When Iona's Jeremel Jenkins whistled in a three-pointer from the right corner with nine seconds remaining to tie the game at 73, the Koessler Center collectively moaned. But it wasn't loud enough to drown out Gaby Belardo, who was streaking down court and yelling at Julius Coles.
"Ju!" Belardo bellowed. "Juuuuuu!"
Coles alertly found Belardo, whose right-handed finger roll on the left side of the basket has become his signature move. The play helped push Canisius to its biggest win of the season, 75-73, on Sunday.
Greg Logins scored a career-high 30 points for the Golden Griffins (9-10, 3-6 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) and Elton Frazier was outstanding defending Iona's Mike Glover, the MAAC's leading scorer at 19.7 points a game. Glover was held to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
But Belardo's layup proved to be the game-winner. After the sophomore point guard scored with four seconds left, Scott Machado's desperation three-pointer beyond halfcourt bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
It all started with Belardo's hitch-and-go route that isn't necessarily in the playbook.
"I thought Julius was going to take over," said Belardo, who finished with 11 points. "But nobody was guarding me and I kind of went back door and sprinted to our hoop."
Two defenders converged on Coles, who thought they were going to foul but when they didn't immediately, he locked in on Belardo and fired a pretty pass.
"Gaby took off and I saw him calling," said Coles, who had 12 points and five assists. "I'm pretty used to him leaking out like that because he does it a lot."
Glover realized a split second too late that he was supposed to be back by the basket.
"Our backline guy basically allowed [Belardo] to run by him," Iona coach Tim Cluess said. "That's basically how they got the layup. Bad breakdown at the end."
But a much-needed break for Canisius, which was still smarting from its loss to Fairfield on Friday night, when they allowed 18 offensive rebounds, a problem coach Tom Parrotta called, "the devil." While the devil hasn't been fully exorcised -- the Griffs yielded 15 offensive boards to Iona -- they felt a soul-searching session on Saturday was essential to Sunday's victory.
"We talked about stepping up and doing anything we can to push this team through," Parrotta said. "We were playing good basketball, I felt, and we were not getting the 'W.' "
Parrotta spoke with his five senior captains -- Coles, Logins, Frazier, Robert Goldsberry, and Tomas Vazquez-Simmons -- individually on Saturday and held them out of practice. They discussed the team's inconsistency and how close they were to becoming a breakthrough team.
"Coach challenged us to step up and lead the team like senior captains should," Coles said. "We all got together and pretty much made the decision to step up."
On Sunday, the team had what Parrotta called a spirited walkthrough that was almost a mini practice.
"This was about us and finding a way to win a basketball game," Parrotta said.
Logins obviously took the meeting to heart. He was benched for the final five minutes of the Fairfield loss because of his lack of work on the glass. While his rebounding numbers on Sunday weren't high (four) he offset the devil by hitting 11-of-15 shots and 6 of 7 from long range to become the first Canisius player to score 30 since Corey Herring five years ago.
"I was just trying to go out there and give it my all," said Logins, who connected on his first seven shots in the second half. "Rebound, scoring, just do it all."
The Griffs will try to carry that momentum into Friday night when they play host to rival Niagara at 7 p.m. (ESPNU).