Canisius senior guard Billy Baron scored a career-high 38 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer as the final horn sounded in double-overtime, to help lift Canisius to a 94-91 double-overtime win over Rider Friday night in the Koessler Athletic Center. Baron’s 38 points are the second most for a Canisius player in Koessler Athletic Center history as the East Greenwich, R.I., native scored or assisted on 23 of the Griffs’ final 25 points in regulation and had a hand in 40 of the team’s final 50 points in regulation and the overtime periods.
Baron scored his 38 points after going 11-for-19 from the field, 4-for-10 from 3-point land and 12-for-13 from the free throw line, while adding seven rebounds and seven assists against one turnover in 48 minutes of action. Fellow senior Jordan Heath scored 17 points in the win for the Blue and Gold and was credited with nine blocks, which set a new school record. Freshman Zach Lewis scored 12 points in his first career start and redshirt freshman Phil Valenti came off the bench to post 12 points and nine rebounds in a career-high 34 minutes. For the game, Canisius shot 54.7 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point land, highlighted by the fact that the team shot 72.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from long-range in the overtime sessions.
“That was a real marathon out there tonight,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “Down the stretch, our guys played to win. They went to the bucket and worked hard at the defensive end. Give Rider a lot of credit. That’s a good team and they gave us all we could handle. We just showed tremendous resiliency and kept bouncing back.”
In a game that featured 13 lead changes and 14 ties, Rider led Canisius (10-6, 4-1 MAAC) by nine at 53-44 with 10:40 left to play in regulation time. Canisius was able to whittle the Broncs’ (7-7. 3-2 MAAC) lead to 60-58 with 5:44 left in the second half on the power of a 14-7 run that featured six points from Baron and a pair of made 3-pointers by Lewis. Baron gave Canisius a 61-60 lead with 5:37 left on a made 3-pointer by Baron, but Rider answered moments later with a tip-in by reserve forward Shawn Valentine to take a 62-61 lead. The game went back and forth over the last 3:30 of regulation time before Baron hit a jumper from the right wing with 47 seconds left to give the Blue and Gold a 69-66 lead. Rider forced the first overtime session after sophomore Zedric Sadler scored a traditional three-point play with 24 ticks left to push the game to overtime, the second overtime game of the season for both squads.
In the first overtime, Rider led by three points at 76-73 with 22 seconds left after Sadler hit a jumper from the top of the key, but Baron countered for the Griffs, scoring a traditional three-point play of his own with 11 seconds left to knot the game at 76-76 and force the game to a second overtime session.
Canisius jumped out to an early five-point lead in the second overtime period with a 3-pointer by Valenti and a dunk by Jordan Heath. Canisius led by five at 88-83 with 1:21 left in the second overtime, but Valentine made it a one-point game with just 22 seconds left to play after he hit a jumper and a free-throw to make the score 89-88. Baron hit a pair of free throws after being fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass and he made both, giving Canisius a three-point cushion at 91-88, but Rider guard Anthony Myles nailed a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left to play to knot the game back up at 91-91. Baron then took the inbounds pass and was able to knife through three Rider defenders to get the ball across the timeline to teammate Josiah Heath. Heath took the ball and flipped it to Baron, who pulled up in front of Canisius’ bench and drained the game-winning 3-pointer, his second of the season as the final horn sounded. The win was Canisius’ first double overtime win since Feb. 14, 1987 when the Griffs beat Niagara on the road, and it improved the team to 3-1 this season in games decided by five points or less.
Myles scored 30 points in the loss for Rider with Sadler adding 16 points and four assists. Khalil Thomas had 12 points off the bench for the Broncs, while Valetine was good for 11 points, six boards and three assists. For the game, Rider shot 49.2 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from 3-point land and 85.2 percent from the free-throw line. Canisius held a 31-26 advantage on the glass and the Griffs turned 13 Rider turnovers into 19 points on the night.
Canisius will close out its weekend homestand on Sunday, Jan. 12, when the team plays host to Monmouth. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.
Game Notes: This was the 39th all-time meeting between Canisius and Rider, with the Broncs holding a 30-9 lead in the series… The Griffs and Broncs have now played a total of 13 games that have been decided by five points or less… Canisius improved to 81-43 all-time in overtime games and Friday’s double-overtime game marked the 18th time in program history where the Griffs played in a multiple overtime contest… Baron is the first Canisius player to score 30 or more points at home since former Griff Greg Logins had 30 points against Iona Jan. 23, 2011… Only former Griff Craig Prosser has scored more points in a game in the Koessler Athletic Center while wearing a Canisius uniform – Prosser scored 39 points against Siena Feb. 3, 1976… Baron’s seven assists in the win gives him five or more helpers in eight games this season and 29 times in his college career… Heath’s nine blocks makes him the 12th Division I player this season to record nine or more blocked shots in a game… Heath is just the 10th player in school history to collect 90-plus career blocked shots (he now has 93 in 48 career games)… Five Griffs played a career-high in minutes on Friday… The win was number 419 for Canisius head coach Jim Baron. That ties him with his former boss at Notre Dame, Digger Phelps, who won 419 at the helm of the Fighting Irish from 1971-91.