Canisius upsets Temple for signature win

CCLogobigCanisius came back from a 12-point deficit to pull off an upset of Temple in Philadelphia Wednesday night, 72-62, ending the Owls’ 11-game home winning streak and earning easily the best win for Canisius on this side of the millennium.

Jim Baron’s Griffs trailed 36-28 at halftime but outscored the Owls 44-26 in the second half to give Baron his 398th career win and surpass his win total from all of last season at Rhode Island.

Billy Baron had 19 points and five assists as Canisius made all 10 of its free throws over the final 2:43 to close out the win. Chris Manhertz and Josiah Heath had 13 and 11 rebounds, respectively, while the Griffs played their second straight game without Jordan Heath, who re-sprained his ankle during warmups, according to the Griffs’ radio broadcast.

Khalif Wyatt had 17 points for the Owls while their leading scorer, Scootie Randall, was limited to seven points on 1 of 12 shooting from three-point range. The Owls, who were a 5-seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, committed only four turnovers but shot 35.5 percent in the game (14.3 percent from three) and were out rebounded 36-28.

“We kept being aggressive, we kept attacking it,” Jim Baron said in a post-game radio interview. “I just kept telling our guys we could come back on these guys. We have different guys [stepping up] at different times and that’s what you need to be a good basketball team.”

Reggie Groves had another quietly effective night, going 4 of 5 on important three-pointers. Isaac Sosa had 13 points after his 24-point outburst Monday and Harold Washington added 12.

Canisius and Temple both moved to 8-2. Canisius goes out west to face No. 21 UNLV Saturday night, with a 10 p.m. EST start time.

Notes:

–The win gave Canisius its second win this season over an Atlantic 10 school.

–Temple’s only other loss this season was to Duke.

–Canisius has now beaten two teams that went to the NCAA Tournament last year, the other being St. Bonaventure. The last time that happened before this season was when the Griffs beat Siena, 62-61, in January 2011.

–The win was Canisius’ first-ever win over Temple. They hadn’t played since 1966.

–Canisius radio broadcasters, Dave Schofield in particular, were highly critical of the officiating in the road game, at one point saying the referee made a “crap call.” Temple was whistled for 17 fouls in the game, two more than Canisius, though that number was inflated by fouling at the end of the game. Chris Manhertz had four fouls and Freddy Asprilla had three with 7:39 left in the game while Anthony Lee had two for Temple and no other Owl had more than one. Take it for what it’s worth.

–A Canadian scout tweeted Wednesday that 6-foot-6 forward Cassidy Ryan had verbally committed to Canisius.

–UNLV’s Mike Moser, who dropped 19 on Canisius last year in a 95-70 beat down, dislocated his elbow earlier this season and is out for Saturday’s game. UNLV is 3-0 without Moser and has won eight straight.

Follow on Twitter: @NickVeronica

Canisius’ Groves suspended indefinitely by coach

Reggie Groves is averaging 6.0 points and 2.6 assists in nearly 30 minutes per game.

Reggie Groves has been suspended indefinitely from the Canisius men’s basketball team for academic reasons, the school’s athletic department told reporters before Friday night’s game after Groves did not participate in warm-ups.

Head coach Tom Parrotta said after the game that Groves is not academically ineligible by NCAA standards but that he chose to suspend the sophomore himself until he gets some “favorable response” from the academic side of campus.

Parrotta spoke about Groves for the first 5 ½ minutes of his 11-minute press conference after Canisius’ 78-66 loss to Manhattan. The entire discussion is transcribed below, with notable points bolded.

Every time Groves comes up in a post-game conference, Parrotta finds a way to mention that Groves has had three knee operations and that his knee (and subsequently, agility and effectiveness) is not what it was when Groves was brought in as a recruit. Keep in mind that Division I scholarships are one-year, renewable contracts, which any coach of any sport may choose not to offer any returning player; a fact that Parrotta knows and could possibly be considering as he discusses his 23-year-old sophomore.

