Just over a year ago, St. Bonaventure ran Canisius College out of the Reilly Center by 22 points and sent the Golden Griffins into a season-long tailspin. Thirteen months is a long time to have a rival on your mind.
Saturday afternoon, Chuck Harris and Darnell Wilson were there for the last ounce of redemption and Harris nearly enjoyed a triple-double's worth of satisfaction as the Griffins (4-7) finished off the Bonnies, 80-71, in front of 1,611 in the Koessler Center.
"Every game matters but everywhere you go it's, 'How did you do against Bonnies, Niagara or UB?' " said Harris, who finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in 40 minutes. "We wanted to get it rolling, especially here. We haven't won here in a while and we wanted to protect our house. That's a start."
Wilson scored a team-high 19 points and helped bury St. Bonaventure with 12 rebounds, while 5-foot-10 Frank Turner added 17 points, eight assists and the finishing touch when he blocked a shot by Tyler Relph and completed the play by racing coast-to-coast for a layup and an 11-point lead with 1:23 left. After the game Turner, who runs the Griffs' offense with the soothing effect of a yoga instructor, was more concerned with his five turnovers, but talk of the block made him chuckle.
"It was the first time I got a block in my college career," Turner said. "Hopefully I can get more."
Now Canisius, which had lost four of its last five before Saturday, can ponder the upcoming game with Hartford Friday before the meat of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule kicks in. And the Bonnies (3-9) can at least get away from the questions that come with losing seven consecutive games.
"We definitely wanted a victory going home and we didn't accomplish that," said Bona center Paul Williams, who had 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds but shot just 3 of 8 from the floor. "Maybe it's a good time for everyone to go home and clear their heads and be with their families and then come back with a different attitude."
Of course, when the Bonnies play at Syracuse University on Dec. 30, questions will remain.
The Bonnies' shortcomings are becoming an all-too familiar trend. Giving up too many rebounds -- they were outrebounded, 44-34, by the smaller Griffs -- and inconsistent execution in the clutch continues to haunt them.
Playing without forward Corey Herring, who was out with a shoulder injury, Canisius led by 13 early in the second half, but St. Bonaventure trimmed that to four with 11:30 to play on a three-pointer by Relph. Then something familiar happened. Pawel Malesa was left open for a three-pointer, Williams missed a layup and after Bona grabbed the rebound, Michael Lee (19 points) committed a turnover. Then Williams missed another layup on the next possession and Relph committed a foul.
With 7:26 left Wilson made a basket off an assist from Harris and the lead was back up to 10 at 70-60. Bona cut that lead to seven at the 4:14 mark after a pair of free throws by Lee, but Shaun James answered immediately with a jumper and Bona never got any closer.
"That team [St. Bonaventure] is going through some things, they're lowly ranked so they really had nothing to lose," said Canisius coach Tom Parrotta. "They had a hell of a lot to gain by coming here and beating us. They could point to this game as a springboard, especially going into conference play. But so can we because we're still trying to find ourselves."
Like Harris said, it's a start.
Prior to the game, both programs announced the departure of players. Junior guard James Williams left St. Bonaventure, while senior Ola Matti, who has already received his degree in sociology, decided to leave Canisius. Williams was averaging 3.4 points per game and played 17 minutes in the Bonnies' loss against Hampton last week. Matti started Canisius' first 10 games, averaging 4.7 points and 3.2 rebounds in just over 20 minutes. Both Matti and Williams informed the team of their departure on Friday. . . . Herring was injured during Canisius' loss Wednesday against Robert Morris. He didn't start the Robert Morris game for disciplinary reasons, and suffered the injury in the second half. Parrotta hopes the senior forward will return to practice by Tuesday.