Men’s basketball returns from pause, sweeps Quinnipiac

Jacco Fritz scored 18 points on Friday and 13 on Saturday as the Griffs swept Quinnipiac. (Canisius Athletics/GoGriffs)

A 41-day layoff between games was no problem for the Griffs.

After not playing since January 2 due to COVID-19 problems, Canisius men’s basketball went on the road and scored a pair of wins against Quinnipiac on Friday and Saturday afternoons in Hamden, Conn., 74-67 on Friday and 89-70 on Saturday to extend the winning streak to four games.

The Griffs came out very slow in game one, finding themselves down 16-2 just 10 minutes into the game and trailing by as many as 15 late in the first half. They found themselves down by 13 at the break after shooting just 6-39.

However, they came out with a vengeance in the second half, cutting the lead to 10 less than 20 seconds into the second stanza and chipping away for nearly the entirety of the second half, taking a 63-62 lead with 3:44 to play on a three from Ahamadou Fofana. It was the first of two big shots from the junior as he scored the game-winner two minutes later after the Bobcats had tied the game up at 64.

Quinnipiac made things interesting as Tyrese Williams hit a three with 35 seconds left, but a Fofana free throw after that put the game away for the Griffs.

Fofana had 16 points, the second-highest total on the season for him and was one of three Griffs in double figures. Jacco Fritz had 18 points to lead the way on 10 made free throws. Malek Green had 11 points off the bench.

“We talked before the game and then again at halftime about staying calm and playing hard. We knew we were going to have to deal with some rough patches in the game. You can’t work through those in practice, you can’t work through those when you’re sitting out,” head coach Reggie Witherspoon said Friday. “You can control your focus. Our guys were able to do that throughout the game and that left us in a position to be able to strike back.”

Saturday’s game was much cleaner and resulted in a 19-point win.

The game stayed close for the first 10 minutes with the Bobcats holding a 21-20 lead, but a sequence of a three from George Maslennikov, a block from Majesty Brandon followed up by a Maslennikov dunk served as a major momentum-shifter that gave the Griffs a 25-21 lead. This allowed them to pull away for the remainder of the first half, leading 43-33 at the break.

In contrast to Friday’s first half, the Griffs shot 17-31 in the first half on Saturday, good for 54.8% and shot 6-13 from behind the three-point line. The defense came up big in the first, holding Quinnipiac to just 36.8% from the field, 14-38.

In the second half the Griffs did more of the same, not letting the Bobcats get closer than eight and leading by as many as 23 in the late stages of the game.

Brandon had 17 points to lead the Griffs and shot 7-12 on the afternoon. Fritz and Jordan Henderson had 13 points each and Henderson tacked on eight rebounds. The only Bobcat in double figures was Savion Lewis, who had 15.

The depth of the Griffs has helped them in these two-game series as they played 11 players on Friday and 12 on Saturday. In part due to this depth, they are one of four teams in the MAAC to have multiple series sweeps this season along with Monmouth, Siena and Saint Peter’s.

“Both of these games this weekend saw us get great contributions from everyone. The guys who came off the bench made impactful plays and kept us flowing. That’s a tremendous energy boost for everyone,” Witherspoon said.

Saturday’s 19-point win was the largest margin of victory for the Griffs since November 26, 2019, a 94-64 win against UIC. The sweep improves them to 5-3 on the season heading into a Friday-Saturday doubleheader on the road against Fairfield next weekend.

“I am just so proud of the effort these guys put in, not just this weekend but all year. They are representing Canisius College and our basketball program the right way,” Witherspoon said. “These guys are working together as a team and playing with a ‘for each other’ mentality and it is extremely commendable.”

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