Immediate reactions: Canisius 98, Lehigh 89

Lehigh 41 48 – 89
Canisius 39 59 – 98

By Nick Veronica

What it means: Canisius picked up its first win of the season and avoided falling two games below .500 for the first time under Jim Baron. Malcolm McMillan played great again, following his 33-point opener with 31 points, which is especially impressive considering both games so far have come against teams picked to win their conferences. Lehigh dropped to 0-2.

How it happened: McMillan made big play after big play to become the first Griff with consecutive 30-point games since Billy Baron while Phil Valenti hit a career-high five 3-pointers.

Lehigh had a 12-point lead when center Tim Kempton – the Patriot League Player of the Year – picked up his fourth foul and checked out with 13 minutes to go. By the time he checked back in four minutes later, Canisius had stormed back to take a 70-65 lead, fueled by eight points from Valenti.

McMillan and Valenti both hit shots to break ties in the final two minutes, and after Valenti’s last 3-pointer with 1:11 to go, Kevin Bleeker drew a charge on Kempton for his fifth foul. Bleeker followed that up a two-landed slam on the ensuing possession to seal the win.

Reynolds crashes the boards: Jamal Reynolds scored 16 points and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds, propelling him to his fifth career double-double. His 13 total rebounds helped give Canisius a 40-35 advantage on the glass.

McMillan, again: Through two games, McMillan looks like an absolute steal for Jim Baron. His 64 points are the most in his first two games as a Griff since Larry Fogle, who went on to lead the country in scoring in 1973-74.

And again, just sayin’ here with the Billy Baron comparison:

McMillan’s first two Canisius games: 64 points, 8 assists, 1-1 record.
Billy Baron’s first two Canisius games: 50 points, 7 assists, 1-1 record.

Cassidy Ryan

Cassidy Ryan

Ryan returns: Cassidy Ryan missed the team’s first game after returning home to be with his family following the death of his father. The Griffs had a moment of silence before the game for both Ryan’s father and the victims of the terrorist attacks in France. Valenti and Baron both said the team dedicated the game to Ryan.

Ryan, a reserve forward, played six minutes in the game, covering Kempton while Bleeker sat in the first half.

Quote of the night: Kempton kept it simple: “Tonight we couldn’t finish the freakin’ game.”

First look: Monday was also the first chance to see the team’s new players in action. In person, it was Ron Gombe who stood out the most. The 6-foot-8 sophomore transfer is muscularly built and moves well for a big man.

Getting the band back together: For the first time in about four years, Canisius has a pep band playing in the student section. The Canisius High School pep band used to play, but that seemed to fade away after Tom Parrotta was let go. The new band, composed of all Canisius College students, probably has something to do with Canisius broadcasting games on ESPN3.

Next game: Canisius hosts Cornell on Saturday, 3:15 p.m.



Gameday: Canisius home opener vs. Lehigh, 7 p.m.

By Nick Veronica

Canisius looks to bounce back from a season-opening loss to Hofstra when Lehigh visits the Koessler Athletic Center tonight at 7 p.m.

Canisius Golden Griffins: 0-1 overall, 0-0 home. Streak: L1. KenPom rank: 160.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks: 0-1 overall, 0-1 road. Streak: L1. KenPom rank: 122.

What’s at stake: Both teams are looking for their first win of the season after losing Friday night. It’s the home opener for Canisius, while Lehigh continues a tough opening stretch that features six of its first seven games on the road. Canisius has never been more than one game below .500 under fourth-year coach Jim Baron (and it was never more than two games above .500 under Tom Parrotta).

Canisius has never been two games below .500 under Jim Baron.

Canisius has never been two games below .500 under Jim Baron.

Top dogs: For the second game in a row, Canisius faces both a team that was picked first in its preseason poll and the player who was named the league’s preseason Player of the Year. Tonight Canisius will have to deal with Lehigh center Tim Kempton, who averaged 15.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last year before being named Patriot League Player of the Year.

