Canisius stays undefeated, bests undermanned Bulls
Inexperienced UB squad falls to 1-5
This year's Canisius team is not the same squad that lost 95-59 in Alumni Arena last year, and UB is certainly not the team that won that game.
The Bulls started last season 4-1 and did not suffer their fifth loss until Jan. 11. As of Nov. 20, 2012, the young squad is 1-5.
The power shift in Western New York men's basketball was on display Tuesday night as Canisius (3-0) defeated Buffalo (1-5), 71-64, in the Koessler Athletic Center. The Bulls hung around and trailed by just two at halftime, but the Golden Griffins controlled the pace from start to finish and clinched the victory with clutch free throw shooting. UB had won seven of the past eight matchups between the two schools.
"Just because it's a rivalry, it feels good to get that win," said Canisius senior guard Harold Washington, who scored 10 points in last year's matchup and 12 this year. "But right now, at this point in our season, we just want to get wins ... it's not much of a personal thing.
"We talked about it amongst each other briefly, but it was nothing like: 'these guys killed us last year; we've got to come out [and beat them].'"
The Bulls outrebounded Canisius, 39-25, but turned the ball over 24 times to Canisius' seven. The Golden Griffins scored 27 points off turnovers.
"It's painful for us to go through these experiences, but we have to go through them in order to get our guys growth and development," said UB head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "The positive is that we're getting guys on the floor and getting guys minutes ... the negative, obviously, is you don't want to do this shorthanded."
The Bulls had to play without their third- and fifth-leading scorers, as senior guard Tony Watson (right ankle) and sophomore forward Xavier Ford (concussion symptoms), respectively, were both sidelined with injuries. As a result, each of the team's five starters played over 30 minutes. Witherspoon had to dig deep into his bench and insert players who rarely see action, such as freshman forward Andre McPhail and senior guard Richie Sebuharara.
"I do not remember playing five guys 75 percent of the minutes at any level," Witherspoon said. "I don't remember doing it at JV high school basketball, not high school basketball, not junior college, not here. None."
Canisius received balanced scoring from across its starting lineup, as all five players scored in double figures.
"You're going to have games where you don't hit shots, and today was a perfect example," said Canisius head coach Jim Baron, whose team made just 26 of its 65 shots while Buffalo made 24 of 46. "We defended, we rebounded in the second half and we made our free throws down the stretch. We've got to find different ways to win."
Baron took over for Tom Parotta as Canisius' coach this year after he was fired from Rhode Island at the end of last season.
As per usual, junior forward Javon McCrea led the Bulls in scoring with 22.
"He's a strong kid, but I used my athleticism and [forward Chris Manhertz] was huge, battling with him," said Canisius center Jordan Heath. "We got a couple charges. Coach has been telling us all week to take charges on him because he'll try to bull you over."
Baron said he planned on rotating big men to tire McCrea, and he believed his strategy worked.
"I thought we really wore him down," Baron said. "He's a very good player, but our guys wore him down."
Sophomore center Will Regan had the best game of his career, and he finished with 15 points and six rebounds.
Three of Canisius' starters are transfers who did not play for the Griffs last season. Junior guard Billy Baron - who transferred from Rhode Island to play for his father - led the way with 18 points. Heath (an NAIA transfer) scored 14, Manhertz had 11 and guard Isaac Sosa (a Central Florida transfer) added 10.
Buffalo has struggled mightily early this year, including losses in last week's Coaches vs. Cancer Classic to Western Illinois (3-2) and Yale (1-4). McCrea is the only player on the team averaging double figures.
"We've been here three years - my class and the upperclassmen - so we know the reads and stuff like that," said junior guard Jarod Oldham. "We've got to get ourselves comfortable in the game and that will limit some of our turnovers and get our chemistry better. I mean, we know each other."
In addition to Tuesday night's victory, Canisius has wins over Boston University (0-3) and Big Four rival St. Bonaventure (2-1). While Buffalo has only played one of its six games at home, the Golden Griffins have not yet played on the road. Their first chance will come Saturday at Stony Brook at 2 p.m.
The Bulls will look to get back in the win column that same day at home against Division II Mansfield University (1-0) at 7 p.m. Last year, the Mountaineers earned a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East co-championship and finished 19-8.
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