Canisius junior Kassius Robertson scored a game-high 21 points to lead four Golden Griffins in double-figures and the Canisius defense came up with another late defensive stop en route to an 82-79 win over Siena Monday afternoon in the Koessler Athletic Center. The Griffs, which have now won six straight, are 9-5 overall and 2-1 in MAAC play while the Saints slipped to 4-10 overall and 1-2 in league games.
The Griffs’ six-game winning streak is the longest for the program since the 1998-99 season, when the Blue and Gold ripped off eight-straight victories. In the last 30 seasons (since 1986-87), this is just the fifth win streak of six or more games, highlighted by the 15-straight wins compiled by the 1993-94 edition of the Griffs.
Robertson showed no signs of rust early in the game, as he scored the first 14 points of the game for the Griffs, who had not played a game since defeating St. Bonaventure on the road Dec. 22. He ended the day by going 7-for-12 from the field, 2-for-7 from 3-point land and 5-for-6 from the free-throw line while grabbing three rebounds and dishing out three assists. Fellow junior Jermaine Crumpton was good for 16 points while freshman guard Spencer Foley came off the bench and tallied a career-high 15 points on the power of five 3-point field goals. Senior Phil Valenti added 10 points, five boards and five assists to the winning cause for Canisius, which shot 49.2 percent from the field, 35.7 percent from 3-point land and just 54.5 percent from the free-throw line.
Senior Javion Ogunyemi scored a team-high 19 points in the loss for Siena, which has dropped seven of its last nine meetings with Canisius, dating back to 2012. Fellow senior Brett Bisping had 17 points and nine rebounds for Siena, which shot 469.9 percent from the field, 14.3 percent from behind the 3-point arc and 68 percent from the charity stripe.
Canisius led Siena by eight points at 81-73 with 2:45 left to play, but Siena battled back and had a chance to send the game into overtime with a pair of 3-point shots in the game’s closing six seconds. Siena trailed Canisius 82-76 before senior Marquis Wright drilled a 3-point field goal, one of Siena’s two makes from long-range on the day, with 37 ticks left. After Canisius missed a pair of free-throws that would have iced the game with 25 seconds left, the Saints had two chances to send the game into overtime, but Evan Fisher’s shot from the left wing was long, and sophomore Nico Clareth’s last-second shot from the top of the arc banged off the back-iron as the final horn sounded. The three-point win is Canisius’ fourth win in games decided by five points or less.
The Griffs took control of the game midway through the second half, outscoring the Saints 15-6 over the span of 4:46, with the last six points in that scoring spurt coming from Foley on a pair of treys, that pushed Canisius’ lead to 65-52 with 10:58 left on the clock. Siena battled back and whittled Canisius’ margin down to two at 75-73 with 4:20 left in the game, but a 3-pointer by freshman Isaiah Reese, a lay-up by Valenti and a made free-throw by Crumpton pushed the Griffs’ hold back to eight at 81-73.
Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon’s Postgame Comments
“[Siena] is so physical and strong around the basket, it presented a big-time challenge for us. They kept fighting and it was even more challenging game because they kept coming at us. We didn’t shoot free-throws as well as we normally shoot them, but I think our guys persevered and stayed together until the end of the game.”
“This was a battle. That team is big, and strong, and experienced. We were able to move the ball and get some good looks at the basket today. I thought our guys were really poised out there today. There are times where you want to work the clock down when you have a lead in the last five minutes, and I thought our guys showed some poise and maturity late in the game. We had that one shot clock violation late, but when you’re winding the clock down, it puts your opponent in a tough situation. That doesn’t always show up on a stat sheet.”
“I thought the other thing that doesn’t ever show up on a stat sheet is the charges we took, especially down the stretch. That’s so important for us. It was really big for us to be able to protect that basket when we needed to get some stops.”
Inside the Box Score
• Siena outscored Canisius 52-32 in the paint, and the Saints held a 41-32 advantage on the glass.
• Canisius has shot better than 45 percent from the field in six of the team’s last seven games after shooting 49.2 percent in the win Monday.
• The Griffs’ bench tallied 21 points in the victory. In the team’s last six wins, the Griffs’ bench is averaging 26 points per game.
• Canisius led the game for 31:12. The game featured four lead changes and one tie.
• This was the 97th all-time meeting between these two schools with Siena leading the all-time series 53-44.
• Monday’s game marked the 22nd time in series history where the final score was decided by five-points or less. Siena leads that portion of the series 12-10.
• After starting 0-2 at home, Canisius has now won three-straight at home.
• Since posting a season-low 58 points in the loss to Tennessee State Nov. 23, Canisius is averaging 88 points per game.
• Canisius was credited with 19 assists on 30-made field goals on Monday. Five players had multiple assists in the win, led by Valenti’s team-high five.
• Freshman Malik Johnson had four assists for the Griffs, his 13th consecutive game with multiple assists.
Canisius will close out its brief two-game MAAC homestand on Wednesday, Jan. 4 when the Griffs host Quinnipiac. Tipoff for that game is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3, and the audio call will be on Timeless WECK 1230-AM and 102.9-FM in Buffalo and the Golden Griffin Broadcast Network.