With only Notre Dame left on the Canisius non-conference schedule before Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play resumes in January, Saturday’s game against one-win Lamar was essentially the final tune-up before things start getting much more difficult.
Golden Griffins coach Jim Baron was pleased with the end result – an 87-74 victory in which five players scored in double digits – but dissatisfied with other aspects of the game his team has yet to iron out, namely rebounding.
“That’s the first thing I said [to the team] after the game – I’m happy for the win, but I’m disappointed for the situation like that because it’s going to haunt us if we don’t take care of it,” Baron said.
“There’s no secret weapon. You have to work on it. You have to be more conscious and you have to be more focused. We’re going to have to do that.”
The Griffs (8-4) were outrebounded 36-32, marking the eighth time this season an opponent has collected more rebounds. And Saturday that came at the hands of Lamar, which entered the game averaging only 31.2 rebounds per game, tied for 328th in the country.
“It’s everything,” Baron said. “Positioning, concentration. We outrebounded Holy Cross” last Monday. “I thought that was one of the big determining factors of the game.”
Baron was right in that regard, as the Griffs are 4-0 when they outrebound the opponent. Saturday, they had enough scoring to go around.
Jordan Heath and Billy Baron scored 16 points each, Chris Perez had 14, Chris Manhertz had 10 and Zach Lewis scored 10 off the bench as the Griffs shot 46.8 percent from the floor. They’re now 7-1 when shooting at least 40 percent. Canisius last had five players score in double digits on March 20 when it beat Elon in the CIT tournament.
Lamar hung around for most of the first half until Heath scored seven straight points to spark a 12-0 run that put Canisius ahead 47-32 at halftime. The Griffs were ahead comfortably most of the second half and pushed their lead to as many as 21 points. Lamar cut the deficit to nine in the final minute and shot 49.1 percent in the game but fell to 1-10.
Lamar’s only victory of the season is against Savannah State, which hasn’t beaten a Division I team yet.
Heath had one of his most efficient days on offense, hitting 7-of-9 field goals and making the only three-pointer he attempted. Baron had seven assists and the team had 20 on 29 field goals.
Manhertz matched a season-high with nine rebounds while Baron, who led the team in rebounding each of the last two games, was tied for second with six boards. Phil Valenti had six rebounds in 14 minutes.
As much as coach Baron stressed the issue, the players were more nonchalant about rebounding in their postgame media session. They understand the need to improve but didn’t appear to be stressing.
“Not to say we’re not worried,” Manhertz added. “We obviously need to do a better job as bigs – and guards, as well – to rebound the ball. We’ll get better.”
Forward Kevin Bleeker participated in warmups but missed his sixth straight game as he recovers from an ankle injury.
“He’s cleared to play. He’s still injured,” Baron said. “He’s still not 100 percent. Maybe he’s 80 percent, 85 percent. I’m not taking that chance until he’s close to 100 percent.”