Monday, January 22, 2018

MAAC Monday: Reese's transformation, stat leaders, power rankings

The latest MAAC Monday will once again take a closer look at a particular player in its opening segment before updating the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference stat leaders and weekly power rankings, with midseason awards being handed out next week. In the leadoff spot today will be the sophomore Player of the Year contender behind the resurgence of an unlikely ruler of the conference entering the halfway point of the season, a storyline that has taken center stage amid the unpredictability of the league. In this week's edition of MAAC Monday, statistics in the second segment were gleaned from the MAAC website, with the advanced numbers in the first section coming courtesy of Ken Pomeroy's rankings and more traditional stats compliments of Matt Reitnour, assistant athletic director for communications and men's basketball media contact at Canisius.

With that inadvertent giveaway, the Golden Griffins become the latest team to enter the spotlight in our curtain-raising segment, a place they have earned with their 7-1 start to MAAC play, punctuated by a regular-season sweep of Iona. While senior Jermaine Crumpton, a first team preseason all-MAAC selection, was expected to carry most of the load for the Griffs, very few expected Isaiah Reese to break out as much as he has.

Granted, Reese showed several flashes of brilliance as a freshman, but was concealed among the multifaceted attack Reggie Witherspoon was able to trot out on a nightly basis in the forms of Crumpton, Kiefer Douse, Kassius Robertson, Phil Valenti, and then-freshman point guard Malik Johnson. Therefore, the Miami native was able to fly under the radar going into his second campaign and first as a starter, but with the turnover on the roster in Buffalo, has cleared the runway to take flight toward the next level.

"He's really worked on his game, but I think he's healthy this year," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said of Reese, whose 16.5 points per game leads the Griffs. "Last year, he had a wrist injury -- he didn't say anything about it, we didn't talk about it -- and he did a lot of things last year even with that. Between the spring and the summer, he's really worked on his game, and he's just getting going, really. The sky's the limit, and he's really in a position where he can display a lot of skills."

That rich skill set, headlined by Canisius' first-ever triple-double in just the third game of the season, includes a steal percentage that ranks second in the MAAC to supplement his conference-leading 2.3 thefts per game on the defensive end, but is highlighted by a MAAC-best .600 effective field goal percentage and 118.0 offensive efficiency rating that is second only to crosstown rival Kahlil Dukes of Niagara in the league. Furthermore, his contributions seem to increase as his games go on, with 203 of his 346 points coming after halftime, translating to nearly 10 points in the final 20 minutes alone. Most notably, it is his two-way talent that shines when the game is decided, as 33 of his 48 steals have come in the final stanza as well. However, when it came time for other coaches across the MAAC to quantify Reese's impact on the Griffs, two of the conference's foremost authorities looked past the defense and marveled at the sheer volume by which his evolution has affected things when the ball is in his hands.

"I just think he's getting more attempts," Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello assessed after Reese singlehandedly burned the Jaspers this past Friday with all 22 of his points coming after the intermission in Canisius' 68-59 victory. "He's more a focal point of the offense."

"He's much more consistent," said Iona's Tim Cluess, whose proclamation that Reese is having a great year seems like a progressive understatement. "He's much more fluid in their offense and his range is deeper, and being the go-to guy for them, I think because he's getting a lot more shots, he's playing with that much more confidence. I think he's playing terrific."

And as the MAAC slate intensifies, so too has the knack for Reese to become the deciding factor in games. Only once since December 22 has he been held to less than 10 points, only scoring eight against Saint Peter's on January 12, and in his last three games, he has shot a combined 13-for-29 on three-point field goal attempts, including one from the edge of the midcourt logo in each of the Golden Griffins' contests against Manhattan and Iona this past weekend that harkened back to the range and explosiveness of the last elite scorer in the program, former MAAC Player of the Year Billy Baron.

"I saw it last year when he was a freshman," said Crumpton of Reese's potential. "He's a tremendous player. He can do it on both ends of the floor, and not only scoring-wise. He gets his teammates involved, and he's going to be a top player in this league for years to come. I tell him, 'Carry us, and we're going to follow your lead.'"

Scoring Leaders
1) Kahlil Dukes, Niagara (21.2 PPG)
2) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (21.1)

3) Matt Scott, Niagara (20.6)
4) Brian Parker, Marist (18.3)
5) Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (17.6)
6) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (16.5)
7) Jermaine Crumpton, Canisius (15.9)
8) Nick Griffin, Saint Peter's (14.3)
9) Rickey McGill, Iona (14.2)
10) Rich Williams, Manhattan (14.1)

Rebounding Leaders
1) Marvin Prochet, Niagara (8.1 RPG)
2) Matt Scott, Niagara (7.7)
3) Frederick Scott, Rider (7.6)
4) TK Edogi, Iona (7.5)
5) Tyere Marshall, Rider (6.4)
T-6) Zane Waterman, Manhattan (6.4)
T-6) Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (6.4)
8) Quinn Taylor, Saint Peter's (6.2)
9) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (5.8)
10) Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (5.8)

Assist Leaders
1) Stevie Jordan, Rider (6.4 APG)
2) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (5.4)

