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Canisius rallies to defeat Manhattan in overtime in MAAC Tournament

ALBANY – A 12-point deficit early in the second half didn’t deter the Canisius men’s basketball team. Instead, it motivated the Golden Griffins in the final minutes of a 69-65 overtime win against Manhattan in a MAAC Tournament quarterfinal Friday at the Times Union Center.

The Griffs shot precisely in the second half, from the floor and at the free-throw line, and held Manhattan to seven successful shots from the floor in the half.

Canisius guard Takal Molson missed a pair of free throws with 1:24 left, but after Warren Williams hit a free throw with 1:01 left, Molson sank a layup with 43.1 seconds left that tied the game at 57-57.

Jibreel Faulkner scored eight of his team-high 20 points in overtime, including six on a pair of 3-pointers in the first 2:15 of overtime, to open Canisius’ lead to 65-60, and the Griffs (15-16) held the Jaspers (11-21) to 2 of 5 shooting in the five-minute overtime.

"We just knew, coming in, that Manhattan was a tough team, and I think the guys played hard, for the most part," said Canisius guard Malik Johnson, who scored 11 points. "But we had to take it up to another level and we started doing that in the second half.

"We started hitting some shots, we started getting some rebounds and we got out in transition. The intensity picked on the defensive end. We got a lot of stops in a row and finished our rebounds, and got out in transition."

Canisius advances to a MAAC semifinal for the first time since 2014, and will face either No. 3 Quinnipiac or No. 6 Monmouth at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at the Times Union Center. The Bobcats and the Hawks play at 7 p.m. today in a quarterfinal.

The Golden Griffins committed eight turnovers in the first 12 minutes against the Jaspers, and went 9 for 21 from the floor in the first half. Canisius cut Manhattan’s lead to five points four times in the first 11 minutes of the second half, and then to two points with 8:13 left on Molson’s free throws, in a game in which Canisius didn’t hold a lead in regulation.

"Thank God, for them sticking together and pulling together, through all of the ups and downs," Griffs coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "A game like this is going to have a lot of that and for a while, it was like we just were continuing to fight uphill. When it looked like we got our footing, it seemed like we couldn't get a defensive rebound. But the thing that we did do was persevere."

The Jaspers shut down Molson in the first half; the sophomore guard didn’t score his first points until less than seven minutes left in the first half, on a 3-pointer, and finished with 15 points.

While Molson struggled to find his shot, Manhattan’s Williams had no trouble creating offense. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward entered the MAAC Tournament averaging only 8.5 points per game, but scored 16 points of his game-high 27 points in the first half.

The Jaspers took an early 8-2 lead against Canisius, with the help of six points in the first three minutes from Williams, and turnovers plagued the Griffs early. Canisius committed four in the first five minutes, and Manhattan scored five of its first eight points off turnovers.

Canisius hit a scoring drought of nearly four minutes, as the Jaspers opened their lead to 14-6, before Malik Johnson hit a 3-pointer inside the 10-minute mark that brought the Griffs within 5. But the Jaspers immediately answered on Thomas Capuano’s 3-pointer 23 seconds later, and Williams’ roaring dunk gave the Jaspers a 10-point lead with 8:18 left in the first half.

Manhattan led by as many as 11 points but a 9-2 run by the Griffs brought them within two points at 27-25 with 1:11 left. But Williams, who finished the first half with 16 points, drove to the basket uncontested with 45 seconds left, and Samir Stewart’s 3-pointer just before the buzzer gave Manhattan a 32-25 lead at halftime.

Scott Hitchon missed both free throws after Williams was called for a flagrant foul 22 seconds into the second half, which set the early tone for the Griffs, who fell behind by as many as 12 points.

The Griffs pieced together a 10-3 run and kept the Jaspers without a successful shot from the floor for a span of more than five minutes to cut the lead to 38-33, then to 40-35 less than seven minutes into the second half.

Jalanni White’s free throws with 8:36 left brought the Griffs within three points at 49-46, and Molson hit one of two free throws 23 seconds later to make it 49-47.

Molson’s free throws with 4:45 left cut Manhattan’s lead to 54-51, and White’s dunk with 3:50 left brought the Griffs within one.

"They battled, they fought, and they played a little physical," Manhattan guard Nehemiah Mack said of Canisius. "And they got the edge on us."

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