HAMDEN, CONN. – All nine Canisius players scored at least three points and the team shot 51.8 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from 3-point range as the Golden Griffins knocked off Quinnipiac 86-74 Thursday night in the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Conn. The win, Canisius’ third-straight victory, improves the Blue and Gold to 15-7 overall and 9-2 in MAAC play while the Bobcats fell to 12-8 overall and 7-4 in conference action. With the win, the Griffs move to the top spot in the MAAC standings, a half-game ahead of Iona, who hosts Manhattan Friday night.
Canisius had three players score in double-figures in the win, led by senior Billy Baron, who scored a team-high 20 points. Freshman Zach Lewis added 17 points and three rebounds, while senior guard Chris Perez was good for 15 points, five assists and three boards in 39 minutes. Senior center Jordan Heath pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds in the win for Canisius, which ended the game even on the boards with Quinnipiac at 38-38. Coming into the game, Quinnipiac was the nation’s top rebounding team.
Quinnipiac junior Zaid Hearst scored a game-high 33 points in the loss for the Bobcats, while senior forward Ike Azotam was good for 12 points and nine rebounds. The Bobcats, who entered the game with a 7-1 record at home this season, shot 37.1 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3-point land in the losing effort.
The Griffs got a total of 21 points from their reserves on Thursday, led by sophomore Dominique Raney, who posted nine points in 11 minutes of action, with eight of those points coming in the game’s second half. Freshman Phil Valenti chipped in five points to go with six rebounds, while Josiah Heath had four points and three boards. Sophomore Kevin Bleeker played five minutes off the bench and knocked down a 3-pointer and pulled down one rebound in five minutes of game action.
“We just kept going right at them, and that is a credit to our guys, because Quinnipiac is a big, tough team,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “Our bench provided a great spark to us tonight. Those guys came in and played hard. They did a lot to take Billy away and the rest of the guys stepped right up and knocked down open shots.”
Canisius never trailed in the ball game, jumping out to an early 8-0 lead just 3:05 into the game on 3-pointers from Jordan Heath and Perez and a jumper by Lewis. The Griffs led 31-13 with 8:19 left before the break, but the Bobcats out scored the Griffs 8-1 in the final 2:59 of the first stanza to send the teams into the locker room with Canisius in the lead at 41-32. Quinnipiac scored the first four points of the second half to make it a five-point game at 41-36, but the Blue and Gold answered with a quick scoring spurt that put the Griffs back up nine at 47-38 with 15:16 left in the contest.
Quinnipiac used an 8-1 run over 2:08 to trim the Griffs hold to 48-46 with 13:08 left on the clock. In that run, Hearst and teammate Ousmane Drame scored all eight points for the Bobcats, but that would be as close as the host school would get all night, as Canisius answered with a 7-0 run of its own, capped by a pair of free-throws by Lewis, to give the Griffs a 55-46 lead with 10:32 left to play. Quinnipiac never got any closer than seven points in the game’s final eight minutes and Canisius sealed the win by going 9-for-12 from the free-throw line in the contests’ closing three minutes.
The Griffs had 15 assists on 29 field goals in the victory, with Perez dishing out a game-high five. Canisius out scored Quinnipiac 34-28 in the paint and the Griffs ended the night with 11 points off seven Bobcat turnovers and a 14-4 advantage in fast-break points.
Canisius will end its weekend stay in the state of Connecticut on Saturday when the team plays at Fairfield. Game time in Bridgeport, Conn., is set for 1 p.m.
Game Notes: This was the first meeting between the two schools in men’s basketball… This marks the first time in program history where Canisius has recorded 15 wins by the end of January… Baron has now scored 20 or more points 17 times this season… The Griffs are 10-3 this season when Perez scored in double-figures… Perez is averaging 12.8 points per game in the Griffs’ last five contests… Canisius is 6-1 since Lewis joined the starting line-up and the freshman guard has scored in double-figures six times in those seven games... Senior Chris Manhertz had seven rebounds in the win for Canisius to give him 714 boards for his career.