  • Parrotta was informed of the situation when a professor contacted him.
  • Groves was suspended by Parrotta, not the NCAA.
  • The issue is limited to one class, not several.
  • Parrotta would not say when Groves would be back, only that he would need to “get some favorable response back from some academic folks to be able to have that conversation to move forward.”
  • It was especially important to Parrotta that the standards remain strict during a losing season (recall that the program receives national recognition for having all of its players graduate with Master’s degrees under Parrotta).
  • Parrotta used Groves as an example for his new recruits who have to sit out this season (Freddy Asprilla, Issac Sosa, Jordan Heath) to show them “this is how we do things.”
  • Groves watched the game in street clothes from the stands near corner of the gym. When asked why he wasn’t suiting up, he said “I’m on punishment.”

The Buffalo News’ Rodney McKissic opened the press conference asking about the status of Reggie Groves.

Tom Parrotta: He is going to take some time away to focus on academics. I’m glad you brought it up because we have a pretty high standard here. We’ve had unbelievable success in the classroom and you have to have certain things in place that guys have to follow through with. It’s simply one of those things that if you get those priorities out of whack a little bit … it’s always going to be academics here, then it’s going to be basketball, then it’s going to be social, and if any of those things get intertwined, I have to step in and make sure they get realigned in the right way. Nothing serious, just is a matter of not taking care of business in the classroom. It was one class and we nipped it and I said this is not a road we’re going to go down, especially in the midst of a season where you are struggling, and it’s one of those bridge-years where we have a program in place, there’s always going to be a program in place, and those same conditions are always going to apply to everyone, win, lose or draw. That’s why we have a strong program, to be able to get through a year like this, because we have a lot to look forward to, we really do. When we’re at full strength, meaning in a year from now with a lot of different folks, we’re going to be okay. But I’m not going to let anybody get those priorities out of whack – that will never be the case here.

McKissic followed up, asking how long Groves will be out for.

TP: What I said to Reggie is, ‘this is not the time for you to be around. Get your stuff together academically.’ He’s going to get together with some academic folks and kind of square away some things, and we’re not talking about three, four, five classes, we’re talking about a class. But I want to get some favorable response back from some academic folks to be able to have that conversation to move forward. That’s kind of how I left it. I didn’t give it much thought because I act on those things pretty quickly when it comes to academics … Let’s face it guys, Reggie is someone who’s had three knee operations – and I mean this in all due respect because he’s a really good kid – his knee is not nearly where it was when he first got here. So he’s very, very limited.

I asked if Groves violated an NCAA rule or if it was one of Parrotta’s team rules.

TP: Oh, no, no, no. [Not NCAA.] If I was to say if it was a major thing or minor thing, it’s minor. Things are nipped here when they’re minor so they don’t turn into major. This is the time to step up and make sure the conditions for your program are very much adhered to. And that’s what it was. Nothing serious. He’s not cooperating in one class. When you’re a student-athlete here, you get noticed. So if the professor reaches out and says he’s not carrying his weight in this class, I intervene. And I intervened.

I asked Parrotta to clarify if a professor had come to him about the incident.

TP: Well, yeah. That’s the relationship I have with folks here. And that’s a good thing. That’s how I want it, too. Because I have a very good reputation here as far as academics are concerned. So I want to know everything. We check every class. Every class that these guys go to we check. … If they’re not where they’re supposed to be or doing what they’re supposed to do, I find out about it. And that’s our program. That’s why we’re national news. Not for wins and losses this year, but for doing things the right way. Our guys have more degrees that you can shake a stick at. That’s how it’s done. I’m sending a message to the [transfers] that are sitting out, because they’re new here: This is how we do things. Because they’re all going to get their degrees.

Canisius taken to school by Niagara underclassmen

Gaby Belardo had the hot hand early on.

Out-played. Out-hustled. Out-teamworked. Out-coached.

Tom Parrotta and the Canisius basketball team were out-everythinged Thursday night in an embarrassing 75-56 loss on their home court to none other than rival Niagara, dropping Parrotta to 3-8 all-time versus the Purple Eagles.

