Baron ‘extremely disappointed’ Canisius shut out from all-MAAC teams as Griffs prep for tournament

By Nick Veronica

Jim Baron had to let out a little anger before his seventh-seeded Griffs departed for the MAAC Tournament Wednesday afternoon.

None of his players were named to the conference’s three all-league teams earlier this week, or even the MAAC’s all-rookie team. Sure, Canisius went 8-12 in conference play, but Baron felt a number of his guys put up all-conference-worthy numbers.

“I’m very disappointed. Extremely disappointed,” he said (3:20 on the video). “Because I think our guys are worthy of making the all-conference teams. You look at [Phil] Valenti’s numbers, you look at Malcolm McMillan, you look at Kassius Robertson, come on, are you kidding me? I want to see the guys that have better numbers than them.”

McMillan, Robertson and Valenti all average above 14 points per game and rank 12th, 15th and 17th respectively on the MAAC’s scoring list. McMillan’s 4.1 assists per game rank sixth in the conference while Robertson’s 40.1 three-point percentage ranks eighth and Valenti’s 6.0 rebounds per game are 13th.

“I told our guys I was very displeased with that,” Baron added. “Our guys warranted to be on one of those teams.”

Alas, Baron and the Griffs will have to prove the league’s coaches wrong in Albany this weekend. The team opens against rival Niagara in the play-in round at 7 p.m. Thursday and would face No. 2 Iona Friday in the quarterfinals with a win.

2016maactrnbracket

“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Baron said repeatedly Wednesday. “We still have a lot of newcomers to this program and to this team. So we have to worry about this first game before we worry about the whole tournament.”

Robertson said the “one game at a time” line has been Baron’s mantra this week.

“He’s said it more than 20 times already,” Robertson said with a grin.

But just because it’s cliche doesn’t mean players aren’t taking it to heart.

“Taking it one game at a time is the biggest advice I can give any of our guys,” said Robertson, who’s one of only three Griffs to have played in a MAAC Tournament game before. “We can’t think about our next game, we can’t think about anything other than the game at hand. Take it one half at a time, one minute at a time as we play Niagara.”

The key to a successful tournament run, Valenti said, is defense.

“We gotta get stops,” he said. “We know we can score. We know we got shooters … so, defense. That’s where we need it.”

Defending has been Canisius’ Achilles heel all season. The team ranks 102nd nationally in scoring average at 76.4 points per game, but gives up an average of 78.0 points, which is 304th of the 346 Division I teams in the NCAA’s rankings.

The team fares even worse in defensive percentages: Opponents shoot 37.6 percent on three-pointers, which ranks 315th, and 47.5 percent overall from the field, which is 330th nationally.

But if Canisius can figure out how to stop somebody, or even get a little lucky in a one-and-done event, Robertson sees potential for a run.

“I think, coming into the tournament, we’ve built a lot of momentum,” Robertson said. “We played Iona the first time and they beat us by, like, 25. Then we came and played them tough (last weekend). I thought we really had that game, just slipped up at the end, had a little bit of breakdown on defense. But we got a lot better. I think everybody can vouch for us and say we got a lot better toward the end of the season playing tough teams.

“So I think we’re battle tested. I think we’re going to come to this tournament making noise.”

How to follow the game

I’ll be courtside in Albany, with updates on Twitter and a blog after the game. Mark Gaughan from the Buffalo News will be there as well. There’s no TV for the game (not even ESPN3) but Canisius and Niagara should each have a radio call available.

Postgame interviews: Canisius 67, Rider 61 – Baron’s brother ejected

By Nick Veronica

Only 792 people paid to watch Canisius and Rider play basketball on Super Bowl Sunday, making for an intimate atmosphere at the Koessler Athletic Center. Fans who voiced their displeasure could be heard from one end of the gym to the other, which led to referees taking the unusual step of asking security to remove particularly boisterous fans from the game.

One fan who was sent home early happened to be Ed Baron, the brother of Canisius head coach Jim Baron.

In his press conference, Jim Baron essentially said the insults fans yell at him everywhere Canisius plays are much worse than anything his brother said Sunday.

“It’s a game, what do you want? What do you expect?” Baron asked. “Go to a tennis match where you can be quiet. Go to golf, shhh, quiet. They got signs for quiet. This is a basketball game.

“You go to the other places, they’re screaming at me, they’re cursing at me,” Baron added. “They’re appalling to me. Monmouth, I was gonna punch somebody in the face sitting right behind me. I looked at the guy, guy was an idiot. I’m like, what are you talking about? We just beat your team up here. Who the hell are you? This guy sitting right over here, old guy, must’ve been about 75, I think when I stared him down, I think I made his heart, like, quiver.”

