Marist was playing a lot like a big 18 wheeler: Immense and unstoppable when cruising. So Canisius built a hill too steep for the Red Foxes to climb.
The Golden Griffins did it with defense, holding Marist guards Jared Jordan and Will Whittington to 11 of 38 shooting from the floor in a surprisingly stress-free, 84-74 victory Saturday in front of 1,317 at the Koessler Center.
The Red Foxes (14-5, 6-2 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), who have wins over Minnesota, Western Michigan and Old Dominion, had won eight of their last 10 and four straight before Saturday. Also, they were locked in a three-way tie for first place in the MAAC with Loyola and Manhattan before running into Canisius (9-10, 4-5), which recorded its biggest victory this season.
"We have more games to win," said senior Darnell Wilson, who scored 18 points. "We're going to enjoy it tonight then after that we have to get ready for the next game. That's all that matters."
Canisius needed the victory. It has been awhile since the Griffs showed all the parts of their game like they did Saturday, with passing (18 assists) and shooting (.549). But it was defense that set up everything.
Freshman point guard Frank Turner outplayed Jordan, who has been touted by NBA scouts as a potential draft pick. Turner finished with a career-high 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting and seven assists. Jordan, the nation's leader in assists, finished with 17 points and 11 assists, but was 6 of 20 from the field and an arctic 1 of 8 from three-point range.
Whittington was 5 of 18 overall and 5 of 15 from long range as the Griffins wanted to make sure neither Jordan nor Whittington saw any clean looks. Marist, shooting .366 from beyond the arc for the season, hit just 9 of 34 (.265) Saturday.
"We picked them up at halfcourt and our goal and our key was to not let them touch the ball once they crossed halfcourt," said Canisius coach Tom Parrotta, whose team has won three straight. "We think Jordan is someone who can control the whole game and we liken him to [Phoenix guard] Steve Nash . . . he's the motor that makes them go. We wanted to limit his touches."
Canisius led all the way, owning its biggest lead at 74-56 with 3:18 left after a layup by Menghe a'Nyam.
"When Darnell Wilson was hitting from the foul line and hit a 17-foot jumper in the first half, I knew it was going to be a long day," said Marist coach Matt Brady. "He's a really good player, but he's not a jump shooting, free-throw shooting guy."
Wilson laughed when he heard Brady's comment.
"I can shoot it a little bit," he said. "If I'm open, I'm going to shoot it. . . . But I know my limitations."
On Saturday, they're weren't many limitations for Canisius.