Canisius College’s size weakness inside was exposed Monday night by Rider College.
The Broncos played an old-school, grind-it-out style in beating the Golden Griffins, 72-66.
Rider rotated four, 6-foot-7, 230-pound forwards on its front line. Those big men helped Rider make 21 of 33 two-point shots. Rider out-rebounded the Griffs, 35-27, and held a 32-24 edge on points in the paint.
“I just think they out-toughed us today,” said Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon. “We’ve got to raise our level of determination. I think that’s where we are with it. We can’t lay back like victims. We’ve got to grind our way through it.”
“When they wanted to, they went inside and scored,” Witherspoon said. “It wasn’t just their big guys. Guards went in there, too.”
Canisius is the No. 1 scoring team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference thanks to outstanding outside shooting and superb ball movement. The Griffs use a small lineup to give opposing defenses matchup problems.
But in the lane on defense for the Griffs, it’s 6-7, 200-pound Phil Valenti and 6-6, 245-pound Jermaine Crumpton against the world right now. Canisius isn’t getting much front-court help off the bench.
On nights when the Griffs get exposed inside, they better shoot well. They did not against the Broncs. Canisius hit just 6 of 25 three-pointers (24 percent). The Griffs entered the game hitting 38.6 percent of their threes, 32nd best in the nation.
“We’re athletic, we’re long,” said Rider coach Kevin Baggett. “That’s a main focus of ours. We try and bother guys with our length and our athleticism. We did get beat on some drives because we were up trying to crowd those guys and not giving them the looks. We always say twos over threes any day. That was our mindset going in.”
Canisius fell into a tie for fifth with Rider in the MAAC at 6-6. Both teams stand 13-10.
The Golden Griffins got 20 points from Crumpton, 19 from senior wing Kiefer Douse and 14 from junior guard Kassius Robertson. But Robertson, averaging 44 percent on three-pointers, was held to 1-of-7 shooting behind the arc.
“I tried to make him be a driver,” said Rider guard Jimmie Taylor, who scored 19 points. “Try to make sure he puts the ball on the floor, make sure he doesn’t get any open looks. He’s a great shooter so all you can do is make sure you contest all his shots.”
Crumpton made 6 of 13 shots but thought he could have done more damage inside.
“I just felt like I settled,” he said. “I’ve gotta drive the basket, I’ve got to post up, I’ve got to be a little more aggressive inside.”
Rider committed 19 turnovers and hit just 2 of 13 three-point shots. It didn’t matter.
“They had 19 turnovers and won,” Witherspoon said. “When you have 19 turnovers and shot 15 percent from three, you’re pounding people. Obviously that’s what they did.”
Bench scoring: Rider’s reserves outscored the Griffs, 20-4. Witherspoon played reserve freshman guard Isaiah Reese 29 minutes, but no other Canisius backup saw 10 minutes. Reese had some good moments, with four steals. He also threw alley-oop passes for dunks by Douse and center Selvedin Planincic. Those plays were in a run that gave Canisius a 47-41 lead with 12:50 left. Rider called time out then went on a 15-5 run.
“They called time out, and that’s when you’ve got to get a couple successive possessions of stops,” Witherspoon said. “It didn’t happen. They were good. They executed and they scored.”
In the house: Attendance was 1,137 at the Koessler Athletic Center.
Up next: Canisius goes to Albany to play Siena at 7 p.m. Saturday. Siena (7-5) is fourth in the MAAC.