Canisius senior Billy Baron and freshman Zach Lewis combined to score 51 of Canisius’ 87 points and senior center Jordan Heath added 14 points, seven blocks, three assists, three blocks and three steals as the Golden Griffins cruised past Monmouth 87-67 Sunday afternoon in the Koessler Athletic Center. The win, Canisius’ second straight and third in its last four outings, improved the team to 11-6 overall and 5-1 in MAAC play. Monmouth fell to 8-9 overall and 2-4 in conference action with the loss.
Baron followed his career-high 38-point effort from Friday’s win over Rider with 26 points on Sunday. He has now scored 25 or more points in five-straight games and six of the team’s last seven contests. The senior guard from East Greenwich, R.I., also had a game-high eight rebounds and six assists in the victory. Lewis scored a career-high 25 points in his second career start on the power of seven makes from 3-point land, which sets a new program record for 3-point field goals made in a game by a Canisius rookie. For the game, Canisius shot 49.1 percent from the field, 46.7 percent from 3-point range and 70 percent from the free-throw line and the Griffs turned 13 Monmouth turnovers into 20 points.
“I was a bit concerned coming in to this game because we just had that emotional win over Rider and Monmouth plays really hard,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “We started a little slow, but our guys really locked in midway through the first half and we played a good team game today. We did a good job sharing the basketball with 20 assists on 26 makes and we really guarded them. I thought Chris Perez did a fantastic job on Deon Jones. That kid [Jones} came in averaging 15 points a game and Chris held him to six. That kind of defense really sparks a team at both ends of the floor.”
Canisius never trailed in Sunday’s game, as Baron picked up where he left off from Friday with a made 3-pointer from the top of the key just 55 seconds into the contest. The Griffs led 5-4 with 16:21 left in the first half, but pulled away with a 9-0 run over the span of 1:36 to make the score 14-4 in favor of Canisius. The Hawks were able to whittle Canisius’ cushion down to five at 30-25 with 3:16 left before the intermission, but the Blue and Gold ended the half on a 9-4 run, highlighted by three-straight 3-pointers, to send the Blue and Gold into the locker room at the half up 10 at 39-29.
In the opening moments of the second half, Heath drained a 3-point field goal from the left wing 37 seconds into the stanza to give the Griffs a 42-29 lead. Canisius pushed its lead to as many as 26 points in the second half as the team shot 60.9 percent from the floor and 61.5 percent from long range. Senior Chris Manhertz was good for seven points in the win for the Griffs while Perez chipped in six points, a career-high six assists and four rebounds. Sophomore Dominique Raney came off the bench and added six points to the team’s winning effort, the program’s 18th home victory under Baron.
Monmouth freshman Josh James scored a team-high 16 points in the loss for the Hawks, while freshman guard Justin Robinson added 11 points to the losing cause. For the game, Monmouth shot 40.4 percent from the field, 23.5 percent from 3-point range and 70 percent from the free-throw line. Thirty-three of Monmouth’s 67 points came off the bench.
The win was also a milestone victory for Jim Baron, who reached 420 wins in his head coaching career. Sunday’s victory allowed him to move past his former boss at Notre Dame, Digger Phelps, who posted 419 career victories in his 20-year coaching career.
“This is obviously a milestone win for me personally because it allows me to move past my former boss, Digger Phelps. I saw Digger when we were out at Notre Dame a few weeks ago, and it was good to catch up with him and have him speak to our team. He had a lot of great wins in his career, so moving past him is a great professional accomplishment for me.”
Canisius will return to the road next weekend as the team plays at Iona and Monmouth. The Griffs will take on Iona Friday, Jan. 17, at 9 p.m. That game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.Game Notes: This was the first meeting between Canisius and Monmouth… The Hawks are the 55th Division I team to play Canisius in the Koessler Athletic Center… The Griffs made 14 3-point field goals in the win, the 22nd time in the last two seasons where the team made 10 or more shots from behind the arc… The Griffs are now averaging 85.7 points per game in six home contests this year… The Blue and Gold have scored 80-plus in five of their six home dates this season… Baron has scored in double figures in 58 career games, and Sunday’s 26 points gives him 20-plus in 12 games this season… Lewis’ 25 points are the most for a Canisius freshman since Micheal Meeks scored 25 points in a win over Saint Peter’s Feb. 11, 1993… Heath’s three blocks on Sunday gives him 43 this season, which ranks 12th on the school’s single-season blocked shot list.