Canisius now has back-to-back 20-wins seasons as senior guard Billy Baron poured in 29 points and 10 assists on Friday night as the Golden Griffins cruised to a 79-66 victory over Rider in Lawrenceville, N.J.
The Golden Griffins (20-10, 14-5 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) built a 36-21 halftime advantage and led by no less than nine in the final 20 minutes.
Baron was 5 of 7 from three-point range and Canisius was 10 of 21 overall. Senior Jordan Heath added 21 points, Zach Lewis scored 14 and Chris Perez 10.
Baron leads Canisius and ranks third in the nation with his 24.8 points per game scoring average. In the team’s last five games, he’s averaging 30.2 points, 6.2 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game. Baron ranks second nationally with his 718 points scored this season. In the NCAA stats release on Monday, Baron ranked in the top-20 in 12 different statistical categories.
The Griffs reached 20 wins for the eighth time in program history and for the first time in back-to-back seasons since 1994-95.
Canisius’ win Friday sets up a showdown at Manhattan that will have implications for seeding in next week’s MAAC Tournament. The Golden Griffins, Jaspers and Quinnipiac are in a three-way tie for second place in the MAAC standings at 14-5. Canisius and Manhattan play at 4:30 on Sunday while Quinnipiac plays at Marist the same day at 2:30.
Despite losing to Manhattan in overtime on Friday night, Iona has already clinched the regular season title and an automatic berth into the NIT.
Jimmie Taylor and Anthony Myles had 15 points apiece for Rider (13-15, 9-10) which trailed after the opening minutes. Tommy Pereira had 11 points and Zedric Sadler scored 10.
Elsewhere, Niagara University dropped its ninth consecutive game on Friday in a 75-50 loss at Monmouth.
The Purple Eagles fell to 6-24 overall and 3-16 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, a year after claiming the league’s regular-season title. Niagara is now in last place in the MAAC.
The Purple Eagles’ road woes continued, falling to 1-13 in away games this season. Niagara had season-lows in points (50), field goal percentage (31), assists (two) and rebounds (25), while the one three-pointer was the second fewest this season.
A Marvin Jordan three-pointer 2:23 into the first half gave Niagara its only lead of the game, 5-4. From there, Monmouth (11-19, 5-14 MAAC) scored eight straight points as the Hawks seized control of the game. Monmouth, which shot over 50 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-pointers, took a 41-25 lead into halftime. A scoring lull by Niagara in the opening minutes of the second half allowed Monmouth to build on its lead with a 13-2 run.
Monmouth opened up a 41-25 lead by halftime and didn’t let up in the second half. Junior Antoine Mason, the country’s second-leading scorer behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott, was the lone Purple Eagle in double figures with 15 points.
Niagara connected on just 13 of 42 field goals overall and a chilly 1 of 13 from long distance. They received only 11 points from their bench.
Mason finished in double figures for the 34th straight game and is now two points away from tying Tyrone Lewis for third on the school’s career scoring list. Marcus Ware, who played at Monmouth from 2009-13, led NU in rebounds with seven.
Andrew Nicholas led all scorers with 27 points while Deon Jones added 16 for the Hawks. Niagara closes out the regular season at St. Peter’s on Sunday.