Men’s basketball goes 2-2 in Boca Raton Classic

Jacco Fritz and Majesty Brandon shine during four game split in Boca Raton tournament.

Majesty Brandon holds the ball during a game against St. Bonaventure Nov. 23. The Griffs won, 61-57. Photo courtesy of GoGriffs.com.

The Griffs continued their non-conference portion of the season over the weekend, grabbing two wins in the Boca Raton Beach Classic and reaching the title game of the tournament.

They began the run last Tuesday, beating UIC in Chicago in dominating fashion, getting a 94-64 win. The Griffs dominated the game from start to finish, jumping out to a 38-13 lead by the latter parts of the first half, leading 54-25 at the break and then holding onto it for the 30-point victory.

The Griffs shot 55.7 percent in that game and hit 15 three-pointers while the defense was great, as the Flames shot 37 percent from the field and were 7-24 in the first half, a clip of 29 percent.

The Griffs did that without Malik Johnson scoring at all but was helped out by Majesty Brandon with 21 points, Jalanni White’s 20, and Jordan Henderson’s 18, all of Henderson’s points coming from behind the three-point line.

In bracket play of the tournament, they met Mercer in Sunday’s semifinal game. That was another that went well, as they were able to get a 76-66 win, being led by Brandon again, who has really come out of his shell as of late, as well as Jacco Fritz, with 16 points each. Johnson had 14. Fritz did not miss a shot from the field, going a perfect 5-5, and it led to him being named the MAAC Rookie of the Week for the third week in a row, the first player in program history to garner that achievement.

The win against Mercer gave them a bid to the title game of the tournament and a meeting with Hofstra, albeit that game ending with a 64-57 loss on Monday. The Griffs had three players in double figures but could not stop the three-headed monster of Desure Buie, Tareq Coburn and Eli Pemberton, who combined for 53 of the Pride’s 64 points. Coburn and Pemberton each recorded a double-double, with Coburn finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Pemberton had 16 and 10.

“I think it’s good we played in this type of event, where you play back-to-back games on short prep time and rest. It replicates what happens in March, where guys really need to be locked in mentally in film and scouting reports, and then trust in their abilities on the floor when it is game time,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon told GoGriffs.com on how early-season tournaments can benefit a team.

Wednesday’s game against Florida Atlantic ended the trip for the Griffs and despite it being a close game the whole way through, the Griffs fell 62-59.

The game was a nail-biter the entire way with neither team having a lead of more than six points, which was held by Florida Atlantic in the closing minutes. Canisius got to within two on a Malik Johnson layup with 38 seconds to play and had a chance to take the lead with under 20 seconds left, but a potential go-ahead three missed the mark and free throws from FAU’s Karlis Silins closed the game out.

Johnson and White led the Griffs on Wednesday, with 12 points each.

The Griffs are now 4-4 on the season after going 2-2 in the Boca Raton Classic and will play next on December 14, a home game against Holy Cross. Following that, they will play non-conference games against Buffalo and Pittsburgh, with the conference opener against Siena between that. After the Pittsburgh game, conference play officially begins on January 3, with a home game against Manhattan.

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