Canisius couldn't seize opportunity when it came knocking Tuesday night against a bigger-name opponent.
The Griffs wiped out a 19-point first-half deficit and briefly took the lead before their offense simply couldn't close the deal. Saint Joseph's, a solid Atlantic 10 program, did just enough down the stretch to hold off Canisius, 70-63, before a spirited Koessler Center crowd of 1,672.
It was a disappointing finish for the Griffs (1-1), who had the crowd in a frenzy with a barrage of three-pointers that got them within five points by halftime. When sophomore Chris Ravello canned a breakaway dunk with 10:30 left to give Canisius its first lead, 54-52, the place went bonkers.
The celebration didn't last. Canisius was 3 for 17 from the field the rest of the way, missing all kinds of shots from in close and several put-backs. The Griffs were just 10 of 30 overall in the second half.
"Tips, layups, close shots. We just couldn't get any in," said senior forward Hodari Mallory, who had a team-high 22 points. "It was like the rim had a lid on it."
"Close and playing good and getting standing ovations, we just can't accept that," coach Mike MacDonald said. "We have to understand that to do things, we have to be perfect. When we get in close games, we have to execute down the stretch."
Canisius didn't do that Tuesday. Sophomore Richard Jones made just 1 of 2 at the line with 2:57 left and the Griffs down, 60-58. They never got another chance to tie.
Hawks guard Tyrone Barley added two free throws and a key steal that produced a Jameer Nelson free throw. Forward Pat Carroll's offensive rebound turned into a layup by John Bryant with 1:15 left that pushed Saint Joseph's into a six-point lead (65-59) and gave the Hawks the breathing room they needed.
Playing against a much taller frontline, the Griffs were outrebounded by just 36-34. The turnover totals were even at 12 apiece. Saint Joseph's hit just 27 percent from the field in the second half, missing all five of its three-pointers, and still won.
Senior point guard Brian Dux was solid for Canisius with 10 points, seven assists and just one turnover while playing all 40 minutes. Dux also hounded Hawks point guard Nelson, the All-America candidate, in the second half. Nelson finished with 20 points, but had just two field goals in the final 20 minutes.
Saint Joseph's (2-0) was coming off a shockingly easy 85-58 win Saturday at Boston College. The Hawks looked like they were on their way to another blowout as they exploded to a 34-15 lead before Canisius got its game in gear.
"It was a game and a half where it seemed to just be flowing our way," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "When we're allowed to go where we want to go and put it where we want, we'll make a lot of shots. You know at some point you'll hit a little drought and you have to respond."
Saint Joseph's sophomore guard Delonte West went wild early, scoring 22 of his career-high 28 points in the first half. West hit four three-pointers in the half -- after going just 2 for 17 from beyond the arc in his entire freshman season.
"I was thinking it was going to be a long Thanksgiving for my wife," MacDonald quipped.
"He scorched us early," Dux said. "We weren't ready for that."
But Mallory led Canisius back, hitting a trio of treys as Canisius hit five straight in a three-minute stretch. A 22-8 outburst over the final 5 1/2 minutes of the half got the Griffs within five (42-37) at halftime.
"It's hard to fight back when you're down 19 that early," Mallory said. "You have to be perfect after that and not too many teams can play a perfect game for that long."
Saint Joseph's forward Dave Mallon, the 6-foot-10 freshman from East Aurora, was 0 for 2 from the field and didn't score in nine minutes. Mallon started at B.C. but suffered a mild concussion and was used as a reserve Tuesday.