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.

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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.

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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.