- Aidan Joly
Griffs use momentum-shifters to beat Manhattan
After a slow start, the Griffs used big shots at the end of the first half and carried that momentum into the second half to grab a 77-70 win against Manhattan on Sunday afternoon at the Koessler Athletic Center.
After the Griffs trailed by as many as seven in the first half, they held a one-point, 29-28 lead with two and a half minutes left in the first half. At that point, it was Armon Harried who came up big for Canisius, hitting back-to-back corner threes to extend the lead to 35-28 and ended up leading 38-34 at the half.
Canisius then scored eight of the first 11 points of the second half, including five from Harried, to grab a nine-point lead. They led by as many as 12 throughout the afternoon, but those runs were the ones that shifted the momentum.
“I didn’t even know that. We were just playing and I got to a spot where I happened to be open. We practice this though, so it’s nothing new,” Harried said.
Harried finished the day with 17 points on 6-10 shooting, the second-most points by a Griff in the win. Nine of his points came from behind the three-point arc.
“I think it was good that we didn’t wait completely to the second half to do it, so we started off foggy and then we battled to get even and then we didn’t wait until the second half, we had a little run in the first half and then we had a little run in the second half,” head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “Our goal is to get to that point where there may be spurts and runs, but there’s sustained, high-quality play.”
Xzavier Long was a key difference-maker as well, scoring 16 points on 5-7 shooting and also went 6-9 from the free-throw line, where the Griffs were a much-improved 21-26 as a team. Long was also tasked with guarding Jose Perez, Manhattan’s leading scorer by a significant margin.
“It was definitely challenging. He’s an experienced player, I can definitely say that. But coach always tells me that more experienced guys will have an edge on you, so it’s just a mental game, really,” Long said.
Perez scored a game-leading 22 points, which is lower than his average points per game in MAAC games this year, which coming in was 25. Jordan Henderson led the Griffs with 19 points on the day.
The Griffs also rebounded well, grabbing 16 offensive boards and winning the overall battle 36-27.
The physicality of the game boiled over after the final buzzer, where the teams got into an altercation in the tunnel following the handshake line. Perez and Ant Nelson were the catalysts for Manhattan, while Malek Green and Scott Hitchon both had to be held back by the rest of the Griffs team. It was a physical game, which featured 49 fouls, including a pair of technical fouls committed by Harried and Nelson in a small scuffle with under two minutes to play.
“When you’re playing that hard, sometimes the emotions get in there, it was nothing other than words,” Witherspoon said. “This game ended and the two teams were still ready to compete, so those things happen.”
Following the win, the Griffs improve to 4-9 in MAAC play and 8-16 ahead of facing Marist on Friday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.