[Immediate reactions: Canisius 67, Rider 61]

The referees Sunday were Jeffrey Anderson, Ron Tyburski and Andrew Maira. Anderson came over to a fan before the second half started and reminded him he could be kicked out at any time. Ninety seconds into the half, Maira threw him out. Half an hour later, Ed Baron received the same fate.

Baron attends most, if not all, of Canisius’ games and sits in an aisle seat about ten rows behind the team’s bench. He isn’t shy about voicing his displeasure when calls go against Canisius but usually means well.

Skip to 8:06 on the video above for Jim Baron’s answer about the fans and refs. Here’s the full quote:

“Eh, I don’t wanna … it is what it is. We move forward. I don’t know. People are just, they’re into the game. You come here, this is what … what do you expect? You know? We go, you go to the other places, they’re screaming at me, they’re cursing at me. They’re appalling to me. Monmouth, I was gonna punch somebody in the face sitting right behind me. I looked at the guy, guy was an idiot. I’m like, what are you talking about? We just beat your team up here. Who the hell are you? This guy sitting right over here, old guy, must’ve been about 75, I think when I stared him down I think I made his heart, like, quiver. Because I looked at him like I was gonna … [he said] ‘You asshole!’ Like, come on. … It’s a game, what do you want? What do you expect? Go to a tennis match where you can be quiet. Go to golf, shhh, quiet. They got signs for quiet. This is a basketball game. Alright, thanks guys.”

Canisius players Keifer Douse and Kassius Robertson

The Griffs pressed Rider a lot Sunday, and that’s something Kassius Robertson wants to see a whole lot more of. Robertson and Keifer Douse also discussed his Douse’s new role starting for Jamal Reynolds and how that’s alleviating some of the burden from Reynolds’ shoulders.

Rider coach Kevin Baggett

The MAAC has an interesting schedule with 11 teams. It seems like every team gets rolled at least once when it’s their turn to play a lot of games in a row. Sunday was Rider’s turn. Baggett talked about that and more.

Canisius ties NCAA comeback record, beats UL-Monroe in triple OT

By Nick Veronica

Canisius erased an 11-point deficit in the final 40 seconds of regulation and went on to beat Louisiana-Monroe in triple overtime Tuesday night, 108-96, tying the NCAA record for largest deficit overcome in the final minute of a game.

Canisius joined UNLV as the only Division I basketball team on record to ever win a game when trailing by 11 points with less than one minute to go. No team had ever trailed by as many points as Canisius with less time remaining while still managing to win the game.

Here’s the list of largest last-minute comebacks from the NCAA record book:

The victory pairs Canisius with Nicholls State for the final round of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic on Wednesday. Tipoff at Orleans Arena is set for 5 p.m. Eastern.

The comeback

Poor free-throw shooting doomed UL-Monroe, which missed six of its last seven free throws in the final 1:10 of regulation. Canisius made all four 3-pointers it took in the final minute.

11 – Canisius trailed by 13 points before freshman Chris Atkinson started the comeback, hitting two free throws with 1:02 to play.

8 – Justin Roberson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on UL-Monroe’s next possession before Atkinson hit a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left to cut the deficit to eight points at 77-69.

5 – Nick Coppola was the next Warhawk to miss the front end of a 1-and-1, and Isaiah Gurley hit a 3-pointer to make it 77-62 with 32 seconds left.

3 – After UL-Monroe entered the double bonus, Majok Deng hit 1-of-2 free throws with 25 seconds left, but Canisius’ Jermaine Crumpton hit a 3-pointer just three seconds later to make it a one-possession game at 78-75.

0 – Travis Munnings missed both of his free throws with 19 seconds left, which set up Atkinson’s game-tying triple with 12 seconds remaining.

Canisius erased an 11-point hole in just 28 seconds of game time. ULM coach Keith Richard took a timeout with four seconds left to draw up a play for a game-winning shot, but Deng’s late 3-pointer missed.

Overtime: 78-78

ULM’s Marcus Washington fouled Malcolm McMillan on a 3-point attempt with six seconds left while Canisius trailed by two.

McMillan hit all three shots to put the Griffs up by one. ESPN then sent out an alert that the game had gone final, but jumped the gun – ULM had two free throws to shoot in the final second. Coppola made the first but missed the second, sending the game to a second overtime.

