The CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament has an interesting way of selecting matchups – something along the lines of eeny, meenie, miney, mo – but the powers that be obviously considered a few factors when pairing Canisius College against Youngstown State.
The teams are mirror images of each other, so expect a frenzied pace filled with fast breaks, three-point shooting and little defense – elements for an evenly-matched contest – when the Golden Griffins hit the road for a second-round game against the Penguins at 7 tonight at the Beeghly Center.
If Canisius (19-13) can pull off its second victory in the tournament, it could host another game in the Koessler Center tentatively scheduled for early next week. A victory would also give Canisius a 20-win season and a 15-win improvement from last season when it won just five games.
“This is phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal,” Canisius coach Jim Baron said. “I’m really proud of the kids, especially the upperclassmen because they’ve been through a lot. To be able to keep winning and playing is a great experience.”
But beating Youngstown State (18-15) will be a challenge. The Penguins won their first Division I postseason tournament game in school history after knocking off Oakland, 99-87, in the first round and set a school single-game record with 18 three-pointers.
As a team, the Penguins have shot 43.1 percent while hoisting 58 shots per game. Four starters average in double figures led by junior guard Kendrick Perry, a first-team All-Horizon League selection, at 17.0 points. Perry missed four games late in the season with a left knee injury but returned to score 31 points against Oakland.
Senior guard Blake Allen averages 12.0 points, senior forward Damian Eargle 11.7 and junior forward Kamren Belin 11.0.
Youngstown State averages nearly seven steals a game and just 11.6 turnovers, but opponents are averaging 68.8 points so don’t expect the Penguins to slow down a Canisius team that will also play at a rapid pace.
“It’s pretty much the same thing we’ve seen all year in the MAAC,” senior guard Harold Washington said. “They’re similar to Iona, they try and score a lot of points, they like to play in transition and they’re fast and athletic.”
And the Griffs aren’t exactly lockdown defenders while yielding 69.3 points per game. They did, nevertheless, play one of their better defensive games on the season in the 69-53, first-round win over Elon when they held the Phoenix to 29.4 percent. The Griffs’ 16-point win over Elon stands as the program’s largest margin of victory in a postseason game.
“We have to stick to our defensive principles,” Washington said. “Our defense was pretty good last game even though Elon got a few good, clean looks but we have to stay focused on our defense.”
Youngstown State finished fifth in the Horizon with a 7-9 record but went 1-3 without Perry in the lineup. Still, it fashioned signature wins over Georgia and eventual Horizon winner Valparaiso, and Youngstown State is now playing at a high level.
“There’s no doubt that the ball moved and found open guys. We’re able to play uptempo in our last game that we really haven’t been able to play in about four weeks,” Youngstown State coach Jerry Slocum said. “We’re going to need all of that against Canisius.”