If Canisius College’s first six games dropped hints of anything, it’s that the Golden Griffins need to develop a scorer to complement Billy Baron. That guy could very well be Jordan Heath.
With Heath leading the way with hot perimeter shooting and aggressive play inside and Baron running a solid floor game, the Golden Griffins beat the Saint Peter’s, 82-67, Friday night in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
Canisius (4-3, 1-0) pushed a game north of .500 thanks in large part to the 6-foot-10 Heath, who led the Griffs with a personal-high 28 points, going 11 of 17 from the floor and 4 of 6 from beyond the three-point line against the Peacocks (2-5, 0-1).
It was only the third time this season that Heath has finished in double figures, something that has to change if Canisius is going to be successful.
“All week coach kept telling to post up and he told me they were going to give me the ball,” said Heath, who added 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks. “Billy is always looking for me to pick and pop so he was able to do that and I was able to knock down some shots.”
Canisius had nine days to prepare for the Peacocks and a lot of that time was spent finding ways to dump the ball inside to Heath and senior forward Chris Manhertz, who finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Heath had 12 points by halftime when the Griffs led, 37-30, while Manhertz had six in just six minutes before getting into foul trouble.
“We need this guy to step up like this,” said Baron referring to Heath. “We’re waiting for him and we need him to do that. I think it’s good for him, it’s a good confidence booster for him. Chris Manhertz played well in 19 minutes and it’s a good confidence booster for those guys who really need it.”
Coach Jim Baron moved Heath to center and the 6-foot-7 Manhertz to power forward with the mandate that Heath play with a sense of urgency inside or, basically, play like the punishing Manhertz.
“I told him you have to be a man child, you have to post them up like a man child,” said Jim Baron, whose team scored 38 points in the paint. “You have to dunk it. You have to try and dunk it. He’s taken that to force and that’s going to be important for us and for this team to have that kind of presence.”
Billy Baron had a shooting night he’d rather forget, draining just three field goals on 13 attempts, which included an arctic 1 of 6 from long distance for nine points. But Baron spent the early part of the game probing the defense while trying to get others involved and finished with seven assists and no turnovers in 36 minutes.
“I have to be more aggressive, I really do,” he said. “I try and force it a little more in the second half just bringing the ball up, getting in plays a little faster, maximizing possession we have in the half and I forget to do that at times.”
Zach Lewis, who played for the first time in three games because of a thigh contusion, scored nine points off the bench for Canisius. Saint Peter’s was led by Marvin Dominique’s 25 points and 10 rebounds, while reserve Vic Adams added 13 points.
Canisius hosts Siena, which defeated Niagara on Friday, 84-71, at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Koessler Center.
Canisius played without sophomore center Kevin Bleeker, who suffered a sprained right ankle during practice this week. The 6-foot-10, 225-pounder from the Netherlands has appeared in five games this season, all off the bench.