Canisius senior guard Billy Baron scored a game-high 22 points to go with nine assists and freshman Zach Lewis added 21 points and a career-high six rebounds as the Golden Griffins overcame a 12-point first-half deficit to defeat Fairfield 90-78 Saturday on Senior Day in the Koessler Athletic Center. The win improves Canisius to 19-10 overall and 13-5 in MAAC play, while the Stags slipped to 6-23 overall and 3-15 in conference action.
The win over Fairfield snapped Canisius’ four-game losing streak to the Stags in the Koessler Athletic Center, and it also sets a new program record for MAAC victories in a single season. The previous record was 12 MAAC wins, set by the 1993-94 team. Canisius’ 19 regular season wins at this point in the season are the most for the program since that 1993-94 team as well.
Baron scored his team-high 22 points after he went 2-for-8 from the field and 2-for-5 from 3-point range, but he ended the day by going 16-for-18 from the free-throw line. He has scored 1,302 career points as a Griff, making him just the 15th player in school history to reach the 1,300-point milestone and his nine assists on Saturday gives him 318 for his career at Canisius, which ranks 10th in program history.
Lewis scored his 21 points after he went 5-for-9 from the field, 4-for-6 from 3-point land and 7-for-8 from the charity stripe. Seniors Chris Perez and Jordan Heath added 13 and 11 points, respectively and redshirt freshman Phil Valenti came off the bench to score 11 points to go with three boards and three steals. Senior Chris Manhertz had eight points, eight rebounds and three assists in the win for Canisius, which shot 51.9 percent from the field, 38.9 percent from 3-point land and 72.5 percent from the free-throw line for the game.
Fairfield sophomore Marcus Gilbert had a game-high 26 points in the loss for the Stags, who have now dropped nine of their last 11 overall. Freshman K.J. Rose had 13 points before he was ejected from the game with 14:22 left on the clock and senior Maurice Barrow and freshman Doug Chappell chipped in 10 points each for Fairfield. The Stags ended the game shooting 42.1 percent from the floor, 34.6 percent from 3-point land and 72.4 percent from the free-throw line.
“We knew coming in that the second time you play a team, you’d better be ready for a battle,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said after the game. “Fairfield is a team that is getting better. They work hard, and they’ve beaten Manhattan and Niagara on the road, which are both good wins. They have good players and they can play physical. They did today for sure. I thought we got great contributions from our bench, and I’m proud of our seniors. They all stepped up and made sure that we stuck to the game plan and took care of business. It feels good to send the seniors off with a win in their last home game.”
Canisius trailed 45-38 at the half, but the Griffs tied the game at 45-45 2:43 into the second stanza with a 7-0 run. After Rose hit a jumper in the middle of the lane on Fairfield’s next trip down the floor, Canisius answered with a dunk by Manhertz to tie the game at 47-47. A four-point play by Gilbert on a made 3-pointer and a free-throw with 15:19 left in the game gave the Stags a 51-47 lead, but momentum changed in favor of Canisius at the 14:22 mark after a mild skirmish under the Canisius basket ended with three players receiving technical fouls and Fairfield’s Rose being ejected from the contest after he received two deadball technical fouls.
At the 14:22 mark, Jordan Heath was whistled for a foul off the ball as he looked to gain offensive position on the block. After the foul was called, players started pushing and shoving, and the officials needed help from both head coaches to cool the situation down. After a 19 minute delay where the officiating crew looked at multiple video replay angles, it was determined that Fairfield would shoot two free-throws and the Griffs would be granted six free-throws for the three deadball technical fouls assessed to the Stags. Fairfield made both of its free-throws to take a 53-47 lead, but Baron ended up hitting 5-of-6 tosses from the stripe to make the score 53-52 in favor of the Stags. On the ensuing possession, Baron was fouled again, and he went to the line, where he made both of the free-throws on a one-and-one situation, giving him seven points in the span of eight seconds of game action. Fairfield regained the lead for the final time of the day at 55-54 with a pair of free-throws at its end of the floor with 13:50 left, but an 11-2 run by Canisius over the game’s next 1:10 made the score 65-57 in favor of the Blue and Gold with 12:24 left in the game.
Fairfield battled back and cut the Griffs’ cushion to just four at 75-71 with 8:05 left in the game on a 3-pointer by Gilbert from the corner, but a lay-up by Heath and free-throws from Lewis and Baron stretched Canisius’ hold back to eight points at 79-71 with 4:52 left. Canisius ended the game by going 29-for-40 from the free-throw line in the win and the Griffs ended up with a 34-24 advantage on points scored in the paint.
Canisius is now tied for third-place in the MAAC standings with Manhattan, as both teams have a 13-5 record in league play heading into the final weekend of the regular season. The Griffs will get back to action next Friday, Feb. 28, when the team travels to play at Rider. Game time in Lawrenceville, N.J., is set for 9 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.Game Notes: This was the 77th all-time meeting between Canisius and Fairfield, with the Stags holding a 44-33 lead in the series… Canisius swept the regular-season series with Fairfield for the first time since the 2005-06 season… Canisius ended the regular season with a 9-3 mark at home… The Griffs are now 6-1 under Jim Baron when posting 90-plus points on the scoreboard in a game… Canisius is now averaging 82.5 points per game in MAAC contests, and the team has scored 80-plus points against conference opponents 13 times this year… Manhertz’s eight rebounds gives him 742 for his career, which ranks sixth all-time in school history… He’s led the team in rebounding 14 times this season and 51 times in his career… Perez played his 120th career collegiate game and his start on Saturday was the 90th of his career… Baron played in his 100th career college game on Saturday and he’s now been good for five or more assists 17 times this season and 38 times in his career… Lewis’ four makes from 3-point land gives him multiple 3-point field goals in 16 games this season… Valenti’s three steals are a career high.