Antoine Mason scored 22 points and Juan’ya Green captained the floor with 11 assists as Niagara’s young guns showed a sellout crowd of 2,196 Blue and Gold basketball fans what a promising group of recruits looks like.

Canisius led early but limped to the finish line.

“Gaby [Belardo] came out and started on fire, then we kind of leveled off and then we just labored,” Parrotta said. “We labored to score. We’re trying to have our defense keep us in games but until we figure out ways to score points from the guys who need to score points, we’re going to find ourselves in this type of position.

“We have some holes to fill, obviously.”

Canisius junior guard Gaby Belardo started the game emotionally charged, dedicating his performance to his late grandfather, who passed away earlier this week. Belardo opened the scoring with a layup and followed it with a 3-pointer that was deep from NBA standards.

He assisted Chris Manhertz’s jumper on the next possession and then came back with another bucket from 3-point range. After a Niagara timeout, he cut through the lane and put up an acrobatic reverse layup, which circled the rim and fell in.

It looked like this could be the start of one of those Canisius-Niagara rivalry performances where one player takes his game to another level and steals the show. Three minutes and 13 seconds into the game, Belardo already 10 points and the Griffs led 12-4.

Then they forgot to play the rest of the half.

Marvin Jordan came off the bench for Niagara and turned the tide with 12 straight points – four consecutive 3-pointers – during a 12-minute stretch of basketball when Niagara tripled Canisius, 33-11.

A small burst at the end of the half brought the Griffs back within 10 at the break, 37-27, but catch-up is not a good game for a team to play when it came into the contest 0-10 this year when trailing at the break or for a coach who came in 6-52 in his career when losing at halftime of conference games.

Canisius made things interesting in the second half, as it tends to, cutting it to a two-possession game at 58-53 with 5:45 to go. But after spending themselves to close the gap, the Griffs – whose bench played only 18 minutes and was outscored by Niagara’s, 25-0 – ran out of gas.

Junior guard Alshwan Hymes led Canisius on offense with 20 points and could be found instructing younger players during breaks in the action. He usually remains stoic at press conferences, but Thursday night he spoke out at length about one of his team’s overarching problems.

“I think that’s something that shows up in a lot of our games: We get down early by a lot of points and we end up coming back, getting it to single digits, and then it comes down to a string of plays [where] we just can’t convert on the offensive end and can’t get stops on the defensive end and it goes right back,” he said. “By that time it’s too late. Those strings where we get the score down to single digits and we start coming back, people can see how good of a team we can be. Once we can put 40 minutes of that together, we’ll be at the top of this league.”

The Griffs don’t even have the inexperience excuse to use after this game. They got beat by a group of underclassmen. Niagara started one junior, one sophomore and three freshmen. Jordan, a sophomore, came off the bench for his big night. Seniors played only three minutes in the entire game, with Canisius’ Marial Dhal logging all 180 seconds. The Griffs’ first-year players, including transfers, were 3-for-19 from the field for 10 points. Niagara’s freshmen went 18-of-38 for 48.

Parrotta is now 3-8 in his career vs. Niagara.

Junior transfer Harold Washington, the Griffs’ leading scorer who was recruited by Mihalich long before he heard of Canisius College, had another night to forget. He was shut out for the first three-quarters of the game and finished with six points on 2-of-10 shooting. Outside of Hymes, Manhertz had the only other respectable night for Canisius, finishing with a double-double of 13 points and 15 rebounds, including nine of the offensive end.

Belardo started the game red hot, going 4-for-4 for 10 points in the first 200 seconds of the game, but went 0-for-12 with three free throws in the 2,220 seconds that followed.

“This game was probably one of the most important games of my life,” Belardo said. “It was really emotional and it was really important to me. I really wanted to get this win but unfortunately it didn’t go that way.”

Belardo closed by saying that his Griffs will return the favor on Niagara’s home court later in the year. They’ll have their work cut out for them – the teams meet again in the Gallagher Center in 26 days, a building Canisius hasn’t won in since 2002.

