MAAC QUARTERFINAL: MONMOUTH 60, CANISIUS 54
How the game was lost: Monmouth had a little bit better depth and a little more offensive versatility than Canisius. The Hawks’ bench outscored the Griffs’ bench, 25-13. The Hawks used a four-guard lineup, three of them big guards (6-7 Zach Nicholas, 6-6 Deon Jones and 6-6 Collin Stewart). That forced Canisius out of its two-center lineup, because one of the two centers (usually Kevin Bleeker) wasn’t quick enough to guard the perimeter. Canisius was forced to play Three-Man Jamal Reynolds at the No. 4 position for defensive purposes. But Reynolds is a defensive specialist and doesn’t do as much for the offense as Bleeker. Canisius got 18 points in the paint, but it had been averaging 28 a game with its two-center lineup.
What it means: Canisius is 16-14. There’s a chance it could get a bid to the CollegeInsider.com tournament. Monmouth advances to a semifinal meeting with Iona.
Player of the game: Monmouth point guard Justin Robinson, a 5-8 sophomore, scored 16 points, 11 in the final 13 minutes. He was first-team all-MAAC.
Stat check: Canisius made 17 turnovers against a Monmouth team that ranked second in the MAAC in defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions).
Valiant Valenti: Canisius 6-7 sophomore Phil Valenti came back after missing the past nine games due to a dislocated ankle. He was limited. He played 14 minutes and scored three points.
Said Valenti: “Just get out there and mix it up with the guys. I wasn’t expecting too much out of myself. Obviously I expect a lot of myself, but knowing the situation, I was just trying to help my team.”
What if? Baron was hoping to survive Monmouth and get a shot at Iona, because the Griffs played the Gaels tough this year.
Said Baron: “If we coulda got over this one, I really felt because of what we’ve done with Iona during the year. We lost to them by three at their place, even when they were healthy. Then we turned around and beat them at our place. That was not a lucky type of thing. That’s the toughest thing as a coach. As we were developing there wasn’t a lot of luck involved.”
57-40: That’s Baron’s record over three seasons at a college that had gone 11 straight non-winning seasons before he arrived.
Said Baron: “That’s the beauty of coming here and developing these student athletes and getting everything back on track. Not only basketball but the culture of being a student athlete, the culture of being part of the community, the culture of giving out tickets so we can get the student body to get to the game, a culture of going to the dining hall, going to Subway, going to Tim Horton’s and giving out tickets.”
“How many 28-year head coaches are gonna be a Fuller Brush man, selling the program in the dining hall?” Baron said. “But I love doing it. I gotta show the community that I’m not afraid to hustle. I’m not afraid to let them know that we’re in this together.”