Junior Billy Baron led Canisius with 21 points while senior Alshwan Hymes had 14 points and shot 4-of-7 on 3-pointers in 26 minutes off the bench. Junior Reggie Groves recorded six assists and three steals in 26 minutes. Senior Harold Washington had 13 points in 18 minutes while plagued by foul trouble, and junior Chris Manhertz had 10 points. Canisius shot 53.4 percent from the floor and went 10-of-22 from behind the arc.
“I told the guys that I was really proud of their effort, not only tonight, but all season long,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “To go from five wins last year to 20 this year and from one league win to 11, that’s something special. I’ve never been a part of something like this before. I’m proud of the upperclassmen because they put a lot of trust in me and the coaching staff. Their contributions and leadership were key to this year. It was a heck of a run.”
Senior Isaac Sosa scored five of the first eight points for the Griffs, who built an early 8-4 lead. The Griffs maintained a small lead until using a seven-point spurt to build a 25-14 advantage. Groves drained a jumper, senior Freddy Asprilla had a dunk and the second 3-pointer of the half from Hymes put the Griffs up 25-14.
The Purple Aces responded with baskets on their next three possessions and used a 12-3 run to get within 28-26, but six points from Baron in a span of 20 seconds pushed the Griffs lead to eight. Evansville drained two free throws and a step-back 3-pointer from Groves in the final seconds gave the Griffs a 37-28 halftime lead.
Evansville (21-14) opened the second half on a 14-4 to take their first lead of the game on a layup from Troy Taylor. The Griffs would regain the lead when Baron stole a pass and found Washington for a dunk to put the Griffs up 43-42. After Evansville grabbed the lead back, Hymes drained a 3-pointer from the corner and then put back a missed shot to give Canisius a four-point edge with 14:12 left. Canisius pushed its lead to 60-53 after a three-point play from Manhertz with 9:34 remaining.
Evansville got within three at 60-57, but Washington responded with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to six. After two free throws from Ryan, Groves drove the lane and dished to Manhertz for an uncontested dunk to make it 65-59. The Purple Aces scored six straight points before Baron split two free throws and then drained a deep 3-pointer to put Canisius up 69-65.
The Purple Aces then scored nine consecutive points, holding Canisius scoreless for more then three minutes. Ryan scored 16 straight points for Evansville, including back-to-back jumpers from the top of the key and a 3-pointer from the wing to give Evansville a 74-69 lead. The Griffs wouldn’t go away quietly, cutting the lead to three on two separate occasions. Evansville made seven free throws in the final minute to put the game away as Baron made a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final margin.
Ryan scored his 39 points on 11-of-22 shooting, scoring 30 points in the second half. His 3-pointer with 1:52 left in the first half allowed him to become Evansville’s all-time leading scorer. Taylor had 10 points, eight assists and four steals as Evansville shot 47.5 percent for the game and 60 percent in the second half.
Game Notes: This was the first meeting between Evansville and Canisius in men’s basketball… Evansville advances to the CIT Final Four where they will play at East Carolina, who defeated Loyola (Md.) Tuesday night… Canisius’ plus-15 win differential this season is the largest in program history… Billy Baron finished the season with 584 points, which ranks seventh on the school’s single-season scoring list and are the most for a Canisius player since Ray Hall scored 628 points in 1984-85… Baron’s 584 points are the most for a Griff junior since Hall had 587 points in 1983-84… Sosa finished the season with a school-record 95 3-point field goals and he closed out his four-year playing career with 275 3-pointers (including his time at UCF)… Manhertz finished the year with 297 rebounds, which ranks seventh on the school’s single-season rebound chart… Junior Jordan Heath had three blocks in the loss and finished his junior year with 53 blocked shots in 31 games, which ties him for sixth on the team’s single-season blocked shots list… Hymes’ 14 points allowed him to close his career with 1,047 points, good for 29th in school history… Groves matched a career-high with his six assists.