Fairfield junior guard Tyler Nelson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer helped lift the visiting Stags to a 58-55 win over Canisius Friday night in the Koessler Athletic Center. The win improved Fairfield to 15-13 overall and 10-9 in MAAC play, while the Golden Griffins slipped to 17-13 overall and 10-9 in league play with their second-straight defeat.
With the game tied at 55-55, Canisius ran the clock down and took a shot with six seconds left, but the ball rimmed out and Fairfield’s Matija Milin grabbed the rebound. Milin flipped the ball to Nelson, who raced down the floor and pulled-up from 25-feet, drilling the game-winning shot as the final horn sounded. For Canisius, it was the team’s first loss on a buzzer-beater since Jan. 11, 2013.
Nelson ended the night with 17 points to lead Fairfield, while sophomore Jonathan Kasibabu was good for 12 points and seven rebounds. The Stags shot 45.3 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point range in the win.
For Canisius, senior Phil Valenti posted a game-high 23 points and a career best 13 rebounds in the loss, his fourth double-double of the season and the eighth in his career. Junior Kassius Robertson had 15 points and a career-high eight boards for the Blue and Gold, which shot 36.5 percent from the floor and just 16 percent from 3-point land, going 4-for-25 from beyond the arc on the night.
Canisius led by nine at 48-39 with 10:48 left to play, but the Stags used an 9-0 run over the span of 4:01 to knot the game at 48-48 with 5:56 left on the clock. A traditional three-point play by Valenti put the Griffs back up three at 51-48, but Nelson answered with a traditional three-point play of his own on the Stags’ next trip down the floor to make the score 51-51. Those three points started a 7-0 run by Fairfield that made the score 55-51 in favor of the Stags with 2:59 left to play.
A pair of jumpers by Robertson and Valenti tied the game at 55-55 with 53 ticks left on the clock. On the ensuing possession, Fairfield’s Curtis Cobb missed the front end of a 1-and-1 chance for the Stags, setting up Canisius’ final offensive possession, which then in turn set-up the game-winning shot by Nelson.
Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon’s Postgame Comments
“This was a low scoring game that [Fairfield] grinded out better than we did. There were some grit plays that they came up with most of the time – 50/50 balls, loose balls, balls on the floor – and they made a great shot there at the end.”
“There was a lot of time left when the ball came off [following Canisius’ late miss] and I think we just watched it. And that was a problem.”
“I never felt like we had control of the game. I think once we got up six or seven points, we committed a turnover or we took a quick shot. We didn’t have enough poise in those moments to really take control of this game.”
Inside the Box Score
• Canisius out rebounded Fairfield by a 39-35 clip. Friday’s game marked the first time Canisius out rebounded an opponent since Feb. 4 at Siena.
• The Griffs turned 10 Fairfield turnovers into 14 points, with 10 of those points coming in the game’s first 20 minutes.
• The four 3-point makes for the Griffs are the fewest for the team since the season-opener at Kentucky.
• This was the 83rd all-time meeting between the two Jesuit schools, with Fairfield holding a 47-36 lead in the series.
• The 55 points scored by Canisius are the fewest for the team since March 4, 2016 when the team lost to Iona 73-55 in the 2016 MAAC Tournament quarterfinal round.
• Valenti’s 23-point effort marked his seventh game of 20-plus points this season. He has now scored 20-or more in a game 17 times in his career.
• The 23 points gives Valenti 1,297 career points, which is 16th-best in school history.
• Robertson's three 3-point field goals gives him 90 for the season, making him just the third player in school history to make 90-or more treys in a single season.
Canisius will close out the 2016-17 regular-season at home on Sunday when the team plays host to Saint Peter’s at 2 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN3. The live audio call will be available on TIMELESS WECK 1230-AM and 102.9-FM in Buffalo, and through GoGriffs.com. Prior to the game, Canisius will hold its annual Senior Day ceremony, and at halftime, the school will formally introduce the Canisius Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016.