Defense shines in Griffs win over St. Bonaventure

Jalanni White dunks the ball after a steal in the second half against St. Bonaventure last night. The Griffs won, 61-57. Photo courtesy of Tom Wolf/

Canisius only had one field goal in the final 7:41 of Saturday’s game against St. Bonaventure. Somehow, some way, they were able to get their second win of the season, leaving KeyBank Center with a 61-57 triumph on the day the program celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary.

The second to last Canisius field goal came with 7:42 to play following an offensive rebound by Jacco Fritz that saw him come out of seemingly nowhere to sneak past two Bonaventure defenders to steal the board, pass the ball to Malik Johnson in the corner, who then hit Armon Harried on the wing for a jumper to make it 50-43 in favor of the Griffs.

After that, the Griffs could not get anything going on offense. Outside of a layup by Jalanni White with 4:13 to play, Canisius did not hit a shot from the field, despite only taking four shots. 

However, it was the defense that stepped up. They did their part in a big way, holding the Bonnies to only three field goals in the same timeframe. The closest Bonaventure made it was a two-point game.

“Sometimes guys get to this level and they’ve had so much success getting the ball in the basket that when it’s not going in the basket, they spend more time frustrated than they do on the next play and doing other things to help their team,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “You have to fight and claw and find a way.”

When Bonaventure got to within two, they had the ball with under a minute to play. However, with 34 seconds to play, Johnson drew a charge from Bonaventure’s Kyle Lofton that made it a multi-possession game following free throws which put the game away.

“I know he’s trying to get downhill and I knew if I beat him to the spot and took it on my chest, it was most likely going to be a charge. I kind of read that play and baited him into it, and when that happened, we just got the call,” Johnson said.

A third key reason of Canisius winning the game was the play of Fritz. The freshman scored 12 points, which was the second-highest on the team and had 10 rebounds, seven of them coming on the offensive glass.

“We play as a team, so I got to do my job and do the things I have to do at the beginning of the game and also the things that I have to do at the end of the game. There’s not a difference between the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes, you still got to work hard,” Fritz said.

During the press conference, Johnson revealed that a few games into the season, Witherspoon always asks the team if they think that they can win a grind-it-out game like how Saturday’s was. It seems like, in the fourth game of the season that saw the Griffs improve to 2-2, they got their answer.

Witherspoon said, “Now if I ask them, they’re going to say, ‘did you see the game?’”

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