With Canisius, what you see in the first half isn't always what you get in the second.
The Golden Griffins have been good enough to build big leads, yet inept enough to let them slip away.
On Thursday night, they built a lead so big even they couldn't blow it.
Canisius led by 20 points at halftime and a whopping 37 in the second stanza en route to a surprisingly easy 93-69 victory over Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leader Iona before 928 at the Koessler Center.
Center Darren Fenn led five players in double figures with a game-high 17 points and nine rebounds as Canisius improved to 13-8 overall and 5-7 in the MAAC.
It was a much-needed win for the Griffs, who are fighting to climb out of seventh place in the MAAC. They had lost three of their previous four conference games, including a 91-85 home loss to Fairfield in which they blew a 12-point lead in the second half.
But the Griffs showed what they are capable of when everything comes together.
"We always knew that we could play with anyone in this league," Fenn said. "To come in here and make a statement like that, I think it tells the rest of the league that we're not just going to be
pushed over. This is our house, and we're not going to take it lightly when teams come in here."
If any team in the MAAC knows that, it should be Iona (17-7, 10-3). While the Gaels have won 20 of their last 23 conference games, they have lost seven of eight games at Koessler and are 3-14 overall in Buffalo against Canisius.
Iona, which leads the MAAC in field-goal percentage, shot just 34.3 percent and committed 17 turnovers. Canisius shot 51.6 percent (58.6 in the second half), including 9 of 15 from three-point range, against the league's No. 1 field-goal percentage defense.
"I'm looking for the right words to describe this performance," said Iona coach Jeff Ruland. "(Canisius) wanted it more than we did. We came up here to be contenders, and wound up being pretenders."
Everything Canisius coach Mike MacDonald tried worked. With super sub Hodari Mallory sidelined with turf toe, MacDonald had to go deeper into his bench. Forward Andy Bush (13 points) had his usual solid effort, but freshman point guard Dewitt Doss was an eye-opener. With starter Brian Dux in early foul trouble, Doss responded with career highs of 13 points and 27 minutes.
"I just had to step up and take advantage of my opportunity," said Doss, a former LaSalle High School star.
Guard Clive Bentick had 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Toby Foster added 13 points for the Griffs. Phil Grant led Iona with 14 points.
"I was really impressed with the way we came out and the energy we played with, especially after that game Tuesday night," said MacDonald, referring to the 62-60 win over the University at Buffalo, a game in which the Griffs nearly blew a 22-point lead.
"I can point at a number of areas and a number of guys. I thought Darren and Tory (Jefferson) did a great job on the backboards, and we got great minutes from Richard (Hampton) and Dewitt. It was a total team effort."
Canisius was off and running at the opening tipoff, streaking to a 14-5 lead on three-pointers by Jefferson, Foster and Fenn. The lead swelled to 41-21 at the break as the Griffs hit 6 of 9 threes and had 12 assists on 15 field goals. Iona, meanwhile, shot just 30 percent in the opening 20 minutes and had more turnovers (11) than field goals (nine).
"When the shots are going in, your defense is going to look a lot better because they've got to take the ball out and they've got to go 94 feet, just like field position in football," MacDonald said. "We had them taking the ball out and taking the ball 94 feet. That worked to our advantage."
There would be no second-half collapse this time as Canisius knocked down 10 of its first 15 shots after halftime and rolled to an 85-48 advantage before MacDonald emptied his bench during the final six minutes.
"Honestly, I didn't have to say a word (at halftime)," said MacDonald, whose team hosts Marist Saturday. "The only thing I told them was 'God is testing us to see what we have learned.' They were ready. We kept playing, we weathered their storms and kept scoring."