3) Rickey McGill, Iona (5.3)
4) Austin Tilghman, Monmouth (5.2)
5) Malik Johnson, Canisius (4.8)
6) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (4.7)
7) Zavier Turner, Manhattan (4.0)
8) Kahlil Dukes, Niagara (3.6)
9) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (3.2)
10) Roman Penn, Siena (3.1)

Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (.603)
2) TK Edogi, Iona (.573)
3) Tyere Marshall, Rider (.533)
4) Chaise Daniels, Quinnipiac (.514)
5) Dimencio Vaughn, Rider (.513)
6) Matija Milin, Fairfield (.509)
7) Frederick Scott, Rider (.505)
8) Prince Oduro, Siena (.497)
9) Roland Griffin, Iona (.489)
10) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (.486)

Free Throw Percentage Leaders
1) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (.904)
2) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (.900)
3) Kahlil Dukes, Niagara (.898)
4) Sam Idowu, Saint Peter's (.851)
T-5) Jermaine Crumpton, Canisius (.841)
T-5) Roman Penn, Siena (.841)
7) E.J. Crawford, Iona (.826)
8) Zavier Turner, Manhattan (.795)
9) Isaiah Lamb, Marist (.792)
10) James Towns, Niagara (.785)

Three-Point Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Jacob Rigoni, Quinnipiac (.494)
2) Jan Svandrlik, Iona (.473)
3) Louie Pillari, Monmouth (.471)
4) Schadrac Casimir, Iona (.464)
5) Zavier Turner, Manhattan (.455)
6) Khalil Richard, Siena (.451)
7) Kahlil Dukes, Niagara (.451)
8) Dimencio Vaughn, Rider (.436)
9) Rich Williams, Manhattan (.423)
10) Spencer Foley, Canisius (.406)

Steal Leaders
1) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (2.3 SPG)
2) Stevie Jordan, Rider (1.8)

3) Elijah Gonzales, Saint Peter's (1.6)
4) Jesus Cruz, Fairfield (1.6)
5) Rickey McGill, Iona (1.5)

Blocked Shot Leaders
1) Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (2.5 BPG)
2) Chaise Daniels, Quinnipiac (1.4)

3) Dominic Robb, Niagara (1.3)
4) Jonathan Kasibabu, Fairfield (1.1)
5) Marvin Prochet, Niagara (1.0)

Power Rankings
1) Canisius (13-8, 7-1 MAAC)
Last Week:
 2

Last Game: Sunday 1/21 at Iona (W 84-82)
Next Game: Saturday 1/27 vs. Niagara, 7 p.m.

2) Iona (12-8, 6-2 MAAC)
Last Week:
 1

Last Game: Sunday 1/21 vs. Canisius (L 84-82)
Next Game: Saturday 1/27 vs. Manhattan (Nassau Coliseum), 7 p.m.


3) Rider (13-7, 6-2 MAAC)
Last Week
: 3

Last Game: Saturday 1/20 vs. Marist (W 60-57)
Next Game: Tuesday 1/23 at Fairfield, 7 p.m.

4) Manhattan (10-10, 5-3 MAAC)
Last Week:
 4

Last Game: Sunday 1/21 at Saint Peter's (W 68-57)
Next Game: Wednesday 1/24 at Niagara, 7 p.m.

5) Niagara (12-9, 5-3 MAAC)
Last Week:
 5

Last Game: Saturday 1/20 at Fairfield (L 104-85)
Next Game: Wednesday 1/24 vs. Manhattan, 7 p.m.

6) Quinnipiac (7-13, 4-4 MAAC)
Last Week: 7
Last Game: Sunday 1/21 vs. Siena (W 76-69)
Next Game: Thursday 1/25 at Marist, 7 p.m.

7) Saint Peter's (8-11, 2-6 MAAC)
Last Week:
 6

Last Game: Sunday 1/21 vs. Manhattan (L 68-57)
Next Game: Friday 1/26 at Rider, 7 p.m.

8) Monmouth (5-13, 1-5 MAAC)
Last Week:
 8

Last Game: Friday 1/19 vs. Iona (L 76-73)
Next Game: Thursday 1/25 vs. Siena, 7 p.m.

9) Fairfield (7-11, 2-5 MAAC)
Last Week:
 11

Last Game: Saturday 1/20 vs. Niagara (W 104-85)
Next Game: Tuesday 1/23 vs. Rider, 7 p.m.

10) Siena (6-15, 2-6 MAAC)
Last Week:
 10

Last Game: Sunday 1/21 at Quinnipiac (L 76-69)
Next Game: Thursday 1/25 at Monmouth, 7 p.m.

11) Marist (4-15, 2-6 MAAC)
Last Week:
 9

Last Game: Saturday 1/20 at Rider (L 60-57)
Next Game: Thursday 1/25 vs. Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Canisius sweeps Iona, takes sole possession of MAAC lead

Isaiah Reese led Canisius with 21 points as Golden Griffins wrapped up season sweep of Iona to move into sole possession of first place in MAAC standings. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Picked ninth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason poll, not much was expected of Canisius going into the year, even with a first team all-conference senior on their roster and a burgeoning sophomore guard destined to raise his game to the next level.

Since the ball was tipped for the first time in November, however, the Golden Griffins have made a living of beating their opponent at their own game, and Sunday afternoon was no exception.