2OT: 89-89

Deng tied the game with 37 seconds left, but Canisius looked like it would win when Kassius Robertson was fouled with one second remaining. Nope. He missed both shots to force triple overtime.

3OT: 96-96

Canisius outscored ULM 12-0 in the final overtime period to clinch a share of an NCAA record. McMillan had eight of the 12 points while Robertson found a bit of redemption, hitting both of his free throws. Four ULM players fouled out in the game, including three starters. Only Atkinson fouled out for Canisius.

Robertson finished with a career-high 28 points, which led all players. McMillan had 21 for the Griffs, while Phil Valenti had 16 and Atkinson and Crumpton each scored 13. ULM had six players in double-figures, led by Deng’s 21.

“When we were down eight, I told the guys: we can win this thing,” Canisius coach Jim Baron said. “We had to withstand the wave and we just kept battling.”

Junkyard dogs

The win also gave Baron an opportunity to use his favorite phrase.

“That right there was an example of how we play,” Baron said. “We’re junkyard dogs. We don’t give up.”

The win brought the Griffs to 5-6 and marked their first win this season away from the Koessler Athletic Center. ULM also moved to 5-6.

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Atkinson

Coppola played a school-record 54 minutes for ULM. Robertson led Canisius with 48 minuted but didn’t come close to the school record Billy Baron set by playing all 55 minutes of a triple-overtime win against Siena in 2014.

Canisius improved to 5-1 all-time in games going three overtimes or longer. That includes Canisius’ 4OT win over N.C. State in the 1956 NCAA Tournament, which Sports Illustrated in 2014 ranked as the No. 1 tournament upset of all-time.

Canisius’ season ends in 78-73 loss to NJIT

By Nick Veronica

Canisius’ CIT run was stomped out by NJIT Saturday night as the Griffs fell in the quarterfinals, 78-73.

Kevin Bleeker led Canisius with a season-high 16 points, including three three-pointers, but the rest of the team struggled from behind the arc, shooting just over 17 percent on the night.

The Griffs ended the year at 18-15 overall, which was a successful season for Jim Baron’s young team any way you cut it.

How NJIT won: Canisius pushed its lead to seven points at 55-48 with 11:18 to play but went scoreless over the next four minutes as NJIT climbed back into the game. Two free throws from Bleeker put Canisius up 62-59 with 4:57 left, but that would be the Griffs’ final lead of the year. They couldn’t find a shot when they needed it and were outscored 19-9 the rest of the way.

Damon Lynn and Tim Coleman each scored 22 points for NJIT, which improved to 21-12 overall and 15-2 at home. Lynn, the Highlanders’ leading scorer, was not what you would call efficient, going just 4 of 18 from the field (and 3 of 15 on threes), though he made up for it with 11 free throws. Coleman was the opposite, knocking down 8 of 11 shots and pulling in 11 rebounds. [Full box]

Fans get into it with Griffs: NJIT was assessed a technical foul at halftime for the conduct of its fans. Heading into the locker room at the break, NJIT’s student section apparently shoved Phil Valenti, who cut his head open as a result. Zach Lewis hit both free throws before the second half started. Police officers backed up the student section and remained under the basket for the remained of the game.

Baron’s radio comments: Jim Baron did not hold back on the fans or the refs on the Canisius radio post-game interview:

“They got the home-court advantage,” Baron said. “This is their third [home game] in a row. The people are fired up. They got a band. I don’t know where the hell they got this band from. But it’s about a 50-piece band banging the drum the whole game. We didn’t get calls down the stretch. Some cheap calls. And I told the officials, they didn’t need you guys. They could have beat us by themselves. But we turned it over … they made some shots, got the crowd into it and it became a fiasco.

“That first half was as dangerous of a situation as I’ve ever been in,” Baron continued. “That crowd came on the court, Valenti got his head split, they were very unorganized. I was very, very disappointed with the crowd. Wildness. And I’ll tell you, it was extremely dangerous. They let everybody in here, kids were drunk, they were behind the basket.

“But anyway, they’re a good team. They deserved the game. It’s a home game for them. They won two in a row, this is their third one, they’ll probably get another home game. But that’s what happens.”

(For the record, NJIT will go to Northern Arizona next round.)

Baron on the officiating: “The called cheap fouls. That charge he took was unbelievable (I think he’s referencing Heath’s fifth foul, which was a questionable blocking call underneath Canisius’ hoop). It’s just, I don’t know. I thought these guys were gonna be neutral and I was very disappointed. Very disappointed. Because they got to the foul line and they were just taking free throws. (Free throw stats: NJIT 23-33, Canisius 19-24.)

