By Adam Gorski, Sports Layout Editor
The Canisius men’s basketball team could not have asked for a better start to their 2021.
The Griffs kicked off the new year on the right foot, defeating Saint Peter’s 70-58 to end a three-game losing skid in a New Year’s Day matinee at the Koessler Athletic Center.
“I think this has got to be a sort of beginning for us,” Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “Hopefully it does build confidence from the standpoint that if we do what we’re supposed to do with the intensity that we need to bring, that we’ll have a chance.”
In the game itself, however, it was not the start Witherspoon and his side would have wanted, as cold shooting to begin the matchup resulted in them trailing 8-3 four minutes in.
After that though, it was all Griffs.
Canisius (2-3, 2-3) outscored the Peacocks (6-4, 3-2) 37-13 from then on, taking a 40-21 lead into halftime. The 21 points were the fewest allowed in a half by the Griffs this season, and they held Saint Peter’s to shooting just 32% from the field, including 0-for-6 from deep. It was a big turnaround from the Monmouth doubleheader earlier this week, where they were thrashed for 84 and 97 points, respectively.
“This is a year where it’s very difficult to look at scores and figure out teams,” Witherspoon said. “I think you just got to figure out a way to get to the next day with a better effort than you had the prior day.”
It was not all smooth sailing for Canisius however, as a sluggish start to the second half saw the Griffs go scoreless for the first six minutes of the game. A 13-0 Saint Peter’s run capped by a KC Ndefo (17 points) jumper cut their deficit to just six, 40-34, but that was as close as they would come. However, the fact that things even got that tight was concerning, and the slow starts to halves is something that has plagued Canisius this season.
“We have got to get ourselves accustomed to the intensity that is required to give yourself a chance,” Witherspoon said. “Being able to have that relaxed intensity … takes a while. That’s why it’s so difficult to look at teams under these circumstances, you don’t know how many practices and some of us have no non-conferences games, it just takes a while.”
One of the recurring themes of the game was the number of important contributors for Canisius, with multiple players having impact moments. In the early going, it was Jacco Fritz.
The Dutchman was the part of the ignition behind the Griffs’ first half run, tallying eight points and six rebounds in the first 20 minutes. The sophomore finished the night with a full stat sheet: 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists to go along with a steal and three blocks.
“We shared the ball, played for each other, and I just did my thing,” Fritz said. “I came out with a double-double, but tomorrow it might be somebody else.”
Alongside Fritz, Jalanni White tallied all nine of his points consecutively during a run towards the end of the first half, and Jordan Henderson (14 points) nailed a 3-pointer plus the foul as a part of that same run. Majesty Brandon (nine points) was critical down the stretch, making plays on both ends of the floor to close the game out.
Strong depth is going to be key if the Griffs intend to make noise in the MAAC.
“One day it’s one guy, one day it’s the other guy,” Fritz said. “We got a deep team. Everybody can give something to it in their own way. We just got to keep eachother up and make sure everybody does their thing.”
Canisius and Saint Peter’s will run it back tomorrow for their final regular season meeting, with tip-off set for 1 p.m. at the Koessler Athletic Center.