No need to go to the tape to see what the problem was for Canisius Thursday night. The coaches needn’t bother scouring the replay for clues as to what went wrong. The simple truth is that Quinnipiac is the top rebounding team in the nation. Not in the MAAC. Not in the Northeast. In the nation. Unless your team has a hot shooting hand, good luck.
The Bobcats pulverized the Griffs on the glass from start to finish and scored an 88-81 victory good for a split of the season series. Unlike the first meeting, when the Griffs shot 51 percent from the field and broke even on the glass, this time they struggled with their shooting until the late going and paid the full price as a result. Quinnipiac, which has been outrebounded once in the last 57 games, owned the glass 49-27, with 16 of those at the offensive end. Its first-half advantage: 30-13.
“One of the reasons we were able to beat them the first time is we were even-up rebounding,” said Canisius coach Jim Baron. “But when they play the first half and outrebound us double our rebounds, that’s the true tale. A lot of that is effort to be honest with you. And we knew that coming in.”
“We knew coming into this game that we had to rebound to win,” said Bobcats guard Zaid Hearst. “And that’s what we did.”
Canisius trailed by 19 with 8:15 remaining and launched a blistering rally to get within four with inside a minute left. Billy Baron was a one-man show during the blitz, scoring 11 straight Canisius points in one 44-second stretch. He finished with a game-high 31. Quinnipiac regained control and put the game away at the foul line, where it was 31 of 36.
The defeat was Canisius’s third straight on its home floor, with all of them coming to what are now the top three teams in the MAAC – Iona, Manhattan and the Bobcats. The Griffs (18-10, 12-5) are 2ø games out of first and a game out of second with three left – home to Fairfield on Saturday afternoon and then the last two on the road at Rider and Manhattan. The Bobcats improved to 19-7, 13-4 and have the MACC’s most favorable schedule down the stretch.
Guard Umar Shannon had a team-high 24 points for the Q, atoning for a 3-for-15 shooting effort in the first meeting between the teams. He was 4 of 6 from behind the arc.
“I kind of took it upon myself to come out and be aggressive from the start,” Shannon said. “Last game I wasn’t that aggressive and I hurt my team and we took a tough loss back at home. When we got here I just took it upon myself to be aggressive from the start.”
Hearst added 21 points, was near-flawless at the foul line (17 of 18) and did a solid job containing Baron until a late explosion that came when Canisius basically cleared the floor and told him to go.
In the first meeting, an 86-74 Canisius victory on Jan. 30, the Bobcats struggled with their perimeter shooting, enabling the Griffs to get out in transition and find balance in their offense. It was a different story in the rematch. Baron and Chris Manhertz (14 points) combined to go 19 of 36 from the floor. The rest of the team was a combined 14 of 39.
Manhertz, playing his first game since breaking his nose Feb. 7, held up well against the Bobcats’ physical front line and produced a team-high seven rebounds. Jordan Heath, the Griffs’ 6-foot-10 senior center, didn’t fair as well. He had five points and two rebounds while playing just 18 minutes because of foul trouble. Meanwhile, Quinnipiac’s 6-9 Ousmane Drame went for 14 points and 13 boards.
Billy Baron hopes that for all the Griffs the experience was a lesson learned as the MAAC Tournament approaches.
“We got to bounce back against Fairfield and then we got two games left,” Baron said. “Hopefully we’ll look back on this game like, ‘That’s what we got to play like. We got to play like Quinnipiac just played.’ ”