Canisius shot 61.8% percent in the first half and nearly matched it in the second on Sunday in a surprisingly easy 95-86 victory over Rider before 1,254 at the Koessler Athletic Center.
In winning their third straight in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play the Golden Griffins (8-10, 3-4 MAAC) kept themselves in position to challenge for a first-five finish in the league and gain a first-round bye in the MAAC tournament in Atlantic City in March.
The red-hot shooting performance was rare for the Griffs. Overall, they made a season-high 60.7% of their field goal tries and 9 of 20 3-pointers for 45 percent, both season highs. They shot 59 percent in the second half.
The 95 total points were the most for the Griffs since they scored 95 in a 95-88 win at Niagara on Feb. 21, 2018.
”I thought the pace of the game was really high, and it was important for us to pass the basketball and catch it and not turn it over,” Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “Also, because of the pace of the game, we knew we were going to need contributions from everyone. I think everyone contributed and we certainly needed it.
“Good shooting, a lot of times, is a result of your team’s passing and anticipating and knowing when the shot is available for your teammates, and for yourself. The other thing that’s a part of that is guys are learning not only what is a good shot for them, but also learning to value the easiest shot. And then knowing those things for their teammates, too. You have to have a feel for those kinds of things. You have to value getting quality shots.”
Point guard Malik Johnson, sophomore guard Jordan Henderson and freshman guard Armon Harried combined to score 32 points as Canisius took a 52-42 halftime lead. The Griffs made 21 of 34 shots, 7 of 14 from 3-point range in the first half.
They outscored the Broncs, 25-15, over the last 9:04. Before that the game was tied at 27. Rider got as close as six points in the second half, but that was in the final minute.
Johnson finished with a team-high 18 points. More important he had 11 assists, one less than his career high set last season. The senior from Richmond, Va., now has 562 career assists, second only to the 616 by Frank Turner (2006-10) on the all-time Canisius list.
Henderson had 16 points, including 4-of-6 3-pointers. Harried scored all 10 of his points in the first half and freshman Jacco Fritz scored 10 of his 17 points in the second half.
Canisius needed the hot shooting because Rider finished at 47.5% mainly because of Tyrere Marshall. The 6-foot-9 senior scored a career-high 31 points, making 12 of 16 shots, most from in the paint.
Witherspoon’s bench players, who accounted for 35 points in Friday’s win over Siena, contributed 26 points to the Rider victory, including 12 by junior Brandon Majesty.
Canisius is tied for seventh with Rider and Siena in the MAAC standings. However, the four teams, including Niagara, tied for first have all lost twice and have 4-2 records.
The Griffs have two conference tests on the road coming up this week. They play at Iona on Friday night and Fairfield on Sunday afternoon. One of the Griffs’ two home losses was to Fairfield, 46-42.
Bona women lose
The St. Bonaventure women’s team can look ahead to home games in the Atlantic 10 Conference against Saint Joseph’s and Rhode Island this week, after dropping their second straight on the road Sunday, a 67-61 loss to La Salle at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia.
Asianae Johnson scored 17 points and Emily Calabrese had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Bonnies (4-14, 1-4 A-10). La Salle is 7-11, 1-4 in the conference.
Claire Jacobs led the Explorers with 16 points and Kayla Spruill had 15.
Bona led, 61-59, on a 3-pointer by Olivia Tucker with 2:20 left. That was the last Bona score, however. Spruill made two free throws, to snap the 20th tie of the game, putting La Salle in front for good.