Hawks hang with Orange: Lehigh actually made a run on Syracuse in Friday’s opener, cutting the Orange’s lead to just six points midway through the second half. The Orange went on to win 57-47, but not before Kempton posted a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Encore performance: How does Malcolm McMillan follow up his stellar first game? The Central Connecticut transfer dropped a career-high 33 points and recorded six assists Friday in his first game. According to Canisius SID Matt Reitnour, that was the most points for a player in his Griff debut since Larry Fogle opened with 35 points in 1973.

Fogle went on to lead the nation in scoring that year at 33.4 points per game. McMillan obviously can’t be expected to continue scoring at that pace, but if he can consistently produce even half of what he put up Friday, he’s going to make the Griffs a very dangerous team in the MAAC.

Short up front: Canisius will again be without forward Jermaine Crumpton, who serves the second game of his three-game suspension Monday. The status of forward Cassidy Ryan, who didn’t travel to the last game due to a death in his immediate family, is unknown. Six-foot-8 sophomore transfer Ron Gombe played two minutes in the opener but didn’t record a stat.

Return game: Canisius played Lehigh in its second game of last season as well, winning 63-51 on the road. Zach Lewis had 24 points and Jamal Reynolds had 12. Kempton led Lehigh with 19. It was Baron’s first career game against the Mountain Hawks.

Good home-opening numbers: Canisius is 53-21 all-time in home openers and 14-9 in home openers at the KAC. Canisius hasn’t lost a home opener under Baron.

Random player tweet: Goals, Timothy. Goals.

As an interesting aside, Kemtpon is actually Tim Kempton Jr., and his dad, Tim Sr., played college basketball at Notre Dame in the 1980s while Jim Baron was an assistant there.

How to follow the game: You could go to the game, or watch online via WatchESPN. Jay Moran’s radio call goes out on 102.9 FM and 1230 AM. I’ll tweet updates @NickVeronica, and I probably should update the Twitter list of Big 4 basketball writers. I’ll have a recap posted shortly after the final buzzer.

Immediate reactions: Canisius 63, Lehigh 51 — 11/18/14

Canisius 24 39 — 63
Lehigh 26 25 — 51

By Nick Veronica

What it means: Who saw this coming? Canisius improved to 2-0 and showed good resiliency after a shaky start. This team has plenty to clean up, but looks much deeper than originally expected. That exhibition loss to Daemen seems like a lifetime ago.

Lehigh lost its first game by 11 points at 12th-ranked Villanova, then lost by 12 at home vs. Canisius. Take from that what you will.

Canisius goes to 2-0, 1-0 road, and 2-0 when trailing at halftime. Lehigh goes to 0-2. The Griffs are 2-0 for the second time in three years under Jim Baron and just the third time since 2000.

How it happened: The Griffs made plays. Zach Lewis hit 5 of his 8 shots in the second half to finish with 24 points after going just 3 for 12 in the first half. Jamal Reynolds had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Kevin Bleeker was strong late and finished with 7 points and 5 rebounds in just 10 minutes. Jermaine Crumpton had 6 points and 3 boards in 16 minutes, and Jim Baron made a point to credit him in the postgame radio interview.

After a career-high 24 points in the opener, Phil Valenti had only three points Tuesday and Josiah Heath was shut out as both were in foul trouble. Canisius made 19 of 21 free throws. Tim Kempton had 19 points and 7 rebounds for Lehigh.

Lehigh led 36-32 with 14:13 to go before Canisius took the lead for good with a 16-2 run over the next six minutes.

Both teams struggled mightily in the first half. It took Lehigh more than 10 minutes to score 10 points, but the Mountain Hawks came back to lead at halftime as the Griffs shot just 22.9% in the first half, including 2 of 18 from three-point range. Both teams finished under 33 percent from the field.

Forcing it: Zach Lewis is the best player on a young team. It’s natural for him to want to take the reins on offense. But it was obvious in the exhibitions that he was forcing up a ton of shots, and the problem has continued in the regular season.

Lewis was 2 of 10 shooting against Vermont and had a tough first half against Lehigh before finishing with 24 points on 20 shots. Billy Baron only took 20 shots six times last year. The offense is running better when five guys work the ball around until a lane opens. We know Lewis is a great shooter, but can help the team by letting the game come to him and not forcing what isn’t there.