Less than 48 hours removed from suffocating Manhattan in one of their finest defensive performances to date, Canisius revealed the latest piece of their chameleon attire, running with Iona and making a season-high 15 three-point field goals to outshoot the Gaels to win an 84-82 thriller at the Hynes Athletics Center.

"I think our guys handled it really well," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said as the Griffs (13-8, 7-1 MAAC) completed their first regular season sweep of Iona since the 2006-07 season to further the best start to conference play for the program since 1996-97, when John Beilein was at the helm in Buffalo. "The notion of embracing the challenge, I thought we handled that part of it pretty well, and I'm just proud of the effort."

Canisius, which opened up an 11-point lead midway through the first half after a 14-0 run, their second significant spurt against the Gaels after a similar outburst in the teams' first meeting on December 31, also moved the ball extremely well against the two-time defending MAAC champions, committing just six turnovers on an afternoon where five players scored 10 or more points, led by Isaiah Reese's 21.

"Against a team like this, those turnovers turn into touchdowns," said Witherspoon. "You have to really limit them, and we did a pretty good job of that today."

Iona (12-8, 6-2 MAAC) fought back, getting within two points at halftime and ultimately taking the lead on a Schadrac Casimir three with 14:55 remaining in regulation, putting the Gaels ahead 59-58. Canisius responded with an 11-2 run immediately thereafter to retake the lead for good, but after stretching their cushion to 10 points, at 81-71, Iona ripped off eight unanswered points to draw within two following TK Edogi's dunk with 2:36 to play.

Jibreel Faulkner, who scored 13 points off the bench for Canisius, picked up a dunk of his own on the ensuing possession to make it a four-point game again, but three free throws from Rickey McGill brought Iona to the doorstep with just one point to overcome, the last two shots coming after the Golden Griffins elected to foul with 12.9 seconds on the clock and an 83-80 lead at that juncture. Following McGill's last two attempts, the Gaels waited longer than usual to foul Reese, a 92 percent shooter at the charity stripe, and during their effort to stop the clock, Edogi was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul in a wild exchange that also saw a Canisius assistant coach run toward the Iona coaching box, normally grounds for a technical foul.

"I don't really know what happened with TK," Tim Cluess said when trying to summarize the chain of events in the final seconds before Canisius became just the second team to sweep Iona in his eight-year tenure; joining Monmouth, who accomplished the feat last season. "I don't know if TK lost balance and went into him (Reese), which is the story we're getting, or if he just wrapped him up in a bad way. I can't blame the referees if that's what they see. I guess they missed a guy running on the court at the same time, but that's something else."

The flagrant call gave Canisius two free throws and possession with 1.3 seconds left. Reese missed the first shot, but made the second to give the Griffs a two-point lead, which they held as Malik Johnson ran out the clock before Iona could foul one last time to extend the game, standing alone atop the conference heading into Saturday's Battle of the Bridge against Niagara.

"I think it's good, but I think we do have a pretty long way to go," said Witherspoon of Canisius' progress to this point. "It's pretty early, but obviously we'd rather be in this situation than any other spot. What it says is we have something to build on."

"It feels good," Jermaine Crumpton, who added 18 points in the victory, echoed. "It just shows that hard work pays off. We've got a great group of guys, We come in and we work, and to see that hard work pays off is unbelievable, and me being a senior and just trying to be the leader that this team needs, I'm just trying to be the guy that the freshmen and some of the younger guys can look up to."

Canisius vs. Iona Photo Gallery

(All photos by Andy Lipton/Daly Dose Of Hoops)









Seton Hall vs. Xavier Photo Gallery

Photos from Seton Hall's 73-64 loss to Xavier on January 20, 2018:

(All photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Minnesota falls on hardwood, but reigns on ice to split Super Saturday

(Photo by Jason Schott/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Schott (@JESchott19)

NEW YORK -- The Big Ten Conference held its third annual Super Saturday basketball-hockey doubleheader inside Madison Square Garden, with Minnesota serving as the de facto host for both contests.

The Golden Gophers basketball team fell to Ohio State in afternoon, while their hockey squad was victorious to cap off the evening.

Basketball: Ohio State 67, Minnesota 49
Ohio State used a 17-0 run late in the first half to jump out to a 34-22 lead late in the first half and never looked back in their romp over Minnesota. The Buckeyes remained unbeaten in the Big Ten at 8-0, tied for first in the conference with Purdue, who is also 8-0. Ohio State, coached by former Butler mentor Chris Holtmann, is now 17-4 overall on the season.

Keita Bates-Diop led the Buckeyes with 17 points and 12 rebounds to give him a double-double on the afternoon. Kaleb Wesson finished with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, with 11 of those points coming in the first half, with eight rebounds, a steal, and an assist. CJ Jackson finished with 11 points, all of which came in the first half, on 4-of-11 from the field and 3-of-7 behind the arc, six rebounds, two steals, and an assist.

Minnesota was held to 38.3 percent from the field, or 18-for-47 shooting. They shot 3-for-14 from behind the arc. Jordan Murphy led the Golden Gophers with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Nate Mason and Amir Coffey had 11 points apiece, and Mason just missed a double-double as he notched nine rebounds. Dupree McBrayer finished with 10 points.

