SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jim Baron’s face was bright red in the minutes after the final buzzer, equal parts upset, disappointed and downright angry.
Two seats down from the Canisius coach, guard Chris Perez found the strength to hold back tears while Billy Baron just clenched his jaw.
An overall state of dejection seemed to set in following Canisius’ 87-81 overtime loss on Sunday at Notre Dame, where laying claim to one of the Griffs’ biggest wins in the last two decades was within reach.
Billy Baron was the star of the game, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot as 8,400 fans at Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion roared louder and louder. He matched a career-high 33 points but spent most of the time thinking about a play at the end of regulation.
Baron tried to grab a loose ball under the Canisius basket with 28 seconds remaining and the score tied at 73. He yelled for a timeout as his momentum took him out of bounds, but after the referees huddled, they ruled possession went back to Notre Dame. They also reset the shot clock, when only one second showed on the board.
Jim Baron said he asked the officials to go to the monitor for a replay, but had no such luck.
He didn’t hold back when asked about the play.
“I want to see that last play. We called timeout” and the officials said Notre Dame got the ball, “and I’m like, what are you talking about, we called timeout, we got possession. The explanation was we didn’t have possession,” Jim Baron said.
“I was just real disappointed because I think you go to the monitor. I said go to the monitor and look at it just to see what it is. It cost the game.”
“That was a pivotal part,” Baron continued. “We did a great job on defense, we didn’t foul them, the ball went out of bounds. I just want to see it.”
Billy Baron declined comment.
“I’ll bite my tongue on this, but I think my father did a good job of explaining that,” he said.
Still, the Griffs had their chances to win the game in overtime, where they were outscored, 14-8. The game was tied, 77-77, with under three minutes to go before five straight points from 6-foot-11 center Garrick Sherman gave Notre Dame some separation.
Two free throws from Baron cut it to 82-81 in the last minute, but a three-pointer from Eric Atkins put the dagger into the Griffs, making it a two-possession game with 13 seconds remaining.
Canisius (8-5) was also hurt by the loss of Chris Manhertz, who fouled out with 4:12 left in overtime. He battled through cramps for 12 points and a season-high 11 rebounds. Jordan Heath also posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Atkins was superb for Notre Dame, finishing with 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 6 of 8 from behind the arc. Hitting the shot to seal the victory was the perfect cap to Atkins’ emotional week, which saw Jerian Grant – Notre Dame’s best player and Atkins’ roommate – dismissed from the school due to an academic violation.
Grant had led the team in scoring (19.0 points per game), assists (6.2) and steals (2.0).
Jim Baron is now 2-2 all-time against Notre Dame, with all previous games coming while he was coaching St. Bonaventure. A win would have been Canisius’ first over Notre Dame since 1961 and their first ever on the road.
The Irish (9-5) have won 125 of their last 136 home games.