ELON, N.C. – Three Canisius players scored in double figures, led by senior Billy Baron and his game-high 26 points, as the Golden Griffins defeated Georgia State by the score of 79-71 in the consolation round of the 2013 NIT Season Tip Off in Elon, N.C. The win improves Canisius to 3-2 on the year while the Panthers slipped to 2-3 with the loss.
Baron ended the night by shooting 8-for-14 from the field, 5-for-10 from 3-point land and 5-for-5 from the free-throw line while adding six assists, five rebounds and a steal in 40 minutes of action. Fellow senior Chris Perez scored a season-high 22 points, with 16 coming in the game’s first 20 minutes, and senior center Jordan Heath added 13 points, five rebounds and a career-high four assists in the victory for Canisius, which shot 50 percent from the field and 56.5 percent from 3-point land as a team. Perez and senior forward Chris Manhertz each had seven boards in the victory for Canisius as the Blue and Gold outrebounded Georgia State 38-34.
“This was a great team effort because we buckled down and took care of the glass in the second half,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “That's a long, athletic team [Georgia State]. We helped them out by turning it over 16 times and letting them get to the free-throw line too much, but in the second half we really guarded and played hard without fouling. We had some guys step up and make some shots and when it came down to it late in the game, we went up and got key rebounds."
After the Panthers scored the game’s first two points, Perez scored on back-to-back Canisius possessions to give the Griffs a 4-3 lead, a lead the team would not give up for the rest of the night. Canisius led by three points at 37-34 at halftime and stretched its hold to 11 points at 49-38 with a 12-4 run in the first 4:01 of the second half, capped by a driving lay-up from Perez. Georgia State whittled the Griffs’ cushion to 51-49, but Perez put the Griffs right back up by five points at 54-49 with 11:53 left to play in the game after he knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Canisius’ lead ballooned back to as many as 11 points with 3:38 left on the clock before the Panthers pushed back again, using a 6-0 run over the span of 1:17 to make the score 71-66 in favor of Canisius. Baron answered that run with a deep 3-point field goal from NBA-range with 1:15 left in regulation time to seal the victory for the Blue and Gold, the team’s second-straight win and third all-time in the NIT Season Tip Off event.
For Georgia State, redshirt-junior guard Ryan Harrow, who started 24 games last season for Kentucky, had a team-high 23 points to go with four rebounds and four assists. R.J. Hunter, son of Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter, chipped in 11 points and four assists as well for the Panthers, who shot 42.9 percent from the field but went just 3-for-20 from behind the arc on the night.
Canisius will play its final game in the 2013 NIT Season Tip Off on Tuesday night when the Griffs take on Metro State, the No. 1 team at the NCAA Division II level. Metro State, which lost in the Division II National Championship game last April, has defeated Fairleigh Dickinson and Elon in this year’s NIT Season Tip Off.
Game Notes: Canisius and Georgia State met on the hardwood for the first time… Canisius has now scored 75-plus points in back-to-back games after failing to reach 65 points on the scoreboard in the team’s two previous contests, which were both losses… As a team, the Griffs made a season-high 13 3-point field goals, the 16th time in the last two seasons where the Blue and Gold have knocked down 10-or more treys in a game… Baron has now scored 20-or more points 19 times in his college career… Perez’s 22 point effort gives him double figures in the scoring column in 50 career games… Manhertz played in his 90th game as a Griff, and he’s collected seven or more rebounds 39 times… Junior Josiah Heath came off the bench and scored a season-high six points… Freshman Zach Lewis did not play in the game… He is listed as day-to-day with a quad contusion.