(Photo by Jason Schott/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Hockey: Minnesota 2, Michigan State 1
Minnesota, the 13th-ranked hockey team in the nation, knocked off Michigan State with a late goal from Brent Gates with 3:29 left in the third period. Gates was stationed at the top of the crease and was waiting for a rolling puck to get past a sliding Michigan State defender Butrus Ghafari, and it did. When it got to Gates, he buried it to give the Golden Gophers the 2-1 lead. Gates got an assist on Minnesota's other goal by Casey Mittelstadt with 8:37 left in the first period that gave them a 1-0 edge. They would hold that lead until the third period, when Cody Milan tied it up for the Spartans on a feed from Jerad Rosburg and Jake Smith.

Minnesota, in fifth place in the Big Ten, improved to 6-9-1-1, with 19 points in conference play, and 15-12-1, 29 points, overall. Michigan State, in seventh place, which is last place in Big Ten hockey, with a record of 3-12-1-1, 15 points, and 9-16-1, 25 points, overall.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

JP's 5 Thoughts: Seton Hall out-toughed by No. 11 Xavier in Newark

J.P. Macura's 27 points included tour de force in final minutes of second half as Xavier ended Seton Hall's 13-game home win streak Saturday at Prudential Center. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

NEWARK, NJ -- Seton Hall, for the first 28 minutes or so, played about as well as you could have hoped against the 11th-ranked Xavier Musketeers. After taking lopsided losses on the road to sandwich a home win over a weaker Georgetown team, this was an opportunity to make a statement. But in the second half, the visitors made all the plays, and led by a supernova effort by J.P. Macura, Xavier pulled away for a 73-64 win in front of a sold-out crowd at Prudential Center. It was their first road win over Seton Hall in school history after six unsuccessful attempts, four of which coming as conference opponents.

Here are the five thoughts, beginning with the positives:

1. Fast Times At Rock-mont High
For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, Seton Hall actually got off to a great start in this game, hitting six of their first nine shots and taking a 13-5 lead in the first four minutes, forcing Xavier to call timeout. In that span, Desi Rodriguez got whatever he wanted to get offensively, and the Pirates’ defense (more in a second) forced the Musketeers into 2-of-6 shooting and three turnovers. It was exactly what everyone wanted to see after the egg in Omaha this past week.

In the second half? Another quick start (with a 7-0 run after Quentin Goodin scored to open the half for Xavier), fueled again by Rodriguez, who ended up with a team-high 19 points in the contest. For a chronically slow-starting team, this was nice to see.

2. Defense Returned
After the first few minutes, the score was nearly even (25-22 Xavier) the rest of the first half, with the field goal percentages in the thirties for both teams. That’s just what Seton Hall needed to do on the defensive end of the floor, though -- with Xavier ranking as one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the nation (85 points per game, 50 percent shooting as a team along with 38 percent from deep and 79 percent from the free throw line), if the Pirates had a chance in this one, it was going to be because of their defense.

Head coach Kevin Willard started Ish Sanogo in the game for the first time in a while, and he was stuck to All-American Trevon Bluiett like glue (6 points, 2-of-6 shooting in the first half), so kudos to the Pirates. Things were going well in the second half, too. But then two factors helped turn the tide...

3. The Ish Factor
Starting Ismael Sanogo was the absolute right move today by Kevin Willard, and again, for the first 28 minutes, it was paying off. Sanogo was defending at his usual high level, and also contributing on the box score, finishing the game with eight points and seven rebounds along with a couple steals. But it was his foul trouble that changed the game completely. With 12:30 remaining and Seton Hall leading 49-41, he committed his third foul, a reach-in on Bluiett from behind. Over the next four minutes, Xavier went on an 11-2 run led by Bluiett and Macura (more on him in a second), to take a 52-51 lead, their first lead since it was 5-4.

“Ish going out hurt us a lot,” Willard said afterwards. “Ish going out at the time he did really took a little bit out of our energy. Even though Mike (Nzei) did a good job, the way that Ish was playing with his energy and his defensive presence stopped us from getting out on the break.”

Sanogo was subbed back in after the 6-0 point in that run, but the momentum had already shifted. And less than a minute after coming back in, Sanogo had to leave again after injuring his shoulder while committing a loose ball foul, his fourth, at the 9:27 mark with the Pirates up 51-49. From there on out, Xavier beat Seton Hall to every loose ball, making all the hustle plays to come up with a well-earned road victory. Of course, it also helped that they had…

4. The Macura Factor
Boy, was I mightily impressed by J.P. Macura today. He was the subject of constant taunting from the crowd, particularly the student section (which booed every touch he got), and the senior guard responded by taking over the game on both ends of the floor. He ended up with 27 points on a night where Bluiett was more or less controlled by Sanogo, needing just 14 shots from the field to do it with 10 attempts (and eight makes) from the charity stripe. Of his 27, 18 of those points came in the second half, and 14 of those came in the final 12:30 after Sanogo’s fateful third personal foul, including a putback dunk that turned a five-point lead into an insurmountable seven-point cushion with 90 seconds left. He also came up with the defensive play of the game one possession earlier, poking the ball away from Myles Powell, who was busy surveying the play offensively. It was one of several instances throughout the game where Macura out-played the super-sophomore on defense.

