NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – The Canisius College men’s basketball team held high-scoring Iona to just two points over the game’s final 4:52 and three Golden Griffins scored in double figures as the Blue and Gold went on the road and beat the Gaels 85-83 Friday night in the Hynes Center. The win, Canisius’ third straight, improved the team to 12-6 overall and 6-1 in MAAC play while Iona slipped to 8-8 overall and 5-2 in conference action.
Canisius senor Billy Baron scored a game-high 29 points and dished out eight assists in the win, while fellow senior Chris Perez added 17 points, three rebounds and three assists. Freshman Zach Lewis was good for 14 points for Canisius and senior Jordan Heath pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds for the Blue and Gold, which shot 51.6 percent from 3-point range and 47.6 percent from 3-point range in the victory.
Baron’s 29 points gives him 1,002 for his career as a Golden Griffin. He reached the 1,000-point milestone with 3:51 left in the game when he sunk a pair of free-throws coming out of the game’s final media timeout. He is the 34th player in school history to score 1,000 career points and he reached the 1,000-point mark in his 52nd career game in a Canisius uniform, making him the fifth fastest player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
Canisius led by as many as 20 points at 61-41 with 16:40 left in the game after Heath scored a lay-up, but the Gaels stormed back and eventually took a one-point lead at 72-71, as Iona out scored Canisius 31-10 over the span of 8:38. Iona sophomore A.J. English hit a pair of free-throws with 7:24 left to give the Gaels a three-point lead at 74-71, but Canisius trimmed that cushion back to one on a bucket by redshirt freshman Phil Valenti off a pass from Baron with 6:59 left on the clock. Iona stretched its lead to five points at 81-76 with 4:52 left on a 3-pointer from the right corner by sophomore Isaiah Williams. That would be Iona’s last field goal for 3:17, and Canisius used Iona’s dry stretch to its advantage, as the Blue and Gold scored the game’s next seven points, capped by back-to-back lay-ups by Perez to give the Griffs an 83-81 lead with 1:33 left to play.
Iona tied the game for the 10th time when Tre Bowman knocked down a jumped from just inside the 3-point arc with 1:09 left to knot the game at 83-83. Canisius came up empty on its next trip down the floor, but Iona turned the ball over on their next possession, as Baron took a loose ball at the top of the key and raced down the floor. As Baron went to the rim, he was fouled, and the East Greenwich, R.I., native drained both free-throws to give Canisius the 85-83 lead. Iona had a chance to win the game at the horn, but senior Sean Armand’s 3-point try from the top of the key was long, banging off the back-iron as the final horn sounded.
“This was a real emotional win for us tonight,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. We knew Iona wasn’t just going to go away when we were up 20, they have too many weapons. They are the defending league champion, but we just kept playing. We didn’t panic, we didn’t get away from what we do. We played to win and we got a lot of contributions from a lot of guys down the stretch. This is a really good team win for this program.”
Iona had four players in double figures in the loss, led by Armand, who scored a team-high 19 points. English was good for 18 points, while Williams scored 17 points off the bench, with 14 of those coming in the second half. Iona shot 48.5 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from long range, but Canisius ended the night with a 19-6 advantage on fast-break points and the Griffs won the rebounding battle, pulling down 37 boards against Iona’s 30. Senior Chris Manhertz had eight points and six rebounds for the Griffs in the win, while Valenti chipped in six points and four rebounds off the bench.
Canisius will return to action Sunday, Jan. 19, when the team plays at Monmouth. Game time in West Long Branch, N.J., is set for 2 p.m.Game Notes: This was the 62nd all-time meeting between Canisius and Iona, with the Gaels leading the series 33-29… Canisius’ win in the Hynes Center was the program’s first since Jan. 29, 2007… Nineteen of the 62 games between Canisius and Iona have been decided by five points or less, including the last three meetings… Baron has now scored 25 or more points in six straight games, making him the first Griff to do that since Larry Fogle in 1973-74… Jordan Heath’s 12 rebounds are a season-high for the senior center… The Griffs are 7-2 this year when Perez scores 10 or more points in a game… Lewis hit four 3-pointers in the victory for Canisius – he now has 19 makes from 3-point land in the team’s last five games… Junior Josiah Heath matched a season-high with two blocked shots… The win improves the Griffs to 17-8 in MAAC games under Jim Baron… Friday’s game featured 10 ties and nine lead changes.