Immediate reactions: Iona 101, Canisius 91

[Manhertz update + Postgame interviews]

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: A back-and-forth game was settled by Iona’s offense late in the contest. The Gaels never stopped scoring and took the lead for good with a 10-2 run that gave them a 10-point lead at 87-77 with three minutes to go. The run was capped when A.J. English missed a three-pointer badly but Sean Armand got the rebound for an easy bucket, and DaShawn Gomez followed it up with a three. Canisius played well without Chris Manhertz, who missed the game with a broken nose, but could never really contain Iona’s offense.

Chris Perez led Canisius with 25 points and Billy Baron had 24 while Jordan Heath and Phil Valenti just missed double-doubles. Armand, Iona’s leading scorer, was kept quiet most of the game and finished with 10 points but English and David Laury stepped up in his place, finishing with 32 and 23 points, respectively. Canisius rolled seven players in the absence of Chris Manhertz.

What it means: Iona gained two games of separation atop the MAAC, improving to 12-2. Canisius lost back-to-back games for the second time this season and both losses this weekend came against fellow conference title contenders. The Griffs fall to 10-4 in the conference with six games to go. Improving on defense will continue to be a point of emphasis.

Manhertz out, Valenti plays well: Canisius’ leading rebounder Chris Manhertz missed the game with a broken nose he suffered Friday against Manhattan. Phil Valenti got his first career start in Manhertz’s place and finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists and no turnovers in 34 minutes (his career high is 16 pts). While he was effective, Valenti didn’t provide Manhertz’s strength on defense. Total rebounds in the game were 39-38 Iona.

Lewis takes a tumble: Zach Lewis was bumped on a fast break midway through the second half and went down hard, holding his left shoulder. A flagrant foul was assessed Isaiah Williams. Lewis checked back in shortly after.

MAAC standings: Manhattan edged Niagara today, 78-77, for Niagara’s second consecutive one-point loss. With six games to play, here is how the top of the conference shapes up:

Iona 12-2
Canisius 10-4
Manhattan 10-4
Quinnipiac 9-4
Rider 8-6

Attendance: This game was officially listed as a sellout with 2,196 people in attendance, which is why you don’t trust announced attendances. It was a good Sunday crowd, but there were empty seats.

Hall of Fame Day: Former Canisius basketball player Brian Dux was inducted into the school Hall of Fame today. If you don’t know his story, I suggest spending a few minutes Googling his name. Other members inducted Sunday were Derrick Bishop (hockey), Mark Miyashita (men’s lacrosse), Jill Wright (synchronized swimming) and the 1994 softball team. Dr. Keith Stube (team physician) was awarded the first Rev. Paul J. Dugan, S.J. Award, which recognizes individuals for significant contributions to Canisius athletics.

Next game: Canisius heads up to Niagara on Friday for a 9 p.m. Valentine’s Day game that will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Canisius vs. Iona gameday 2/9/14

By Nick Veronica

The teams: Canisius Golden Griffins 16-8, 10-3 MAAC, 8-1 home. RPI: 93. Streak: Lost one, won four of five.

Iona Gaels: 14-8, 11-2 MAAC, 6-6 road. RPI: 97. Streak: Won six.

Previous game: Canisius lost its first home game of the season on Friday, falling 84-73 to Manhattan in a game it was outmuscled from start to finish. The Jaspers opened an early 15-1 lead and Canisius never led.

Iona looked as if it was going to be upset by Niagara Friday night, but overcame a late, double-digit deficit to eek out a 90-89 victory to stay on top of the conference standings.

About Iona: Iona ranks ninth nationally in scoring and Sean Armand is the man who makes the team tick. He dropped 24 on Canisius last year while eliminating them from the MAAC tournament and had 19 in their first meeting this year. Armand is fourth in the conference at 18.6 ppg and is followed by sophomore A.J. English, who scores 17.6 ppg. Five players average double-digit points, while Daivid Laury cleans up the glass with 7.4 rebounds per game. Iona is known more for fast-paced play than for defense, so expect a high-scoring game.

What’s at stake: Canisius and Iona entered the weekend tied for first in the MAAC at 10-2. The Griffs lost to Manhattan Friday and need this game to keep pace for first place. A win for Iona would put them two games up in the conference, the largest lead any team has had on first place so far. With a loss, Canisius could join Manhattan and Quinnipiac as four-loss teams in the conference with six games to play.

Recent history: I touched on it earlier — their first meeting this season was an emotional one for Billy Baron, getting back at Iona for ending Canisius’ season last year. He scored 29 points as Canisius blew a 20-point lead and had to come back for a victory in mid-January. If there’s one thing these teams can do, it’s score. Take the over.

