Marist suffered their first loss of the season in Buffalo on Friday night as they fell 81-72 to Canisius. The Golden Griffins shot a strong 55.2 percent from the field in the win, a number they hadn’t eclipsed in 15 games dating back to last season.
“We’re disappointed in the loss and how we played in big moments,” said Marist head coach John Dunne. “But we also showed some flashes of what we can become as we continue to gain experience. We have a long way to go.”
MAAC play found itself underway for the first time since the abrupt conclusion of the conference’s tournament back in March. Four games took place tonight and symbolized the return of a basketball season that will be far from normal but has shown that rescheduling and time change will be what it takes to complete a season during the same circumstances that ended the previous one.
The Red Foxes entered off the back of a two-game sweep of thrilling wins over Binghamton last weekend as they were seeking their first 3-0 start to a season since 2002. This was Canisius’s season opener with zero non-conference games scheduled prior tonight’s opening of conference play.
The first half began as a back-and-forth affair that eventually stretched out to a ten-point Canisius lead. A small Marist run to end the first frame saw the Red Foxes climb back to a 36-30 deficit at the midway break. Jordan Henderson became the pulse of the Golden Griffin offense in the opening half with 12 points on a perfect five-for-five shooting.
The second half showed an uptick in tempo from both sides as the teams combined for 87 points in the final stanza but more of the same for Marist as they weren’t able to close the gap on a red hot Canisius team. A late run led by freshman guard Hakim Byrd brought the game within a three-point margin but wasn’t enough to mount a comeback as Reggie Witherspoon’s squad was able to hold Marist off for their first victory of the young season.
“They’re a really good offensive team,” said Dunne. “They have a system that they run well. When you look at the buckets down the stretch that they got, they hit some tough pull-ups that we were okay to give with. We gave them too many layups through the course of the game and we have to make them score more from the perimeter.”
The Red Foxes struggled to win the turnover battle as they gave the ball away 15 times while forcing just eight turnovers on the defensive side. Marist was able to shoot a solid 48.2 percent on their field goals and had a strong outing from Byrd as well as senior guard Michael Cubbage and junior guard Raheim Sullivan. Byrd led the way for Marist with an explosive 17 points on seven-for-12 shooting. Cubbage contributed with 15 points on five-for-11 from the floor and a season-high ten rebounds. Sullivan also added in 15 on a seven-for-13 shooting clip.
“Byrd was nervous in his first game at Binghamton,” said Dunne. “You can’t compete in today’s game without playmaking and that’s why he’s here. We would have lost that game by a bigger margin without playmakers. I thought he played well on the offensive end and he got into a rhythm there in a second half showing what he can be as a player.”
Canisius couldn’t miss from the field in their opening outing as a 55.2 field goal percentage from the field made up for their best shooting performance since a January 19 win over Rider a season ago. Junior forward and Morehead State transfer Malek Green caught fire as he notched a team-high 18 points on eight-for-13 from the field in his first win as a Golden Griffin. Henderson and Majesty Brandon chipped in 15 and 16, respectively.
“I don’t think we played well at all and it was a three-point game with a minute to go,” said Dunne. “I think we have a lot of room for improvement. Every game we get out there is a learning experience for our new guys. All of them have shown flashes of what they can do.”
The Red Foxes will remain in Buffalo this weekend and take on Canisius tomorrow night as the second leg of their back-to-back in MAAC play. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m.
Edited by Nicholas Stanziale