Iona sophomore A.J. English scored a career-high 32 points to go with six assists and five rebounds and junior David Laury chipped in 23 points, nine boards and three blocks as the visiting Gaels defeated Canisius 101-91 Sunday afternoon on Hall of Fame Day in the Koessler Athletic Center. Iona has now won seven straight to improve to 15-8 overall and 12-2 in MAAC play, while the Golden Griffins have dropped to straight to fall to 16-9 overall and 10-4 in conference action.
The 101 points are the most allowed by Canisius since the Griffs gave up 105 points to Iona on the road Feb. 2, 2012. Iona is the first team to score 100 points against Canisius in the Koessler Athletic Center since Saint Peter’s scored 103 in the KAC on Feb. 19, 2004. The 192 total points scored on Sunday also matches the total combined point total from that Saint Peter’s game in 2004, where Canisius lost 103-89.
Four Canisius players scored in double figures in the loss, led by senior Chris Perez. Perez had a season-high 25 points after he went 8-for-14 from the field, 1-for-1 from 3-point land and 8-for-11 from the free-throw line. Fellow senior Billy Baron was good for 24 points, six rebounds, six assists and a steal in 40 minutes, while senior Jordan Heath chipped in 16 points and nine boards. Redshirt freshman Phil Valenti had 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the loss for Canisius, which has now dropped two straight at home after winning eight consecutive games in the Koessler Athletic Center.
“This was a hard-fought battle, which we expected, especially since we beat them down there on their court,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said after the game. “I thought the tide of the game completely changed after that flagrant foul against Zach [Lewis]. Don’t get me wrong, Iona played well and deserved to win, but when you are under-manned like we were today, it’s hard to have a guy out there who just took a really physical shot like that. They made the extra passes and they had 22 assists today. We had 16 assists, but we turned it over too much and went a while toward the end of the game where we just couldn’t get one to fall.”
Canisius led 50-43 at the halftime break, but Iona came out of the intermission and quickly took a one-point lead at 51-50 with an 8-0 run in the first 3:12 of the second half. The game would go back-and-forth for the better part of the next three-plus minutes before a quick 4-0 spurt by the Griffs put Canisius up 63-60 with 13:23 left to play. On the next possession after Canisius’ took the three-point lead, Lewis was able to jump the passing lane and get a steal. As the freshman raced up court, he slowed on his way up to the rim and was fouled hard by Iona sophomore Isaiah Williams. The contact sent Lewis crashing into the lower portion of the basket support and the officials reviewed the play on the video-replay system, before ruling it was an intentional, flagrant foul. Because Lewis was forced to leave the game, Baron shot the Griffs’ two free throws to make the game 65-60 and got the ball out-of-bounds, but the Blue and Gold came up empty there and Iona came right back to cut the lead to two points as Williams drained a 3-pointer from the right wing with 12:18 left on the clock.
The up-and-down action continued through the second half and Iona led 80-77 with 5:03 left in the game after Baron knocked down two more charity tosses, but a 7-0 Iona run over the game’s next 1:49 pushed the Gaels’ cushion from three points to 10 points, capped by a 3-pointer from senior DaShawn Gomez from just in front of the Iona bench with 3:04 left in regulation time. Iona stretched its lead to as many as 13 points in the closing minutes of the game, but Canisius answered with four-straight points by Perez and a lay-up by Baron with 1:18 left to play to make it a seven-point contest at 94-87. In the contest’s closing 1:14, Iona hit 7-of-8 free-throws to seal the win.
Williams added 18 points for Iona, which shot 47 percent from the field, 46.4 percent from 3-point land and 83.9 percent from the free-throw line in the win. Canisius shot 47.1 percent from the floor, 42.9 percent from 3-point range and 76.2 percent from the charity stripe in the loss, while out scoring the Gaels 46-34 in the paint. Canisius also had 19 fast-break points in the loss, but the team’s 11 turnovers were converted to 16 points by Iona.
Canisius will travel north to play at long-time rival Niagara on Friday, Feb. 14. Game time in Lewiston, N.Y., is set for 9 p.m., and the game will be shown live on ESPNU as part of ESPN’s “Rivalry Week”.Game Notes: This was the 63rd all-time meeting in this series, where Iona leads 34-29… The fewest points scored by the winning team in the last six contests between the Griffs and Gaels is 77 – which Canisius scored last season in a 77-74 win over Iona in the Koessler Athletic Center… The Griffs are averaging 84.3 points per game at home this season… The 25 points for Perez on Sunday marks the 16th time in his college career where he’s scored 20-plus points in a game… Billy Baron now ranks 20th all-time in career scoring at Canisius with his 1,175 points… He’s been good for 20-plus points 19 times this season and 34 times in his career… Baron’s six assists on Sunday gives him five or more assists in 13 games this season… Valenti made his first career start in place of senior Chris Manhertz, who saw his streak of 103-straight games played come to an end because of the broken nose he suffered Friday in the loss to Manhattan… Manhertz is listed as day-to-day and will be fitted with a mask to protect his broken nose moving forward… Valenti’s four assists are a new career high… The sellout crowd of 2,196 marks the second-straight sellout for the team and the 16th in the Koessler Athletic Center since the building was renovated in 2002-03… At halftime, Canisius inducted its Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2013, which included former men’s basketball player Brian Dux.