By Nick Veronica
Billy Baron has a knack for hitting the big shot. Sunday, he missed.
Canisius blew a 14-point lead, gave up two three-pointers in the final 10 seconds and missed a key free throw in an 83-82 loss to Monmouth, falling into a four-way tie for first place in the MAAC at 6-2. The loss came seven days after Canisius beat Monmouth by 20 points in Buffalo.
Here’s how the end of the game played out:
16 seconds left: Monmouth’s Josh James hits his first free throw but misses the second, making it 80-77 Canisius. Kevin Bleeker grabs the rebound.
0:14: Billy Baron gets fouled. He hits both free throws. 82-77. Canisius takes timeout.
0:09: Monmouth’s Andrew Nicholas hits a three-pointer from the right corner. 82-80.
0:06: Baron get fouled. He goes to the line 6-for-6 on the night and better than 90 percent on the season, making him one of the country’s 10 best free-throw shooters. He misses the front end of a one-and-one.
0:01: Deon Jones grabs the rebounds and finds Nicholas up the court. Nicholas puts up a three with Chris Perez in his face and gets nothing but net. 83-82.
0:00: Baron can’t get a quality attempt. Hawks win.
Here’s Monmouth’s video feed (disregard their clock, it’s off). Bleeker definitely wanted a foul called on Baron’s heave but didn’t get it.
Where did the lead go? This one looked like it was going to be a repeat of last Sunday’s game, when Canisius won 87-67. The Griffs led by 14 points with 14 minutes to go but ending up losing. How did that happen? Here’s a look at both teams’ stats since Canisius held its largest lead (x = missed shot):
Canisius’ offense didn’t slow down that much after pushing the lead to 14. Defense was another story.
After taking their largest lead of the game, the Griffs allowed Monmouth to shoot very high percentages from the field and three-point range and put them on the line twice as frequently as they got there themselves. Canisius turned the ball over more, committed more fouls and grabbed fewer rebounds.
Monmouth scored 42 points in the final 14 minutes after scoring 41 in the first 26.
Canisius’ three-point defense was especially ineffective, as Monmouth hit five of its last six three-point attempts during a time when the Hawks could have been expected to try more threes.
Foul trouble was likely a key factor of the diminished defense, as Chris Manhertz, Jordan Heath and Josiah Heath all fouled out in the second half. That’s why the Griffs closed the game with Baron, Perez, Bleeker, Zach Lewis and Phil Valenti on the court. (Plus, if the game had gone to overtime, Dominique Raney would’ve been the only player left on the bench. The rest plan to redshirt or are ineligible. Meanwhile, 13 Monmouth players saw game time.)
Threat level orange: Baron hit buzzer-beaters to sink Elon and Rider earlier this season, but came up empty-handed Sunday. However, more concerning than a missed free throw is that Canisius let a big lead slip away for the third time in the last two weeks.
On Jan. 4, Canisius led by 24 at one point but had to hold on as Saint Peter’s cut the deficit to one. On Friday, Canisius led Iona by 20 with 16:39 to go, blew the lead and had to come back to win. Sunday, Chris Perez hit a three to put Canisius up 14 points, 55-41, with 14:11 remaining.
In recapping the the Iona game, I wrote “If this happens again I’m moving the Griffs to orange” on the security alert scale. Consider it done.
Ball don’t lie: Baron had a career-high eight turnovers while Canisius had a season-high 24. Baron usually puts up single-sentence tweet after most games, and simply wrote “Ball don’t lie” after the loss. Players usually say that when a free throw doesn’t go in after a bogus foul call, but after being intentionally fouled at the end of the game, this was probably meant on a wider level meaning Canisius didn’t deserve to win.
Season firsts: Canisius lost for the first time this season when outrebounding the opponent and for the first time when shooting better than 50 percent from the field. They’re now 8-2 when scoring 80 or more.
History lesson: This game was reminiscent of Canisius’ buzzer-beater loss against Rider three years ago. Gaby Belardo missed the front end of a one-and-one with 11.3 seconds left and Rider came down the court and won.
Scoring leaders: Baron is now third in the country in scoring at 23.1 points per game. Niagara’s Antoine Mason is first at 27.6 while Creighton’s Doug McDermott is second at 24.9.
And since you were wondering… The Bluejays play tonight but McDermott would have to somehow score negative-11 points for Mason and Baron to enter Wednesday’s Canisius-Niagara game first and second in the country. (And, because I know you’re curious, Baron could overtake Mason for the scoring title following Wednesday’s game if Baron just scores 104 points more than Mason.)