Men's basketball taking positives out of exhibition win
Siem Uijtendaal scored a team-high 18 points in the Griffs' win on Sunday. Canisius Athletics/GoGriffs
In its lone tune-up of the preseason before opening up the season in a few weeks, Canisius basketball made a Division II team look like a Division II team with a 101-64 win over Wheeling University on Sunday afternoon.
Overall, it was a game that the Griffs can take a lot of positives out of. Five players scored in double figures, led by sophomore Siem Uijtendaal, who had 18 points on 6-13 shooting and made four shots from behind the arc.
Uijtendaal, who had a limited role last year, seems to be poised to make a step up this year after averaging 2.8 points per game in just over 11 minutes per contest. On top of his scoring, he was a real presence on defense, making movement tough for the Wheeling Cardinals.
“He’s been playing well in practice. He’s been more assertive and we certainly envision that. We have confidence in him,” head coach Reggie Witherspoon said.
The scoring efficiency was important for the Griffs because that has been something that the program has lacked in recent years. On Sunday the team shot just under 56% from the field, including going 7-11 from three-point range. That included a 6-9 effort from Malek Green (12 points), 5-7 from Jordan Henderson (13 points), 5-7 from freshman Xzavier Long (11 points) and 6-8 from Akrum Ahemed (15 points).
The passing was something to be happy about as well. The Griffs recorded 25 assists on 38 field goals made. They did have some sloppy passes in the second half which is something that can surely be worked on, but overall, it was something that Witherspoon was pleased with.
“That’s what we envision, if we’re moving the ball well and shoot it better,” Witherspoon said.
For the team as a whole, it was good for them to get some actual playing time as they get closer to real gameplay. Last years’ experience of just 13 games, just under half the number of games in a normal season, it makes it more challenging on players sometimes.
“It shows sometimes that we only had 13 games last year. Some of our guys that are in their second year with us it’s really not their second year and that’s why this experience [of an exhibition game] is valuable. Even guys who are in their third year, it’s really their second year, so we needed it,” he said.
Ahemed is one of those players who is in his third year with the team but due to injuries and a limited schedule last year, has only played 18 career games. The team is hoping he is someone that finds his footing and plays a full year after an impressive performance on Sunday.
“He’s been playing well in practice, I think he’s a lot more assertive now,” Witherspoon said. “He’s growing.”
All in all, Sunday’s game went as well as the Griffs had hoped it would. There is still work to be done, but they can take a lot of good out of the win heading into a “Secret Scrimmage” on October 30 at UAlbany before the official season opener on November 9.
“We want to be able to identify some things to work on when you come out of this and we did,” Witherspoon said. “Now, we just got to keep getting better from it.”