“The thing about J.P. is that he’s not going to crawl in his shell when you boo him,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said postgame. “I’d say it’s a 180 from that. He played inspired -- a big part of it is being 0-3 here -- he’s so competitive -- and not wanting to go out a loser at the Prudential Center his senior year."

“I’ve seen a lot of crowds get on him, a lot of student sections,” Mack added. “And I think it bothers him this much,” as he held up his hand in the shape of a zero. Big time players make big time plays, and no matter how much hate he gets, founded or unfounded, Macura showed why he’s a big time player today.

5. Assessing The Macro And Micro
When asked whether this game was a gut-check moment of the season, Willard responded thusly.

“Not at all,” the skipper said. “Every team goes through a rough stretch. Xavier lost two in a row and everyone said it’s the end of that, and Creighton loses by 30 at Xavier and everyone says, 'What’s wrong with them?' You’re going to hit a tough stretch in this conference, especially how good the players are and how well-coached they are. I have total confidence in where we are- we just need to get back to doing some little things.”

One of those things would be to get back to playing a little bit smarter brand basketball. The Pirates are, in the words of Chris Mack, “the toughest team in the league,” and we’ve seen a ton of evidence to support that claim. But there were a few instances tonight where the Pirates just didn’t play as smart as we’ve seen in the past. They committed 18 turnovers leading to 21 Xavier points, and there were a few fouls that were ill-advised as well, particularly the ones above on Sanogo I outlined. Sanogo himself mentioned this as well.

“We had mental lapses,” the senior forward said after the game. “Not boxing out, on certain plays, we let them get going, let J.P. get going and I feel he’s the X-factor of that team. It’s always disappointing when you play your hardest but mess up on the little things and it costs you the game, so my guys are very disappointed, but we’re going to bounce back better.”

That’s not to say the Hall played dumb. There were several plays tonight, particularly when it came to making some extra passes offensively, that showed the Hall’s experience on the court. But it could have been better today against the Musketeers.

Looking at the big picture, Seton Hall sits at 4-3 in the Big East and have lost three of their last four. They have 11 conference games remaining, with home and road games alternating in their next four (at DePaul, vs. Providence, at Villanova, vs. Marquette) before a really hard stretch of four of five away in February (at Georgetown and Xavier, vs. DePaul, at Providence and St. John’s). Basically, no, the sky isn’t falling for Seton Hall, but three of the next four games are very winnable provided the Pirates get back to doing those little things.

That next game at DePaul is going to be a telling one in my opinion. The Blue Demons are not the Blue Demons of past years. They’re more competitive now, and I shouldn’t need to mention Seton Hall’s road struggles against them the last few years. That comes after a bye week for the Pirates, so it’s an opportunity to rest up, recuperate, and right the ship in Chicago next weekend.

St. John's shut down by Hoyas in double overtime, fall to 0-8 in Big East

By Jason Schott (@JESchott19)

WASHINGTON, DC -- St. John's suffered their second tough loss to Georgetown in twelve days, this one in double overtime, 93-89, Saturday afternoon at Capital One Arena.

The Red Storm is now 0-8 in Big East play, and their record overall is now 10-10. They have gone a month without winning a game, their last victory coming at Mohegan Sun on December 20 against Saint Joseph's, and it does not get any easier with Creighton on deck Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena in an 8:30 p.m. tipoff.


Shamorie Ponds had another big night, his second 30-point effort in the last three games, as he led the way with 33 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field and 3-of-7 from behind the arc, to go along with eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Tariq Owens netted 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting, and had three blocks to add to his Big East-leading total, as well as seven rebounds. Marvin Clark II tallied 15 points (4-for-10 FG, 3-for-8 on three-pointers) and four rebounds. Bashir Ahmed had 11 points and six rebounds. Georgetown was led by Marcus Derrickson, who had 27 points on 9-of-23 shooting from the field and 8-of-12 from the free throw line, with 11 rebounds and two assists. Jamorko Pickett and Jessie Govan had 16 points apiece, with Pickett notching nine rebounds and four assists, as Govan tallied eight boards of his own.

Just as it was when the teams met at Madison Square Garden on January 9, this one was even from the start, with the score tied at 15 with eight minutes remaining in the first half. At that time, St. John's went on a 9-2 run, climbing ahead by seven, 24-17, three minutes later, as Clark connected on a pair of threes to pace the Red Storm during the tear. The Hoyas quickly responded with seven unanswered of their own, knotting the contest at 24 at the 3:54 mark of the opening stanza. Following a Ponds layup, Jonathan Mulmore knocked down a three for the Hoyas, giving them a 27-26 lead, its first in nearly eight minutes. St. John's rallied to take a 30-29 at halftime, and started the second half with a 6-0 spurt to move ahead by five, 35-30.

After Georgetown responded with a 7-0 run, the Red Storm scored eight in a row and then followed with an 11-2 run, moving ahead by seven, 46-39, on a Ponds three from the corner with 13:30 to play. Owens scored the first six points on the run, converting on a pair of tough layups inside before draining a baseline jumper.

Leading by five, 54-49, with just over nine minutes to go in the game, St. John’s saw Georgetown unleash an 8-2 run, reclaiming the lead, 57-56, less than four minutes later. After trailing by as many as five, 63-58, the Red Storm tied the game at 65 on a 3-pointer from Clark with 1:52 remaining, capping a 7-2 run for the Johnnies. Ponds scored the other four points for the Red Storm during that stretch.

