As with all Canisius games, Sunday afternoon’s 78-65 victory over Marist consisted of two elements. First, there’s the Billy Baron factor, as in how thoroughly will the senior guard punish the opposition? In this one he tied his career high of 38, the most he’s ever scored in a regulation game.
The second element consists of the supporting cast. For while it sometimes seems like Baron can wins games by himself, the fundamental truth is that’s ludicrous. Others have to supplement the scoring, lead the way in rebounding, contribute to a defensive stop. And fellow seniors Chris Manhertz and Chris Perez were the two mainstays, combining for 27 points (14 by Perez) while Manhertz also grabbed nine rebounds as Canisius (14-7, 8-2) retained a share of first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Baron put on a first-half show reminiscent of the days of Calvin Murphy by scoring 25 points in most every way imaginable as the Griffs built a 14-point lead. At the time he seemed a shoo-in to break the record for most points scored by a Griff in the Koessler Athletic Center (39, Craig Prosser). But the threes didn’t fall as regularly after intermission and that’s where Perez and Manhertz made their impact. Perez scored all his 14 in the second half after sitting out most of the first with two fouls. Manhertz had six of his points and seven boards over the final 20 minutes and scored five straight points in a critical stretch off offensive rebounds.
“I just told Chris Perez, he had two cheap ones and I know how tough that is to sit on the bench for the last 16 minutes,” Billy Baron said. “He came in in the second half and he was huge. He got everything he wanted, we posted him up, he was taking guys. When he’s doing that he’s a complete mismatch problem in this league because of his size and strength.”
Manhertz “is another matchup problem because he’s just a beast down low. He was creating space. That kid had about 5 inches on him but it didn’t matter. He was just a bully down there. That’s what we need from him.”
The first half belonged to Baron and it’s a good thing, too, because Marist’s press and defensive strategies had the Griffs horribly out of sync. Their first eight points came from Baron and it wasn’t until 10:47 remained that another Griff (Zach Lewis on a free throw) made the scoring column.
Canisius trailed, 20-17, before Baron scored 15 of the Griffs’ final 21 points in the half, a blitz that included a late 27-foot three that left 6-foot-5 guard Chavaughn Lewis exasperated.
“He’s a great player,” Lewis said. “With a guy shooting the ball that well, trying to defend him on pick-and-rolls is difficult. He came off pick-and-rolls, he made big shots, he shot some deep ones and he got going. And once he gets going and once a shooter like him gets going it’s really difficult to contain him.”
“We tried to play a number of people and different schemes honestly,” Marist coach Jeff Bower said. “Sometimes it was effective, other times it wasn’t. Fouling negates a lot of good things when you guard him and then foul and send him to the line, because that’s an automatic trip as well.”
Baron entered the game ranked fourth in the country at 23.5 points per game behind Niagara’s Antoine Mason (27.4), Creighton’s Doug McDermott (24.3) and Brigham Young’s Tyler Haws (23.6). Sunday’s 38 – his fifth game of 30 or more – put Baron back in third at 24.2.
Attendance was 1,742, about 400 fewer than attended Wednesday’s Niagara game.
Canisius coach Jim Baron can’t make sense of it. The Griffs are tied for first in the conference, unbeaten at home, have one of the most dynamic players in the country and can’t fill 2,200 seats?
“When he’s gone how many people are going to say, ‘Boy, I was at that game,’ when they weren’t?” Jim Baron said. “This game and the Rider game, they’re going to go, ‘I was at that game’ and I’ll say, ‘Where were you at? I didn’t see you at that game. I knew everybody who was in the gym today.’ ”