BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Canisius men’s basketball team used a 26-4 run during the final 10-plus minutes of the game to defeat the University at Buffalo 69-55 at First Niagara Center on Wednesday evening. The Golden Griffins win their third straight game to improve to 6-3 on the season.
Senior Billy Baron scored a game-high 23 points, going 8-fo-14 from the floor and 4-of-6 from behind the arc. Senior Chris Perez had 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Redshirt freshman Phil Valenti scored 11 points, all coming in the second half.
“This was another hard-fought local rivalry game and our guys came to play in the second half,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “I thought we got a huge spark from Chris Perez with his ability to get to the basket and Phil Valenti provided us with some more great energy down the stretch. We didn’t turn it over and our guys really dug in and battled.”
Canisius struggled from the floor in the early going and shot 2-for-14 to start the game with both baskets coming on 3-pointers from Baron. The Griffs would control the glass with 10 offensive rebounds in the opening 15 minutes. Buffalo went on a quick 8-1 run in less than two minutes and eventually extended its lead to 27-18.
The Griffs would get 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions from senior Jordan Heath, with both treys coming off offensive rebounds. Canisius could never get closer than six points during the rest of the half as Buffalo took a 35-26 lead into the locker room, riding the strength of 16 points in the paint and 52 percent shooting from the floor.
Buffalo pushed the lead to 11 points before Canisius started to claw its way back into the game, getting a 3-pointer at the top of the key from Baron and a strong finish from Valenti to make it 42-37 with 16 minutes remaining.
Buffalo came right back with five straight points and held a 51-43 lead with 10:54 left, but Canisius kept the Bulls within striking distance. The Griffs would score eight straight points during a span of four minutes, including two layups from Perez, to tie the score at 51-51 with 7:24 remaining. The Griffs took their first lead of the night, 55-53, after Baron made two free throws with 5:43 left.
Valenti sparked the Griffs off the bench with 11 points and five rebounds in 15 second-half minutes. The redshirt freshman scored six straight points as Canisius pushed the lead to 61-55. Canisus scored 26 of the game’s final 30 points by holding Buffalo to just four points during the final 10-plus minutes of the game and scoreless during the final 4:41. Canisius also forced Buffalo into missing its final 12 3-point field-goal attempts of the night after the Bulls made six of their first 11 from behind the arc.
Javon McCrea led Buffalo (4-3) with 13 points but was scoreless during the final 15 minutes of the game. Joshua Freelove had 11 points and Shannon Evans had six assists. Buffalo shot just 33.3 percent in the second half and went 2-for-16 with four turnovers during the decisive run.
Canisius returns to action Saturday, Dec. 14, as the team goes on the road to play at St. Francis Brooklyn. Game time is set for 4 p.m.Notes: Canisius and Buffalo met for the 46th time and Canisius not holds a 31-15 lead in the all-time series… The Griffs defeated the Bulls for the second consecutive season, which last happened in 2002 and 2003… Canisius played at First Niagara Center for the 45th time in program history and improved to 27-18 all-time in the building. Wednesday’s game was the first in program history with Canisius serving as the road team… Baron scored 20 or more points for the sixth time this season and 21st time in his time as a Golden Griffin… Perez played in his 100th career game on Wednesday night… Canisius committed six turnovers (one in the second half) and now has 21 turnovers in the last three games.