Following three free throws from freshman Jahvon Blair, the Johnnies stared down a three-point deficit, 68-65, with 1:33 remaining. After an empty possession and a stop on the defensive end, the Red Storm earned two points the hard way, grabbing two offensive boards before Ahmed buried one home to pull within one, 68-67, with 28 seconds to go. After Govan split a pair of free throws, Ponds drove to the basket and sent a home an acrobatic layup through traffic, knotting the contest at 69. The Hoyas had another shot to win in regulation, but the Johnnies came up with the stop and the game went to overtime.

The Red Storm appeared to have victory in their hands toward the end of the first overtime, but let a five-point lead slip away in the final 24 seconds. Derrickson closed the frame on a personal 6-1 run, including a clutch three with just three seconds on the clock to knot the contest at 79. The Hoyas controlled the second overtime from the start, scoring the first six points of the period, including a four-point play from Jagan Mosely.

Head coach Chris Mullin said of St. John's continuing to struggle down the stretch in close games, “This was as extreme as it gets. We fouled a three-point shooter, then we went to the line with a chance to go up four, and then the next three he [Derrickson] made, I don’t know what to say about that.”

Mullin said to the question of whether or not to foul Derrickson on the tying three in overtime, “Ideally, yes. Not coming out of a timeout, it’s kind of hard to get these guys’ attention on the way up, but ideally yeah. I love to foul in that situation. Once that guy gets behind that three, on the way up the court ideally, but again sometimes it’s hard to relay that message not coming out of a timeout. Philosophically, yeah I like to foul in that situation. No question. Do you do it earlier? Yes. What happens after that, who knows, but philosophically that’s what I like to do. We couldn’t get the message over there coming off the free throw. He just made a highly-contested shot.”

On the defensive plan on Derrickson, Mullin said, “We tried to battle him in the post. [Marcus] and [Jessie Govan] are really good in the post. We tried to fight him off the post, and apply help when needed. They made some big plays. Our guys for the whole night battled pretty well. Tough ending for us.”

Mullin said of Georgetown running a lot of offense through Jahvon Blair, “He gets a lot of shots. He’s got the second-most field goal attempts on the team, so that’s the guy they go to. He made some threes tonight.”

On whether it is tougher to be optimistic as the losing streak grows, Mullin said, “Right now, for sure. Right after this tough loss, it stings. Again, some things we can clean up. It’s a test, it’s definitely a test. We've got to keep battling, work through it, believe in each other, keep the faith, stay diligent, and we’ll get there.”

Mullin said of whether the team is staying cohesive during the tough stretch, “Yeah. Again, right after the game it stings. It’s tough. We’ll regroup, look at the tape, analyze it with a clean mind, and then move onto the next game.”
Mullin said of Georgetown, who is 13-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big East, “They are in good shape. They have two big guys who are really good. They have some young guards coming along. They play a good style. If they can bang threes like that, they’ll be in good shape.”

Kevin Willard quote book: Xavier

On Seton Hall's offense in the final 8-10 minutes:
"I thought they did a good job of really going big and long on us again, things that we've struggled with a little bit when teams have gone big. I thought they were big and physical. I thought we had some good looks, but you've got to give them credit. I thought they were really physical with us and really got into us."

On Angel Delgado's shot count:
"It's one thing that we've got to get back to. I thought he did a great job early in the first half of really kicking it out and getting it in there. Right now, the way teams are playing us, we've got to -- it's good that we have a bye week -- we've got to make a little bit of an adjustment because they're just not playing Ish and Mike, and they're fronting him and they're sitting behind him, and it's tough getting him the basketball. That's something that we've got to make an adjustment with."

On the atmosphere and crowd, and disappointment in not getting the win:
"It's disappointing anytime you have a home loss in this conference, just because holding home court is extremely tough because it's really hard to win on the road. I thought the crowd was great and again, I thought our energy was great, and I thought we had some opportunities, but you've got to give Macura credit. I thought J.P. really did some things down the -- really in the last four minutes -- that just swung the whole game. I thought he played phenomenal."

On foul trouble:
"Ish going out, I thought hurt us a lot. I thought Myles Cale did a good job filling in for Desi in the first half, but I thought Ish going out at the time he did really kind of took a little bit of our energy out even though Mike did a good job of just -- I thought Ish was playing -- again, Ish is playing the way he played as a sophomore. He's just playing with so much energy and so much defensive presence that we stopped getting out on the break because he wasn't out there."

On his starters, especially Delgado, playing a high amount of minutes:
"Sandro bruised his knee the other night in practice, so I tried giving him -- he did his best just getting out there, but it was really tough for him to go out there. Usually, he's at 36 or 35 anyway, and that's usually his first half minutes. But I didn't want Sandro to go out there and hurt himself, so that's kind of why with their size, I couldn't go with Mike or Ish with Ish's foul trouble that struggled."

On sensing his players wearing down:
"Definitely at the end, but I mean, (Trevon) Bluiett played 39 (minutes), Macura played 35, so those guys are playing the same minutes as our guys, but we've got to be able to fight through it, and I thought we did. We missed some free throws that, again, took some momentum out of us. We got up one and again, I thought Macura's two offensive rebounds and tipouts were really the difference that got them over the hump."

