Men’s basketball has turnaround weekend with wins over Siena, Rider

After an 0-4 start to conference play, the Griffs have rattled off three straight wins, bringing them back into the mix in the MAAC midway through the season.

Malik Johnson lays in the ball after causing a turnover in the Griffs win over Siena Jan. 17. Photo by Marshal Filipowicz.

Men’s basketball had a two-win weekend that allowed them to stay in contention in the MAAC standings, grabbing wins over Siena on Friday and Rider on Sunday.

The first game was one where the Griffs stayed in control the entire way, garnering a lead as large as 15 points and ended up coming out with a 73-63 win over the Saints.

The first moments of the game remained close but Canisius took the lead seven minutes into the game and never looked back. Siena tried to rally in the final minutes as they cut the lead to as little as five with just over four minutes to play, but the Griffs went on a 9-3 run that spanned just under two minutes as they took a 68-57 lead, and coasted from there.

The Griffs were paced by a great night from Malik Johnson, who finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists. As a team, the Griffs went 24-34 on shots from inside the three-point line, good for 70 percent.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say we need me to score, but we need me to be aggressive. We got a bunch of guys that can put the ball in the basket and with the way our offense is set up we share the ball well, everybody gets a chance to touch it,” Johnson said.

Three more Griffs finished in double figures. Jalanni White had 13, Majesty Brandon had 12 and Scott Hitchon finished with 10. Jalen Pickett led Siena with 21 points.

Sunday’s game featured a ton of offense, with the Griffs taking a 95-86 victory over the Broncs, their third straight.

That one was a great team effort from the Griffs, seeing 10 different players score, five of them in double figures.

Both teams came out fast and furious, with Canisius already owning a 15-13 lead by the first media timeout, just over four minutes into the contest. The pace kept going from there, with the Griffs going into halftime with a 52-42 lead, just the second time this season that they scored 50 or more points in any given half.

Jordan Henderson was the one who came to play early on, with 11 points in the first 3:29 of the game. He finished the day with 16 points.

“My teammates just put me in the right position and I got open shots, which made it easy for me,” Henderson said.

“I sent a text to Jordan, telling him ‘don’t wait, don’t defer to nobody, just play with confidence,’ and today it showed. We all know what he’s capable of,” Johnson added.

However, he did not lead the team in scoring on Sunday. That once again went to Johnson, who had 18, and Jacco Fritz had 17. The final two of the five who scored in double figures were Brandon with 12 and Armon Harried, who had 10, including a three in the closing seconds of the first half. The Griffs shot extremely well, shooting 60% from the field, including 9-20 from three. The 95 points as a team was a season-high, barely edging out its 94-64 win over Illinois-Chicago on November 26.

“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,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “You have to have a feel for those kinds of things. You have to value getting quality shots.”

These two wins were big for the Griffs, as they are now 3-4 in MAAC play after an 0-4 start, tying them for seventh in the league that is tight top to bottom. As of now, even though they are seventh, they are only 1.5 games out of first place. With every game being important, they will head to Iona and Fairfield this weekend looking for two more wins.

Witherspoon said, “It makes it imperative that you stay locked in and don’t get too far ahead. You can’t pay too much attention to the standings, you just got to look at what’s in front of you and conquer it.”

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