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Big 4 Extra Points: Griffs OT upset caps best December in 21 years

Extra points from Canisius’ 106-101 overtime win at St. Bonaventure Thursday night:

DECEMBER TO REMEMBER: Canisius just finished its best December – 6-1 with upsets of Bona and UB – in 21 years . . . with a team that isn’t supposed to be good. The last time the Griffs had a December record that good was with John Beilein’s NCAA Tournament team in 1995-96, which went 7-1.

HOT, HOT, HOT: Not counting overtime, Canisius is averaging 86.6 points a game over its last eight. That would rank 16th in the nation.

The first half at the Reilly Center was like watching a Braves game from the 1970s. It was all offense. Then Canisius scored on its first five possessions of the second half to take a 62-50 lead. Canisius had 62 points in 22 1-2 minutes of play.

As we wrote in the game story, it was breathtaking. Phil Valenti found Jermaine Crumpton for an open corner three to start the run. Then Crumpton got a layup off an assist from Kassius Robertson. Then Malik Johnson found Kiefer Douse open for a layup off a screen. Then Robertson hit Valenti under the basket for a layup, then Crumpton hit a three from the top of the key.

How hot was Canisius? The Griffs scored 62 points on their first 40 possessions. Offensive efficiency is measured by points per 100 possessions. At that point in the game, Canisius was scoring 155 points per 100 possessions. Villanova leads the nation this year at 121 points per 100 possessions. The Warriors led the NBA last year at 112 per 100. The Showtime Lakers of the ’87 averaged 115 per 100 possessions.

The Griffs were on fire.

“Every game we’ve played, we’ve been able to sustain the quality of play a little longer, a little longer,” said Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon. “Guys are kind of coming together and realizing each other’s strengths.”

BONA DEFENSE: The big takeaway from the non-conference season for St. Bonaventure is shaky defense. Bona is 8-4, and its offense ranks 33rd in the nation in scoring, at 83.4 ppg. Bona is No. 2 in the Atlantic 10 in offensive efficiency but second-last in the A10 in defensive efficiency. The Bonnies can score their way out of a lot of problems. However, they’re going to be facing better athletes on the wing than the Griffs have.

Bona ranks 300th in three-point field goal percentage allowed (39.3). Plus, there’s no excuse for getting outrebounded by Canisius (33-31 and 12-9 on the offensive glass).

“Everything starts with keeping the ball in front of us, and that’s what we’re struggling with,” coach Mark Schmidt said. “The inventors of this game were probably rolling in their graves because it’s both ends. You can’t just be a one-end type of team. Tonight we were good on offense. You shoot 53 percent, 44 percent from three and 88 percent from the line, you’d assume you’d win. . . . From an offensive standpoint we couldn’t have played much better. We have to play better as a team on the other end. That’s the focus.”

Bona had trouble with its ball-screen coverage against Army Monday and again against the Griffs Thursday.

There was one stretch – from the 17-minute mark to the 12-minute mark of the second half – where Bona kicked up its man-to-man defensive intensity. Other than that, it wasn’t good enough.

SUPER FROSH: Who would have thought Canisius would win at Bona with No. 2 scorer Jermaine Crumpton playing just 15 minutes due to foul trouble? Crumpton played just the first two minutes of the first half, yet Canisius still rolled up 50 points at halftime.

Isaiah Resse, the 6-5 freshman guard from Miami, scored 22 and hit 7 of 11 shots. Spencer Foley, the 6-7 freshman wing from Chicago, scored 14 and hit 4 of 7 threes.

“We knew Valenti was good, Crumpton was good and Robertson was good. Reese and Foley came out and shot 7 for 12 from three,” Schmidt said. “To me that was the difference, those two guys stepped up and played really well.”

ZONE: Bona slowed Canisius down for awhile midway through the second half by switching to a zone defense and having long Denzel Gregg run out on perimeter shooters. It took about six minutes for Canisius to adjust.

Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon explained that the issue was the Griffs were forced into a small lineup due to foul trouble for Crumpton and center Selvedin Planincic.

“There’s some things we do in our package of zone offense that we’re not used to doing when we’re small,” Witherspoon said. “So it took some time for us to adjust. Then we got the lob to Kiefer and it gave us a little momentum back. Then we spread the court.”

Said Schmidt: “At this level you can only play zone so much. But we were in foul trouble and we weren’t doing a good job man to man so we stayed in the zone because of our foul trouble. Our backcourt had four fouls. But they hit threes. That’s the neutralizer.”

BIG 4 CHAMPS? Canisius is 2-0 in Big 4 games. Bona is 2-1, UB 1-2, Niagara 0-2. There ought to be an annual Big 4 Trophy. The question is how to deal with the fact Canisius and Niagara play twice. Should both games be counted and go with best winning percentage? Or should just the last meeting between Canisius and Niagara each year be counted (whether it’s regular season or in the MAAC Tournament)? I vote for the latter. That way Canisius and Niagara don’t have an advantage by getting an extra win in a year when one of them is down. So by my math, Canisius will be Big 4 champ this year. Even if the Griffs lose to Niagara, they will have a head-to-head edge over Bona.

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