On getting Myles Powell more shots:
"Myles has to take his shots -- that's something Myles is -- I love the fact that he's driving the basketball, he's being aggressive. He's got to understand when to take shots in transition. He's got to get a couple more shots in transition and be able to feel free to take some deep ones, take some off the dribble a little bit. He's really enjoying driving the ball, which is great, but we've got to get him to shoot some in transition a little bit more because again, Macura wasn't going to leave him. You could run him off screens all you want, but you're not going to screen Macura late in the game. It's just not happening."

On a potential gut-check:
"Not at all. Every team goes through a rough stretch, and we're going through a little bit of a rough stretch. It's something that every team I've seen besides Villanova hits a little bit of a tough stretch. These guys (Xavier) lost two in a row and everybody said it's the end of that, and Creighton loses by 30 at Xavier and everyone says, 'What's wrong with them?'" You're going to hit tough stretches, especially in this conference, as good as these players are, as well-coached as they are. We've got a week to get back, and like I said, I've got total confidence in where we are. I like where we are. We've just got to get back to doing some little things."

On next week's bye week coming at an opportune time:
"I'm not sure about that. The only reason I say that is because after this, we don't have -- I think we have five of our next seven on the road. We don't have a break after this, so we're going to go -- we're 4-3 now -- we're going to go eleven straight games now, and then go into the tournament without -- everyone else seems to get a break late in February. I think it's a little early. I'd kind of liked to have played a couple more games than had a bye."

On Desi Rodriguez's response to being benched Wednesday at Creighton:
"I said it after the game: I had total confidence in Desi bouncing back. He had a great practice yesterday. I knew he'd bounce back, and I thought he bounced back great."

On needing more from the seniors:
"No, I thought all of them played phenomenally, I thought they all played hard. I thought we had some really good looks that just didn't go in, and give them credit. I thought their size and their length and their physicality kind of pushed us away from the basket."

Canisius 68, Manhattan 59: 4 Observations

Takal Molson scored 14 points in Canisius' win at Manhattan, demonstrating a skill set that positions Buffalo native among favorites for MAAC Rookie of the Year honors. (Photo by Canisius College Athletics)

RIVERDALE, NY -- A stifling defense that turned 19 takeaways into 20 points, coupled with the second-half marksmanship of Isaiah Reese, were largely responsible for Canisius walking into Draddy Gymnasium and leaving with their third consecutive road win over Manhattan, as the Golden Griffins came away with a 68-59 victory over the Jaspers fueled by their efficiency at forcing turnovers while Reese scored all of his 22 points after halftime. Now 6-1 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play and in a first-place tie with Iona atop the league standings, the Griffs head to New Rochelle on Sunday for a return match with the reigning MAAC champion Gaels, hoping to replicate their 85-78 win in Buffalo on December 31 in search of a sweep of the regular season. In the interim, we close out Friday's battle with the Jaspers with a quartet of observations on a defense-oriented affair that became the latest statement for a team picked ninth in the preseason:

1) Molson Golden
In a MAAC that graduated the bulk of its senior leadership this past May, the conference's freshman class arrived on the scene with mounds of opportunities to make an impact for themselves. Chief among them is Takal Molson, Canisius' third guard and one of three players averaging 12 or more points for a team who graduated two starters in Phil Valenti and Kiefer Douse, and lost Kassius Robertson to Missouri as a fifth-year transfer.

"We ask him to do a lot," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said of Molson, whose 14 points ranked second for the Griffs Friday behind Reese's game-high 22. "He's another guy that's versatile enough to guard different positions, and he embraces it. He hasn't run from it or doesn't back down from it, and with the versatility of his teammates, it's hard to just zero in on a guy. He's another one of those guys that can impact the game in a number of different ways."

"I feel like I've got the mindset of just winning now," Molson, a homegrown talent who opted to remain in Buffalo for his collegiate career, remarked. "We do have a pretty versatile team, and I'm willing to do whatever it is to win, so I just work on all aspects of my game and go out just trying to win. If we're winning, that's all that matters to me."

2) No. 1 in your programs, No. 1 in Canisius' heart.
Albeit just a sophomore, Malik Johnson has made his presence known each time he steps on the floor, having started each of the 54 games in which he has played. Standing just 5-foot-10, it may be easy to miss the Virginia native during the course of a game, but if you watch closely, you will see that he continually asserts his take-charge instincts to fit each situation, be it a game-winning layup in the final seconds to beat Saint Peter's last year, or a more understated contribution like Friday's seven assists to offset only one field goal attempt.

"The guy I was really impressed with was Malik Johnson," Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello revealed. "Seven assists, no turnovers against our pressure. I thought he did a really terrific job."

"I said this about Malik in the past: He can have an impact on the game without taking a shot," said Witherspoon. "And I see tonight, he only took one. I think most people come watch a game and watch his impact, you'd never guess he only took one shot. But again, with his teammates and the way that he plays, it's hard to play against a guy that can do that many different things -- that can hurt you with his defense -- and I think we have several guys who can do that. He's certainly one of them."