Foul trouble: Canisius’ bigs were in foul trouble early, with Josiah Heath and Kevin Bleeker picking up three fouls in the first half and Phil Valenti getting his third less than a minute into the second half. Crumpton played big minutes off the bench and Bleeker was effective when he got on the floor. Valenti and Heath played just 21 minuets each and had three points between them. Canisius overcame that tonight but may not always be able to in the future.

Point guard watch: Jan Grzelinski started and played 22 minutes with a team-high four assists. He scored five points (1-5 shooting, 1-4 from 3) and had two turnovers. Kassius Robertson had two points and one assist in 12 minutes.

Redshirt candidates: When the bigs got into foul trouble, Jim Baron put Cassidy Ryan into the game. I thought Baron might redshirt Ryan after he didn’t play against Vermont, but now that looks like it won’t be the case. … Isaiah Gurley didn’t play again and looks like a redshirt. … Raven Owen still hasn’t played as he recovers from a stress fracture in his foot.

New threads: Check out the new road jerseys the Griffs debuted Tuesday.

Starters: Canisius – Grzelinski, Lewis, Reynolds, Valenti, Heath. Lehigh – Ross, Price, Schaeffer, Chuku, Kempton.

Next game: Canisius goes down to Olean for a 4 p.m. contest against Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure on Saturday.

Gameday: Canisius at Lehigh — 11/18/14

Canisius at Lehigh, 7 p.m., Stabler Arena, Bethlehem, Pa.

By Nick Veronica

Canisius Golden Griffins: 1-0, 0-0 MAAC, 0-0 road. RPI: 92. Kenpom: 189. Streak: W1.

Lehigh Mountain Hawks: 0-1, 0-0 Patriot, 0-0 home. RPI: 209. Kenpom: 213. Streak: L5, dating to last February.

What’s at stake: After a moderately surprising opening win over Vermont on Saturday, the Griffs have a chance to open 2-0 for the second time in three years under Jim Baron. Another win would go a long way for the confidence of a team that lost four starters and five of its top six scorers from a season ago.

About Lehigh: The Mountain Hawks are coming off a 77-66 road loss to No. 12 Villanova on Friday — a game that was tied with 11 minutes to play. Sophomore guard Austin Price (6-foot-4, 175) scored 24 points, center Tim Kempton (6-10, 225) had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Kahron Ross added seven assists.

If Lehigh could hang with Villanova for three-quarters of a game, matching up against the Griffs tonight shouldn’t be as daunting.

Lehigh was 14-18 (7-11 Patriot League) last year and graduated leading scorer and assist man Mackey McKnight. Kempton was a preseason all-conference selection and the team was picked to finish seventh out of 10. Brett Reed is in his eighth year as coach.

What the Griffs need to do: It’s only the second game and I already feel like a broken record, but the forwards really need to play big today. Lehigh outrebounded Villanova 29-21 over the weekend. Kempton stands at 6-10 and Jesse Chuku and Justin Goldsborough are 6-8. Josiah Heath and company did a good job limiting Vermont’s Ethan O’Day on Saturday, but Kempton poses a bigger threat. It’ll be interesting to see how Jim Baron uses Kevin Bleeker, as well.

Rings a bell: Does Lehigh basketball sound familiar? You might remember them as the 15-seed that knocked off Duke in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Current Portland Trail Blazer C.J. McCollum scored 30 for Lehigh in that game. Phoenix Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby is also a Lehigh alum.

Wild card: Tim Kempton likes to pose with flowers, I guess.

View this post on Instagram

•Yes, Instagram is my agency

A post shared by Timothy Kempton (@kempton_timothy) on

Wild card II: Jan Grzelinski made all four shots he took on Saturday. Unfortunately for him, he needed one more basket to qualify for ESPN’s list of field goal percentage leaders.

Following up: After losing to Canisius on Saturday, Vermont beat expected MAAC title contender Siena on Monday, 84-76. Go figure.

How to follow the game: There may be video from the Patriot League. Jay Moran has the call on 102.9 FM/1230 AM. I’ll have updates on Twitter and a blog after the game. Tweet with #Griffs to join the discussion.