Visiting Saint Peter’s jumped out to an early 11-0 lead and never looked back, as the Peacocks closed out the 2016-17 regular-season with a 72-65 win over Canisius Sunday afternoon on Sports Hall of Fame Day in the Koessler Athletic Center. The win is Saint Peter’s sixth straight, and moved the team to 18-12 overall and 14-6 in MAAC play. Canisius, which has now dropped three straight, fell to 17-14 overall and 10-10 in league play with the loss.
The loss, coupled with Fairfield’s win at Niagara and Rider’s win at Quinnipiac, puts Canisius in the seventh-seed at next week’s MAAC Men’s Basketball Championship in Albany, New York. Canisius will play Thursday night at 7 p.m., against the 10th-seeded Marist Red Foxes. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
Saint Peter’s came out of the gates red-hot, scoring on four of its first five shots in the game’s first 4:06 to take a 10-0 lead. A free-throw by Quadir Welton made the score 11-0 in favor of the Peacocks before Canisius finally got on the scoreboard at the 15:45 mark of the first stanza on a made free-throw by freshman Dantai St. Louis. After the team’s traded empty possessions, Canisius hit its first field goal 5:51 into the game when sophomore Chris Atkinson drained a 3-pointer from the corner to make the score 11-4 in favor of Saint Peter’s. The Peacocks’ lead hovered around nine points for the better part of the first half before Canisius closed the opening 20 minutes on an 8-3 run to make the score 37-33 in favor of Saint Peter’s at the break.
In the second half, Canisius trailed 59-52 with 5:12 left to play, but a 6-0 run by Canisius over the game’s next 1:30, capped by a lay-up from freshman Isaiah Reese, got the Griffs within one point at 59-58. Following a pair of missed free-throws by Welton, Canisius had a chance to take the lead for the first time on the day on its ensuing possession, but the Blue and Gold came up empty with a miss, and Saint Peter’s sophomore Antwon Portley trilled a 3-pointer from the far corner with 1:58 left on the clock to push the Peacocks’ cushion back to four points at 62-58. Junior Kassius Robertson was able to get the Griffs within three at 66-63 with 34 seconds left to play after he made a pair from the free-throw line, but the Peacocks were able to seal the victory by draining four free-throws in a seven second span to close out the game.
Five Saint Peter’s players scored in double-figures in the win, with Trevis Wyche and Nnamdi Enechionyia each scoring 12 points. The Peacocks shot 52 percent from the field and ended the game by turning 12 Canisius turnovers into 22 points.
For the Griffs, junior Jermaine Crumpton scored 14 points, while senior Phil Valenti added 11 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Douse was good for nine points and seven boards for the Blue and Gold, which shot 39.6 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from 3-point land and 73.7 percent from the free-throw line. Reese also had nine points for the Griffs, and he also added four rebounds and a career-high five steals in 27 minutes off the bench.
Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon’s Postgame Comments
“This was a tough, hard-fought game. Saint Pete’s did a good job and we obviously got off to a very bad start. We clawed our way back in and I thought we had chances down the stretch to take the lead, but we just didn’t get it done.”
“You just have to play. Obviously, you’d like to have a bye, but sometimes it doesn’t work out and you don’t get a bye. There’s a lot of coaches who would rather not get a bye because you’re sitting there waiting. And there’s coaches who would rather have the bye. It’s that time of year where you have to figure it out and you have to take them one game at a time and see what happens.”
Inside the Box Score
• Saint Peter’s out rebounded Canisius by a 32-31 count. Eight of Canisius’ 32 boards were off the offensive glass, but the Griffs ended the day with just seven second-chance points.
• The Griffs were credited with 15 assists on 21 makes in the loss. This game marks the 25th time this season where the Griffs have recorded 15 or more assists in a game.
• Saint Peter’s, the MAAC’s leader in fewest turnovers per game, were charged with nine turnovers for the contest, and just two of those came in the game’s second half.
• This was the 77th all-time meeting between the two Jesuit schools, with Canisius holding a 43-34 lead in the series.
• The Griffs fell to 0-7 on the season when failing to score 70-or more points in a game.
• Valenti appeared in his 122nd career game as a Griff, which ranks him sixth all-time in school history.
• Robertson hit two 3-pointers on Sunday, giving him multiple makes from 3-point land in 27 games this year.
• Reese’s five steals gives him 43 for the season, the most for a Canisius freshman since former Griff Frank Turner had 49 steals in 2006-07.
• Senior Martin Dixon-Green did not dress for the game due to “concussion-like” symptoms. A timetable for his return was not announced.
• Before the game, Canisius honored Dixon-Green, Douse and Valenti, who were all making their final scheduled appearance on the Koessler Athletic Center Court.
• At halftime, Canisius formally introduced the Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016, which included former Griff guard Kevin Downey and the 1962-63 men’s basketball team.
Canisius will travel to Albany, New York to meet No. 10 seed Marist in the first round of the 2017 MAAC Men’s Basketball Championship. That game will be played Thursday, March 2, at 7 p.m., in Times Union Center. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3, and the audio call will be available on TIMELESS WECK 1230-AM and 102.9-FM in Buffalo and through GoGriffs.com.