3) A view from the top.
Winners of six of seven in MAAC play, Canisius takes on Iona Sunday with sole possession of the conference lead at stake inside the Hynes Athletics Center. Having defeated the Gaels in Buffalo on the opening weekend of the league slate, the Griffs come to New Rochelle intent on sweeping the regular season and furthering a year that has already exceeded some expectations, even if those inside the program remain tempered.

"It's still early yet," Witherspoon said when addressing the 6-1 start to the MAAC schedule. "There's some people we haven't played yet, and we have a lot of road games left. We're not where we want to be, but we're not where we were, so it's making strides and we're getting better. We've gotta keep making strides."

4) Two steps forward, one step back.
Manhattan's bid for a three-game win streak was halted by a second loss this month after the Jaspers had held a lead in the second half, having been felled by the same circumstances on January 7 against Rider in a game where Masiello referenced an inability to play consistent defense. That problem was rectified in a first half where Canisius was held to just 31 percent shooting before Reese kick-started an 11-0 run that ultimately turned the game around, but still needs to be addressed long-term, along with the penchant for turning the ball over.

"I think it's lack of focus at times," Masiello said of Manhattan's propensity for giveaways, highlighted by a 24.2 percent turnover rate that ranks as the seventh-highest in the nation and the highest figure in the MAAC. "You look at Rich (Williams), you look at Z(avier Turner), but more than anything, I always believe turnovers are a lack of urgency. I just think when you're not urgent, that's normally when you turn the basketball over, and sometimes we get in the habit of just thinking that the defense is just going to let us run the play or just going to let us bring the ball up. It's a combination of urgency and discipline. 

"We lost in the NCAA Tournament to Louisville -- and we talk about it all the time -- because we didn't break the foul line and feed the post, RaShawn (Stores) to Rhamel Brown. It's just more discipline and urgency, and those are things that I think are fixable, but you really have to have great focus to fix those."

Reese's eruption, 19 forced turnovers help Canisius surge past Manhattan

Isaiah Reese scored all of his 22 points after halftime as Canisius rallied to defeat Manhattan, remaining in first-place tie atop MAAC standings. (Photo by The Canisius Griffin)

RIVERDALE, NY -- In recent times, Canisius has ranked at or near the top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with its dynamic offense and multifaceted scorers, but it had always been the defense that was the primary obstacle in the Golden Griffins' path to a conference championship.

Almost halfway through the league season, the Buffalo outfit has kept their firepower on the scoreboard amid noticeable roster turnover, but the question mark that has long plagued their prospects took its latest evolutionary step Friday evening.

Forcing 12 of their 19 takeaways after halftime against a Manhattan team renowned for its own defensive pressure, Canisius was able to beat the Jaspers at their own game, preying on miscues and riding the hot hand of Isaiah Reese, who scored all of his game-high 22 points in the second half to break a stalemate open en route to a 68-59 victory at Draddy Gymnasium.

"I think it's huge for us," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said of the defensive effort as the Griffs (12-8, 6-1 MAAC) kept pace with Iona atop the MAAC standings in their last tuneup before facing the Gaels Sunday with a regular-season sweep on the line. "We work on it, we talk about it every day, There's some things we do every day that enhance our ability to come out and play defense, and it also helps when you have a roster full of guys that are very versatile, and defensively, can guard a lot of positions. That's been an area that we've made pretty good strides in."

It was a tale of two halves in the northwest corner of the Bronx, as Canisius opened the game to the strains of freshman Takal Molson scoring all but two of the visitors' first dozen points. He would be held to just four markers for the remainder of the night as Manhattan's vaunted strategy of turning defense into offense took root midway through the opening stanza, seizing the lead on an 8-0 run to go up 16-14 with just over seven minutes remaining before halftime. The Jaspers (9-10, 4-3 MAAC) would maintain the lead for most of the final stretch before the intermission, expanding it to as many as six points before ultimately taking a 28-27 cushion into the locker room after Jermaine Crumpton's two foul shots made the game a one-point affair after 20 minutes.

The hosts held serve through the opening exchange out of the halftime break until Reese found his groove, doing so in an emphatic fashion. The sophomore's first basket, a three-pointer with 15:55 remaining in regulation, tied the score at 34 apiece, and started an 11-0 Canisius run that saw him hit an additional two shots from distance to give the Griffs a lead they would never relinquish. Manhattan clawed back within single digits entering the final four minutes, but Reese fittingly slammed the door with a pull-up triple from the edge of the Jaspers' logo for a de facto exclamation point.

"Reese hit three threes that were just, really, momentum killers, and they were from really deep," a straightforward Steve Masiello assessed, surmising one of the game's turning points. "There's nothing you could do about that, but if you turn the ball over as much as we did, it's tough."

In the near-miss, Pauly Paulicap led the Jaspers with 17 points and six blocked shots, while Rich Williams contributed 12 points and seven rebounds, but it was Reese; who added six rebounds, six steals and four assists to his latest stat-stuffing escapade, that emerged as the lasting impression while matching the Griffs' season high for most points scored in a half.

"I've got teammates that, when we go in the locker room, they talk to me a lot," Reese said, crediting a team-wide commitment that also revealed itself in 22 assists on 24 made field goals. "They encourage me and tell me to keep my head up, and they just motivate me to come out and have a strong half."