The last thing Canisius needs is another offensive weapon but when does a billionaire turn down an extra million?
True freshman Chris Atkinson came off the bench to score a career-high 12 points and hand out five assists in a superior supporting role and the Griffs threatened the school record for threes in a game in dealing high-flying Monmouth a 96-86 defeat Friday night at the Koessler Athletic Center.
It was yet another superior offensive performance for the Griffs, who entered 15th in the nation in scoring at better than 87 points a game. Malcolm McMillan led the relentless Canisius attack with 22 points but it was the 5-foot-9 Atkinson who canned four of the Griffs' 16 threes -- one shy of the school record. Monmouth's Justin Robinson, the nation's sixth-leading scorer, netted 17 of his 23 points in the second half of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
All board: Canisius dumped a resounding 12 threes on the Hawks in the first half and they came from seven players. McMillan buried three. Jermaine Crumpton and Atkinson came off the bench to hit a pair apiece. Phil Valenti added two of his own. Kevin Bleeker, Kassius Robertson and Cassidy Ryan each had one. All told, Canisius was 12 of 20 from behind the arc for the half and led, 53-37.
Up front: The Griffs made it known early they were coming out firing. Robertson and Bleeker dialed long distance and Canisius led, 8-0, before the game was two minutes old. Monmouth fought back and edged ahead, 20-17, with 12:51 left but from there it was all Canisius the rest of the half. Valenti, McMillan and Atkinson (twice) cashed threes in a 14-2 burst.
Shutdown mode: It wasn't all about offense for the Griffs during the opening 20 minutes. McMillian and Atkinson made life tough on Justin Robinson, who averages 24.8 points per game. He scored just six and half of them came on a buzzer-beating three.
Heating up: Robinson came out of the halftime break with his game restored. Three. Another three. A pair of free throws. In the few three minutes.
Breathing room: Big plays from Bleeker (three free throws, block) and Jamal Reynolds (his first three of year) helped keep the Hawks at bay inside the final six minutes.
Records: Canisius is 3-3 overall, Monmouth 4-3.
Streaking: Monmouth entered having won four straight in the series, the last a 60-54 victory in the MAAC Tournament. They meet again on Jan. 4.
Old Acquaintances: Canisius coach Jim Baron was an assistant at Notre Dame when he tried to recruit King Rice, then a Binghamton-area high school star, for the Irish. Rice opted for North Carolina, where he finished third in all-time assists. Rice is in his fifth year as the head man at Monmouth, which turned the corner last season, finishing 18-15 after three straight seasons with no more than 12 wins.
Poll Stalkers: Monmouth owns victories over UCLA, Notre Dame and USC and received votes this week in both the Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Poll. Canisius last played in the KAC against an opponent receiving votes in the AP Poll when it beat 8-2 Navy, 68-63, on Dec. 20, 2008.
Sign of the Times: The art of rebounding transformed when the three-point line was implemented full tilt in college basketball in 1986-87. More longer shots made for longer rebounds and guards became an increased factor on the boards. Canisius 6-foot-7 senior guard Jamal Reynolds exemplifies the difference between today and the big-man dominated board game that preceded the three-point arc. He went into Friday leading the nation in offensive rebounding at 5.4 a game and ranked second overall in the MAAC with a 9.2 average. Reynolds had two first-half offensive boards.
The Big 'O': Canisius entered ranked 15th in the nation in scoring at 87.8 points per game and had scored at least 85 points in four of its five starts. It hasn't happened haphazardly. The Griffs were averaging 17.2 assists per game, which ranks second in the Metro Atlantic and 17th in the country. They had 20 assists Friday night.
Next Up: The Griffs are right back in conference action at 7 Saturday night against Quinnipiac, which played at Niagara Friday night. The Canisius-Quinnipiac game, originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon, was advanced to avoid conflict with the Bills-Texans game. Monmouth remains in WNY and faces Niagara at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Taps Gallagher Center.