” … We ran into a buzzsaw the second half and we couldn’t do anything about it. They got what they wanted, they got another home game, they got the crowd into it, they got a 50-, 60-piece band from, I don’t know where they came from, St. Patrick’s Parade or something — they’re not part of the school’s — but I’m very proud of our kids. They deserved this tournament. I think we showed people how good this team is. I told our kids we’re very proud of them.”

Struggling from behind the arc: While Bleeker had the hot hand from three-point range, the rest of the team was ice cold. Consider the following:

Hard to win when your guards are that cold. Broken down, their three-point numbers were: Jeremiah Williams 0-8, Zach Lewis 0-5, Kassius Robertson 0-3, Adam Weir 0-1; Bleeker 3-4, Jermaine Crumpton 1-1, Phil Valenti 0-1.

Lewis was 4 for 13 from the field, finishing right near his final season field goal percentage of 33.4. That number will need to improve next season.

Crumpton’s return: Jermaine Crumpton scored five points in 12 minutes Saturday in his first game back from a broken foot.

Final games for Heath, Williams: Josiah Heath fouled out late in the second half after a handful of calls he was rightfully upset with and had to watch his career wrap up from the sidelines. He finished as Canisius all-time leader in games played (131) and showed vast improvement during his senior season (Heath’s season-by-season stats).

Jeremiah Williams worked hard to become a valuable contributor this season after being ruled academically ineligible for the second semester last year. He scored 8.1 points per game and became the starting point guard late in the season.

Baron’s three-year totals: Jim Baron compiled a record of 59-41 in his first three years at Canisius. Fifty-nine wins in a three-year span is tied for the third-most in program history.

1. John Beilein, 1994-96, 62-33
2. Nick Macarchuk, 1985-87, 60-29
T3. Joseph Curran, 1955-57, 59-20
T3. Jim Baron, 2012-15, 59-41

Obviously, no other coach had the opportunity to play in the CIT before Baron arrived, but that’s not his problem.

Looking ahead at next season: I’ll take a more in-depth look at 2015-16 at a later date, but there is plenty to build on for next year. When Heath sat with foul trouble Saturday you got a look at next year’s frontcourt, which will feature a Valenti-Bleeker-Crumpton rotation with Jamal Reynolds playing as a swingman.

I was impressed with Kassius Robertson’s development this season, and with Williams graduating, I think you’d have to pencil Robertson in as next year’s starting point guard. Jan Grzelinski’s role has been so diminished that he didn’t even play Saturday. I’m told it was strictly a coach’s decision.

Way-too-early 2016 Griffs prediction: 18-11 overall in the regular season, 13-7 in the MAAC, third seed in the conference tournament.

Postgame video: Canisius 63, Quinnipiac 57

By Nick Veronica

[Valenti injury update + Immediate reactions]

Canisius coach Jim Baron


Baron spoke on losing Valenti and the players who stepped up in his absence, but made sure to pump the brakes before doling out any compliments.

“We’ll see,” Baron said (2:30). “[Kassius] did a great job. I mean, you know, these guys are young kids. We want them to carry it over. So let’s not make it one-and-done, you know? But he did a great job.”

On Valenti, Baron said: “Our prayers are with him and his family. It was a tough one, that was a tough one. He plays so hard, he gives it everything he has, and he goes down. That was a tough one for us. Our prayers are with him. I thought that the guys really rallied for him. They really rallied for him. They stepped up.”

However, the most important note from Baron’s press conference was that he loves the ‘fear the stache’ shirts the team gave out prior to the game.

fearthestachejimbaron

Canisius gave out ‘fear the stache’ shirts to students before Friday’s game. Jim Baron loved the shirts. (Giraffe suit sold separately.)

“I’ll tell you what,” Baron said, “they made me look good on that T-shirt. They had me with a stache, and hair. I love stuff like that. I love to promote. I’ll do anything I can to help promote this program. They came up with that idea. At Rhode Island, we had a bobblehead. You know, how many guys have a bobblehead? And the bobblehead had a bank in it so you could put coins in the top of the head, it was really neat. I think it’s terrific. Any time we can promote the program… I’ll stand at the top of the building if they want me to. I think it’s all good. I’m happy they came up with that idea.”

(I think we found Canisius’ next promotion.)

Canisius players Kassius Robertson, Jermaine Crumpton, Jan Grzelinski


Quinnipiac did not meet with the media Friday night.