Bench production has been a struggle for Canisius all season, but the climb got even steeper Thursday when redshirt sophomore Reggie Groves was unable to play. He has been limited all season long by an arthritic knee that has been through three surgeries, but Parrotta said after the game Groves tweaked it further in the week leading up to the game.

Groves switched between a hard brace and a soft brace earlier in the season but settled on the soft brace for comfort. He participated in warm-ups Thursday but Parrotta used freshman Franklin Milian in his place.

Griffs first-half report card

Canisius' own Fab Five (left to right): Rob Goldsberry, Tomas Vazquez-Simmons, Elton Frazier, Greg Logins, Julius Coles.

Don’t look now, but Canisius’ 2010-2011 men’s basketball season is already halfway over.

Through 15 games, the Griffs have compiled a record of 7-8 and are just 1-4 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play.

Surely this is not the position the program hoped to be in at this point in the season, especially in a year it has five seniors who all contribute significant minutes.

Canisius currently sits in eighth place in the MAAC, on pace to finish bottom-four in the conference for the 12th straight year.

Canisius has played well at points this season but struggles with consistency. The Griffs have the potential to win on any given night, but even head coach Tom Parrotta admits the team hasn’t played to potential.

With the second (and more important) half of the season ahead, here are the Griffs midterm grades:

Offense: B-

Canisius is third in the league in scoring average at 69.8, which puts the team in the top half of the country. However, the emergence of Alshwan Hymes as a 3-point threat is the only thing that keeps the Griffs out of C-range.

The first half against Rider last Sunday was about as well as the offense has been running all season. A shooting percentage over .500 and 20 points in the paint led to a 42-point outburst against a good team. The Griffs moved the ball well and the defense created offense.

Elton Frazier dunks in the Carrier Dome.

But over the next 20 minutes, Canisius went back to old habits. Settling for bad shots early in the shot clock is a good way to lose a lead. So is missing free throws. And giving up huge runs.

Giving up runs has been a major problem for the team. Even after getting ahead early, Canisius frequently allows huge, momentum-swinging, lead-changing runs. Five or six minutes of bad basketball is more than enough to blow a game. The defense is just as much to blame for giving up runs, but if you keep scoring then it isn’t really a run.

People in sports love talking about the “eye test”—whether or not it simply “looks good”—and that can be a good way to judge the Griffs. The half-court offense always seems lethargic and there isn’t really any killer instinct. Even against Siena’s zone last Friday, Canisius got the ball moving, but it just wasn’t moving fast enough.

The individual play isn’t there either. No players are in the top-10 in the MAAC in scoring. Elton Frazier leads the team at 11.9 points per game (ppg). Julius Coles, a Preseason Second Team All-MAAC selection who averaged 13.6 points last year, is second on the team at 11.1.

Hymes is third 10.6, and Gaby Belardo and Greg Logins are close behind at 9.9 and 9.5, respectively. Canisius could potentially have five players scoring in double-digits, but again, were talking about potential and not the real thing.

Defense: B-

The Griffs have been equally as shoddy on the defensive end as the offensive. Whatever points the unit earned against Siena, it handed right back against Rider.

Tomas Vazquez-Simmons is tied for second in MAAC history with 248 blocks, but it’s going to take more than a few blocks to start winning some basketball games. The Griffs’ 70.5 points allowed per game puts them fifth in the league and 234th in the country.

Though Canisius is thought to have decent size, a lot of the players are tall but not very wide. This difference between “big men” and “tall men” was exposed in the game against Syracuse. You can argue that Syracuse exposes weaknesses in everyone, but take the Rider game for example. Even one of the bigger men, Logins, was no match inside for Mike Ringgold.

Their size does help them rebound, which is one of the few things they do well night in and night out. The Griffs lead the MAAC in rebounding average and are 80th in the country. Not allowing second chances is especially important for stopping runs, and can help in the transition game.

Again, it goes back to the eye test. Far too often, opponents have open looks at the hoop before knocking down shots. Not sort-of open, wide open. If Division-I players have time to set their feet and look right at the rim, they are going to make shots.

