With two true freshmen and a junior college transfer in the lineup for the first time, you wouldn't expect the Canisius Golden Griffins to turn in a smooth, cohesive performance in their season opener against Colgate on Tuesday night.
At times, the Griffs (0-1) played like a team picked at random on a playground as they fell to the Raiders, 61-47, before 1,527 at the Koessler Center.
"We can use our inexperience as an excuse or we can accept the situation for what it is and use it as a starting point. That's what we intend to do," said Canisius coach Tom Parrotta, beginning his second season with the Griffs.
The Griffs got off to a wretched start. They trailed, 38-16, at the half, which included two long scoring droughts -- one for almost four minutes and another for eight. They never recovered. The Griffs shot just 23.1 percent (6 for 26) in the half against an aggressive Colgate defense and it could have been worse. Nine of their 16 points came on three-pointers by senior guard Pawel Malesa off the bench.
Colgate, meanwhile, hit 14 of 25 shots (56 percent) with all but one basket, a corner jumper, coming on layups, rebounds or other shots in the paint.
It was a particularly tough debut for the three newcomers to the Canisius starting lineup. Elton Frazier, Rishawn Johnson and Willie Hassell had only nine points combined. Frazier, the highly touted freshman forward from Syracuse, had seven of the nine. His first Canisius basket came on a thunderous stuff off a missed shot by Johnson, one of the few bright moments for the Griffs.
Johnson had only two made free throws and was 0 for 3 from the floor, including one shot that was swatted away by Alex Woodhouse of the Raiders.
Hassell, a junior college transfer who was a big scorer for Mineral Area (Mo.) College last year, was the most frustrated of the three. He was 0 for 9 and had four turnovers. The longer he went without a basket the more he seemed to press.
"There's a lot of things we can fix," said Frazier, a product of Corcoran High School. "We'll just go to practice tomorrow and work on it."
Kyle Roemer led Colgate with 16 points. He was one of three Raiders in double figures.
Guard Tim Pounds had 12 points and point guard Daniel Waddy had 10. Malesa was the only Canisius player in double figures with 16 points, 12 from beyond the arc.
The five Canisius starters totaled only 40 collegiate starts combined. Colgate's five starters, which included a fifth-year senior and a fourth-year junior, totaled 126 starts.
"We're an older team, no question about it," Colgate coach Emmett Davis said.
Canisius did make a mini-run in the second half. Sparked by Malesa and sophomore guard Jovan Robinson, the Griffs cut the deficit to 17, 51-34, with 6:53 left but that was it.
"The only way we were going to get back into the game was with defense," Robinson said. "When we needed another stop, we just couldn't get it."
Up next for Canisius will be the first of five straight road games, at Penn State on Friday night.