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Griffs plunge to 1-7 with loss to BU

Perhaps by the time the heart of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule kicks in, Canisius' surprising free fall will have bottomed out.
As for now, every game seems like another step backward for a team that was supposed to be the talk of the Big 4 this winter. And there are few signs that the Golden Griffins' nose-dive -- which continued with Thursday afternoon's 69-56 loss to Boston University in front of 817 in the Koessler Center -- is in its closing stages.

Canisius (1-7) has a four-game set at West Virginia, Brown, Marist and Fairfield on tap. The Griffs don't return home until Jan. 12 when they play an improved Loyola (Md.).

Canisius will do some soul searching before next Friday's game against the Mountaineers and former Griffs coach John Beilein.

"We have to understand some things about who we are," said Canisius coach Mike MacDonald. "Who's taking shots, who's playing within themselves."
Right now, Canisius is playing small ball, with four guards and 6-foot-6 junior Darnell Wilson at center. It's the kind of lineup that pulled the Griffs out of a 1-9 chasm at the start of last season. They finished the rest of the year 10-9.

At times, small ball can be costly.

BU (4-6) overpowered Canisius inside, outscoring the Griffs, 36-18, in the paint and dominating the boards, 41-29. Canisius played without 6-8 sophomore Rigoberto Sargeant, who served a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.

Sargeant averages just 1.2 points, 1.5 rebounds and shoots .143, but at 253 pounds he has the size to at least be a nominal presence inside. Asked if it was time to rethink small ball, MacDonald figures his team will be fine come league play.

"It's going to depend on who we're playing," he said.

The Terriers were content to toss it inside and let the big guys pound away at Canisius.

Kevin Gardner, a 6-9 senior forward, led all scorers with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Ben Coblyn, a 6-8 redshirt freshman center, also grabbed 11 boards to go with his career-high 14 points. Coblyn scored three consecutive layups to give BU a 59-49 advantage with 3:45 left.

"We wanted the game to go one way, they wanted it to go another way," said BU coach Dennis Wolff, a former St. Bonaventure assistant. "Fortunately, we were able to get the ball inside a good bit, which helped us."

It also helped that Canisius scored just 26 points after taking a 30-28 halftime lead. They were 10 of 29 from the field and 3 of 10 from beyond the three-point arc. The only starter to distinguish himself was senior guard Jon Popofski with 12 points.

Leading scorer Kevin Downey was held to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. He did have six rebounds and five assists, but he found out firsthand the nuances of BU's defense, which led the nation a year ago in defensive field-goal percentage.

After a slow start, BU has won four of five.

"They've righted their ship, now we have to do that for us," MacDonald said.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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