There's evil lurking at Canisius College and while the problem was identified several games ago, the Golden Griffins can't shake free from its grip.
"We know what the devil is," Canisius coach Tom Parrotta said, "and the devil is rebounding right now."
Yes, rebounding. While Canisius features enough athletes to win a dunk contest or two, they seem not to position themselves on the backboards with enough consistency to win. Lack of rebounding and an extended second-half scoring drought -- obviously the devil was busy -- helped first-place Fairfield to a 67-60 win over Canisius in front of 1,353 at the Koessler Center Friday.
The Golden Griffins (8-10, 2-6 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) were outrebounded 45-30, and the Stags (14-4, 7-1) cleaned up 18 offensive boards. Canisius led, 47-44, with 11:37 left after a layup by freshman Chris Manhertz but didn't score again until 2:26 remaining on a layup by Tomas Vazquez-Simmons.
Fairfield led 56-49 at the time -- a testament to Canisius' defense that the Stags didn't pull away -- but coupled with the second-chance opportunities, it was too much for the Griffs to overcome.
"I thought there was a span there where we got good shots around the basket but we couldn't get one to fall," Parrotta said. "Conversely they didn't score either but the one stat we talked about again is the rebounding. You can't give a team 18 offensive rebounds, that's totally unacceptable."
It's definitely cost Canisius games of late. Siena grabbed 11 offensive boards in its 73-69 win over the Griffs last Monday and Rider had 12 in a 77-76 win at Canisius on Jan. 9.
Parrotta was so frustrated with the rebounding effort of Greg Logins that he sat the senior for the final 5:40 of the game. Parrotta also second-guessed himself for not giving more time to Manhertz, who played three minutes and had one rebound. The freshman is recovering from a high-ankle sprain that forced him to miss six games but Parrotta said he will see more playing time.
"We're the most athletic team in the league and we have to go get those rebounds, we can't keep getting outrebounded by other teams," said Logins, who had 12 points and six rebounds in 23 minutes.
Perhaps more rebounds would have offset the nine-minute scoring drought. The one thing Canisius usually had been able to rely on betrayed them in a big way: Layups were missed, jump shots clanked and three-pointers rimmed in and out.
It was a cold offensive effort by almost any standard but it was all the more unexpected considering the Griffs averaged nearly 70 points a game. Canisius, though, connected on just 37.9 percent of its attempts, which included a dismal 5 for 21 from beyond the three-point arc. It went 0-for-7 during the scoreless stretch.
"I think we got pretty good shots, but we can't control shooting and missing," said Gaby Belardo, who finished with a team-high 15 points. "The only thing we can control is defense, getting rebounds and effort. We have to toughen up for the next game and grab rebounds."
"I thought this was the toughest opponent we've played ," said Stags coach Ed Cooley. "This is a dangerous, dangerous team."
If they ever figure out how to avoid evil.