redshirting, so we’ll see at the first game on Nov. 15 who’s in and who’s out.

[RELATED: Canisius to face UMass, but big names absent on schedule]