Six of Canisius’ seven wins this season came when they held opponents to under 40 percent from the field. That’s not a challenge, that’s something to work on.

Coaching: C+

Marial Dhal has been a waste thus far, averaging just 4.3 minutes per game… in the ones he actually gets in to. There’s a problem when we’re getting excited over a season-high four points.

Parrotta after Canisius beat Niagara in overtime last year (the white shoes were part of a promotion).

The team is still falling into the same issues it had last season and the senior core is not as far along as one might have hoped.

Two things Tom Parrotta teams are known for are rebounding and free-throw shooting. They have rebounding. Converting from the charity stripe is another story. The team works hard at this in practice, often hitting around 80 percent, but it hasn’t translated to the games. Not only does the team struggle to get to the line (last in the conference in FTs attempted per game), once they get there, the Griffs only convert 65.7 percent of the time.

Parrotta was given an extension in the offseason to keep him with Canisius through the 2012-13 season, but the classroom aspect and potential recruiting issues played just as large a role in the decision as actual performance on the court. Graduating all seniors with master’s degrees is certainly honorable and looks great for the institution, but it doesn’t do much for the win-loss column.

The fifth-year head coach has also had trouble getting change out of his team following halftime. The second half almost always plays out like the first, for better or for worse. Parrotta’s teams have held the halftime lead 57 times in his tenure, and they went on to win 40 of those games, good for a .702 percentage.

However, when trailing at halftime, Parrotta-led teams rarely come back. When behind at halftime since 2006, Canisius’ record is 8-69. Looking at only MAAC games, the record falls to 4-42, or .087.

Over the last two seasons, Canisius has never come back to win a game after trailing by more than 10 points, but as recently as last Sunday the Griffs blew a 14-point lead.

The players certainly seem to like playing for Coach P, but alumni and fans need more.

Bench: B

The matchup between Canisius freshman Chris Manhertz and UB freshman Javon McCrea will be a good one for years to come, but first Manhertz has to get himself on the court. While McCrea is atop the country in shooting percentage, Manhertz has been limited to only six games all season with an ankle injury.

Reggie Groves.

Canisius is getting fairly good production from its bench, which scores 24.1 ppg, or 35 percent of the offense.

A few players have battled the injury bug this season, but depth is somewhat of a concern. Hymes usually comes off the bench, as does either Logins or Vazquez-Simmons. Redshirt freshman Reggie Groves has provided a spark and looks more and more confident with the ball in his hands. After those players, there are some question marks.

Dhal has played 47 minutes all season and often looks lost. Ashton Khan looks like he can finish at the hoop, but hasn’t gotten into Parrotta’s rotation. Rokas Gricius hasn’t played since Nov. 23 against UB, sometimes due to injury, but usually due to coach’s decision. Eric Kindler played in every game but one in December, but still has work to do before he can think about being a regular contributor.

Overall: C+

A team searching for an identity after Frank Turner is yet to find it, unless inconsistency is what they are going with.

Turner (left) and Belardo.

A lot of excitement surrounded Belardo before the season as many slated him the next big thing for Canisius. The main knock on Belardo’s predecessor, Turner, was his turnover issues, but thus far Belardo has followed suit.

Through 15 games, Belardo has 56 turnovers, more per game than Turner, which puts him 40th in the country. Belardo has 56 assists for an even assist/turnover ratio of 1.0., not comparable with the better guards in the league like Derek Needham (1.31), Justin Robinson (1.65) or Scott Machado (2.27).

To be fair, Belardo is seventh in the MAAC in assists per game and has done a lot of good things too. Almost every opposing coach comments about him, and twice he has scored 19 points in a game.

However, after UB showed how to eliminate Belardo from the game, opponents have watched that tape and adjusted their defense accordingly, at times stymieing the Canisius offense.

Belardo’s 19 helped power the Griffs past St. Bonaventure in the opening game of the year, but we haven’t seen any fire from the Griffs since. A few alley-oops and heated moments here and there, but no defining, coming together moment.

