BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – Sophomore center Wyatt Walker posted a double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds, and Samford ended the night shooting 56.4 percent from the field, as the host Bulldogs defeated Canisius 78-74 Tuesday in the Pete Hanna Center in the first round of the 2017 CIT. The win moves Samford to 20-15 on the year, while the Golden Griffins see their season come to an end with an 18-16 overall mark.
With the victory, Samford moves on to the second round of the CIT, with an opponent and game date to be announced. This marks the fifth time in Samford’s Division I history where the team scored 20 wins in a season.
Canisius had two players register double-figures in the loss, led by junior guard Kassius Robertson, who scored a game-high 24 points for the Blue and Gold. Senior Phil Valenti scored 16 points to go with eight boards and a career-high seven assists in his final game as a Griff.
Canisius, which was playing its first game in 11 days, started off slow, and trailed by as many as 11 in the first half, but a 15-2 scoring run just before halftime put the Blue and Gold in the lead at the intermission at 34-33. In the second half, Samford and Canisius were on fire from the field, as the two teams combined to shoot 65 percent from the floor. Canisius trailed by two at 72-70 with 1:27 left to play, but the Bulldogs pushed their cushion to four at 74-70 after Demetrius Denzel-Dyson grabbed an offensive rebound and laid one home for two of his 15 points on the night. Samford sealed the win with four makes from the free-throw line in the contests’ closing 37 seconds.
Junior Jermaine Crumpton scored eight points in the loss, while senior Kiefer Douse added since points, three assists and two steals in his final game in a Canisius uniform. Freshman Isaiah Reese was good for six points, six boards and five assists for Canisius, which shot 52.4 percent from the field, but just 25 percent (5-for-20) from 3-point range.
Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon’s Postgame Comments
“We got off to a tough start, that’s for sure. We missed shots – open shots – and they were able to take advantage to get out to that early lead. I think it took some time for us to get in a rhythm offensively, but once we did, I thought our guys really showed some toughness to fight back and get us into the game.”
“In each of the last two games we played, we dealt with a lot of foul trouble. That made this an uphill battle. It forced us to run some different rotations, and I feel like that really set us back. It’s hard to win games when the guys you count on most can’t be on the floor because they get multiple fouls in a quick timeframe.”
“Listen, it’s no secret, if you attack us and get the ball inside, we struggle. Give Samford credit, they did some good things to get the ball into their big guys and let them get to the rim. We tried so many things this year, and tonight, to slow that down, but we ran into a really talented kid in Wyatt Walker.”Inside the Box Score
• Canisius was out rebounded by Samford by a 30-26 count.
• Samford scored 50 points in the paint, while the Griffs were credited with a season-high 54 points in the paint.
• Canisius was out scored 15-2 in second-chance points.
• The Griffs were credited with 22 assists in the loss, with four different players recording multiple assists on the night.
• This was the first meeting between the two programs.
• Canisius is now 4-4 all-time in four CIT appearances.
• Valenti ends his career as a Griff with 1,353 career points, which ranks 12th all-time in program history.
• Robertson’s 98 makes from 3-point land ranks second all-time for makes in a single-season by a Canisius player.