Canisius College honored former coach John Beilein and his great 1990s Golden Griffin teams at halftime of Sunday’s game at the Koessler Athletic Center.
Siena College paid tribute to Beilein by the way it played 40 minutes of beautiful basketball.
The Saints put on an ball-movement clinic in destroying the Griffs, 99-78.
“Beilein was here, we had to make the extra pass for threes,” said Siena coach Jimmy Patsos. “You’ve got to honor ‘The Man.’”
Beilein, watching from the stands on a day off from his duties as Michigan head coach, has made a 41-year coaching career out of running efficient offense.
You want efficiency? Siena shot 66 percent from the field, the best ever against a Division I opponent in the history of the Koessler Center. The Saints had 27 assists on 33 field goals made, which has to be some kind of record. The Saints scored on 16 of their first 21 possessions in the first half and 16 of their first 20 possessions in the second half. It’s hard to do that playing with a team of Steph Currys on your Playstation.
Siena forward Lavon Long became the first college basketball player since 2001 to make at least seven field goals and 11 free throws without a miss. He finished 7 of 7 and 11 of 11 for 25 points.
A dazed crowd of 1,614 sat wondering: Are we ever going make them miss?
“I’m very disappointed,” said Canisius coach Jim Baron.
So much for Canisius’ little defensive resurgence. The Griffs had allowed just 59 ppg in winning its last three games.
Now it’s back to the defensive drawing board. The Griffs fell to 10-11 overall and 5-5 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Siena is 13-7 and 6-3.
“We had no energy,” said Canisius guard Malcolm McMillan. “Honestly, it just comes down to we’ve gotta man up.”
The Griffs’ on-ball defending wasn’t tough enough. Canisius misses graduated guard Jeremiah Williams. Siena’s guards played downhill all game.
The Griffs consistently got beat down court. It wasn’t always for layups. But as the Canisius defense was racing to set up, Siena was reversing the ball to a wide-open wing for a three-point shot or an easy drive.
Saints forward Brett Bisping, who had 27 points, had time to adjust the laces and inspect the pebbles on the leather before connecting on his four three-pointers.
“I don’t think we made them make tough shots today,” McMillan said. “They were all open shots, shots Division I players will make.”
One example of many in the second half: Griff Chris Atkinson misses a quick, ill-advised three. Forward Jermaine Crumpton, seemingly disapproving of the shot, is beaten down court. Siena’s Nico Clareth scores a layup.
The Canisius zone, which worked well against offensively challenged Niagara on Friday, needs to be more active. Siena attacked the high-middle of the lane and got whatever shot it wanted.
Siena’s Patsos was gracious, stressing the fact his team benefitted from the schedule. His team was off while Canisius was battling Niagara.
“That’s a blood war up here in Buffalo,” Patsos said. “That’s Steelers-Ravens, Red Sox-Yankees. They had to play on the road in their most emotional game of the year and win. Then we’re sitting there having steak-and-cheeses from Jim’s on Chippewa.”
“I’ve talked to the guys about when you’re playing back to back to back,” Baron said. “That’s what the playoffs are going to be like.”
Baron is not used to such defensive deficiencies.
“I don’t know,” he said. “This is a unique one for me. You get in the game and you’ve played 20 games already, you’ve gotta be ready to go. I mean, good Lord, c’mon. I talk to these guys all the time about readiness. I’m a street guy. I’m always ready. My legs are ready, my stance is ready. That’s the challenge is to get them as ready as I am ready.”
Phil Valenti led Canisius with 17 points. The Griffs visit Fairfield Friday. Siena visits Niagara Tuesday.
“We gotta get better,” Baron said. “There’s no secrets. You gotta guard, whether it’s man or zone. You gotta guard. But you gotta give them credit. They made shots.”