If Santa Claus is making any early stops around the Koessler Center this week, the Canisius men's basketball team sure could use a little something to help with its defense.
The Golden Griffins failed to play with consistency, intensity and effectiveness on that side of the ball in an 81-77 loss to Robert Morris Wednesday in front of 806.
The Colonials (7-3) shot 61.2 percent for the game -- the highest field goal percentage ever by an opponent in the Koessler Center. They hit 30 of 49 field goals, including 18 of 26 (69 percent) in the first half.
"We tried to trap them, tried to press them . . . but they get the ball up the court so quickly we didn't have a good chance of getting into our stuff," Canisius coach Tom Parrotta said. "They got the ball up and out so quickly -- that set the stage. . . . There were a couple of possessions where we were fighting like heck to defend and dig in and then with one or two seconds left, they were able to make a shot. Those are just back-breakers and sometimes you can't recover from them."
"They're a very aggressive team that likes to get out in passing lanes," Robert Morris coach Mark Schmidt said. "We worked on screening, ripping the ball and being strong going by. We needed to take care of the ball and we got some good looks at the basket. The question is, do you make them? Tonight we made them."
While Robert Morris shot the lights out in the first half, the Griffs (3-7) were down only 44-42 at halftime thanks to the sharp shooting of junior college transfer Pawel Malesa.
Malesa had 14 points in the first half, shooting 5 of 5 -- including four three-pointers. He finished with a career- and team-high 17 points.
"Just after I made my first shot, then the second and third and fourth were easy," Malesa said. "My teammates were sharing the ball well and making great passes. They found me in spots a couple of times where I was wide open and I hit my wide-open shots."
Robert Morris had a 74-63 lead with 3:31 left to play, but Canisius had one run left. Freshman Jovan Robinson scored all 10 of his points in the final three minutes, drawing the Griffs within 77-75 with 19 seconds left but the Colonials hit their free throws to seal the win.
"They made a run and I'm most proud that our guys were able to answer it," Schmidt said. "We ran some sets and made our foul shots. We overcame some adversity and defended well in the second half."
The young Griffs put up some impressive numbers in the loss. Freshman point guard Frank Turner had a career-high 11 assists while sophomore Shaun James had a career-high 11 rebounds and eight points.
"Robinson gave us a lift and Shaun James almost had a double-double," Parrotta said. "That's what those guys are capable of. . . . The style we play, we're going to be difficult for teams to put us away."
Senior Darnell Wilson finally hit the 1,000-point scoring mark. He needed six points and he finished with 16 -- 11 coming in the second half. Wilson is the 27th player in Canisius men's basketball history to score more than 1,000 points.