Wild card: Sean Armand does not like snow.

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No live blog today but you can follow along on Twitter @NickVeronica.

Thoughts on Canisius 85, Iona 83

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: If you missed this one on ESPNU, you missed quite a game. Iona stormed back from a 20-point deficit in the second half and took the lead on Canisius before Billy Baron and the Griffs stole a road win.

With the game tied at 83 and Iona looking to go ahead with less than 20 seconds to play, Baron intercepted a pass from A.J. English and took it the length of the floor, hitting both free-throws after he was fouled on a layup attempt. Iona’s best player, Sean Armand, had a good look at a three-pointer — albeit a deep one — at the buzzer but couldn’t make the shot.

Canisius (12-6, 6-1) scored 50 in the first half and led 61-41 with 16:39 remaining. Iona answered with an 11-0 run, but Canisius pushed it back to a 16-point lead at 70-54 with 11:59 left. From there, Iona went on an 18-0 run in just 4 1/2 minutes to go up 74-71. It was a back-and-forth the rest of the way. Baron led all players with 29 points and eight assists, Chris Perez had a nice game with 17 points and Zach Lewis stayed hot with 14. Armand led Iona with 19, English had 18 and Tre Bowman had 15.

What it means: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Canisius is pretty clutch late in the game. (No, really, stop me if you’ve heard that. I don’t know how long it’s been since this was true.) Yes, the Griffs almost blew a gigantic lead, but when it was crunch time late, they came through. More tellingly, even despite giving up the lead, it still felt like Canisius was going to win. The Griffs are now 5-1 this season in games decided by five points or less (wins against South Dakota, Elon, Saint Peter’s, Rider, Iona; loss against Marist … Notre Dame won by six in OT) and they stayed even with Manhattan on top of the MAAC standings at 6-1. It was another great game for Baron on national television. A three-game win streak matches Canisius’ longest of the season.

Billy being Billy: Big players make the big plays in the big games (or at least Ray Lewis says so). This one was personal for Baron after losing to Iona in last year’s MAAC tournament. He got back at the Gaels in a big way, finishing with 29 points (10 of 17 shooting, 5 of 8 from three), eight assists, four rebounds and two steals in 39 minutes. He also made a gigantic play to get a steal in the last 20 seconds of the game, picking off a pass from English, a sophomore, and going to the hoop. Canisius probably would’ve gotten the ball back either way because the shot clock would’ve run out long before the game clock, but not allowing Iona a shot was huge. Only one question: going in on that break, can Billy Baron dunk?

homelandsecuritycolorwarningsRed flags? How much can we glean from Canisius losing a 20-point lead? On the meta level, games have ebbs and flows and Canisius beating Iona by 20 isn’t sustainable. In layman’s terms, the Griffs may have been up by 20 but we know they’re not really 20 points better than the Gaels. Iona was shooting a miserable percentage from the field and it was rational to expect things to start swinging their way. But in people terms, that was a 20-point lead! Canisius gave up runs of 11-0 and 18-0 in the second half. Plus, this was the second time in the last two weeks something like this happened. On Jan. 4, Canisius led Saint Peter’s by 24 points in the first half and had to hold on in the second half as the Peacocks cut the deficit to one. If this happens again I’m moving the Griffs to orange.

T Party: Coach Jim Baron picked up a technical foul during Iona’s big run that captured the lead. Canisius’ Chris Manhertz and Iona’s Isaiah Williams got tangled up under the Canisius basket — they were both assessed technicals as well — but Baron ran halfway across the court, presumably to argue with an official. The timing to give Iona free throws was exceptionally poor — they had just gone up 72-71 — and English hit both shots. However …

MAAC outlook:

1. Manhattan 6-1 (13-3)
1. Canisius 6-1 (12-6)
3. Quinnipiac 5-2 (10-6)
3. Iona 5-2 (8-8)
5. Rider 4-3
6. Saint Peter’s 3-4
7. Siena 3-4
8. Marist 2-4
9. Monmouth 2-5 (8-10)
9. Niagara 2-5 (5-13)
11. Fairfield 0-7

Saturday: Manhattan @ Fairfield, Niagara @ Quinnipiac, Rider @ Marist
Sunday: Canisius @ Monmouth, Siena @ Iona
Monday: Saint Peter’s @ Marist

Tweets:

Noteworthy: Baron scored his 1,000th point as a Griff Friday. He has played 52 games for Canisius …. The Griffs improved to 6-0 when outrebounding the opponent, 4-0 when shooting 50 percent or better from the field and 8-1 when scoring at least 80 points.