Men’s basketball gearing up for conference tournament
By: Aidan Joly, Editor-in-Chief
After trailing by 13 at the half, Canisius men’s basketball staged a second-half comeback and led to the Griffs grabbing their first road win of the season, taking down Quinnipiac 72–67 in Hamden, Conn. on Sunday.
The Griffs found themselves down 40–27 at the break after a lackluster first 20 minutes. After a Quinnipiac bucket that put them up 16 in the first few seconds of the second half, the Griffs scored 11 straight points to cut the deficit to five. Quinnipiac answered that with a 9–3 run of their own that lasted just over three minutes.
After that, Jordan Henderson came up big, scoring six points on a pair of three-pointers as the Griffs scored the next 10 points and eventually tied the game at 58. Henderson led the Griffs with a career-high 25 points in the afternoon, 17 of them coming in the second half.
Xzavier Long and Akrum Ahemed both hit key baskets down the stretch, including Ahemed’s late three that put the nail in the coffin as the Griffs earned their first road win of the season after losing their first 14 away from home.
“In the second half, we got into a rhythm and that just spread through us as a unit. We were much better on the offensive glass and Jordan Henderson really got us going,” head coach Reggie Witherspoon said.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Griffs and improved them to 5–13 in league play and 9–20 overall.
“I told the guys after the game, I’m really proud of their fight and determination today,” Witherspoon said. “These guys have been working together as a unit all season. Today, they worked as a group and pulled together. It was great to see.”
Following Thursday night’s game against Marist and a Saturday afternoon tilt against Siena, which will also serve as Senior Day, the Griffs will turn their attention to Atlantic City, N.J. for the conference tournament. Following Thursday, they have most likely locked themselves into the No. 11 seed, in which they will play on Tuesday night at approximately 10 p.m. against an opponent that the Griffs will not know until sometime on Saturday, when the regular season around the league finishes up.
The focus for the Griffs as the potentially lowest seed in the tournament is playing spoiler. They will be the lowest seed in the tournament for the first time since 2012, when the MAAC had 10 teams. However, the No. 11 seed last year, Rider, won its first-round game, beating Canisius when the Griffs were the No. 6 seed. In addition, the Griffs have not won an MAAC Tournament game since 2019, which was a run to the semifinals following a quarterfinal round win against Manhattan.
“Offensively, moving the basketball, getting into a rhythm and being able to sustain a quality of play by knocking down shots,” Witherspoon said of the team’s focuses. “We’ve had a chance in most of the games that we’ve played and some of those we haven’t shot well, so it would be good to see the ball go through the net.”
No matter what seed they end up with, the Griffs will have to win four games in a span of five days and have to knock off the top dogs of the conference like Iona, St. Peter’s and Siena. However, no team is dead until the final buzzer sounds, and the Griffs will go into Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City hoping for the program’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 1994.
“It starts before you get to the end of the year: development, day-to-day improvement, better than we were yesterday, better tomorrow than we are today,” Witherspoon said. “It culminates with March.”