The MAAC is wide open this season and is there for the taking for a team with five seniors. But it’s going to take more than one win against a team above .500, which is how many Canisius has right now (Bonaventure).

The MAAC Tournament is less than 50 days away. There’s light at the end of the tunnel if the Griffs can turn this thing around, but Parrotta’s group is going to have to put the pedal to the metal for that to happen.

Stats as of 1/11/11

Career day for Bryon Mulkey powers UB past Canisius

UB's Byron Mulkey

Eighteen hundred strong packed into the Koessler Athletic Center Tuesday night, expecting to see the top college basketball programs in Western New York duke it out.

Instead, they got the Byron Mulkey show.

Mulkey had a near-perfect game for the Bulls, dropping a career-high 23 points while propelling UB past Canisius, 81-64.

Mulkey finished the day 7-of-9 from the field and converted all eight of his free throw attempts. He didn’t miss a shot for almost the first 35 minutes of the game, going 7-for-7 until Tomas Vazquez-Simmons blocked his shot with 5:08 to play.

Buffalo’s Zach Filzen hit a 3-point shot 21 seconds into the game to open the scoring, and the Bulls never lost the lead the rest of the game. The closest Canisius came was tying it at 6-6, and never got closer than seven points in the second half.

“We didn’t play up to our standards,” Canisius head coach Tom Parrotta said. “They out-did us in every facet of the game.”

Did they ever. The 17-point winning margin was the most for UB over Canisius in nearly a century. The game tied the record the Bulls set in 1915—before the shot clock and 3-point line—when they beat Canisius 40-23.

The Bulls shot a blazing 64 percent from the field in the first half to take a commanding 42-29 lead into the locker room. Canisius had the ball stolen from them seven times in the first half, and while both teams committed 10 turnovers, UB cashed them in for 14 points, while the Griffs were only able to muster six.

Reggie Groves led Canisius at halftime with double-digit points for the second consecutive game, however, for second consecutive game, he also was shut out in the second half.

The Griffs went on a 6-0 run to start the second half and cut the deficit to 42-35, but UB answered with an 8-0 run to extend the lead even further.

UB (3-1) led by as many as 20 before closing out the game up by 17 points on Canisius (2-2). The Bulls finished the game shooting 56.9 percent, including 46.2 percent from behind the arc.

The Griffs shot over 42 percent in the game, but settled for too many bad shots and didn’t rebound nearly well enough to stay with Mulkey and the Bulls.

Elton Frazier led Canisius with 14 points (6-for-7), Julius Coles had 12, Groves had 10 and Greg Logins added eight. No Griff had more than five rebounds.

UB coach Reggie Witherspoon made it a priority to take Canisius point guard Gaby Belardo out of the game, and they had success with eliminating him. Belardo was held to just eight points (went 0-for-4 from 3-point range) and committed five turnovers.

Filzen added 13 points for UB, while Mitchell Watt had 12 and Jawaan Alston had nine. Javon McCrea had seven points and added nine rebounds and four steals on the night.

Parrotta was looking for size to put in to the game when Frazier got into foul trouble early, and opted for Chris Manhertz (6-6, 235) instead of Marial Dhal (7-3, 230). Manhertz played five minutes in the first half while Dhal did not get into the game.

UB players made it clear in the press conference that they wanted to get back at Canisius for what they called “disrespectful” actions after the Griffs’ 73-71 win at Alumni Arena last season. They were upset when several Canisius players made derogatory actions toward the UB logo on the court after the game.

Even McCrea, a freshman, said he was briefed on the incident. With the decisive win, Bulls players believe they got revenge on Canisius.

“We beat them pretty bad on their home court,” McCrea said.

Canisius is now 1-1 versus Big 4 opponents, with two MAAC games against Niagara remaining.

“Our plan was to sweep the series, go 4-0,” Parrotta said.

The Griffs have a week off until its next game, which will take place next Tuesday, Nov. 30 in Binghamton.