The Marist men’s basketball team defeated the Canisius Golden Griffins 71-70 at home on Saturday night.
The Red Foxes trailed by as much as ten points but were able to turn the game around in the second half. Marist is now on a two-game winning streak and improves to a 5-9 record in MAAC play on the year.
“I’m just really proud of them because it didn’t go our way in the first half offensively. Two or three weeks ago, we probably would have put our heads down but battled back tonight,” coach Dunne said.
For maybe the first time this season, Marist was forced to defend a two-big lineup. Throughout the first half, the Red Foxes struggled to defend the size of the Golden Griffins.
“He (Reggie Witherspoon) recruits that way. He recruits bigs that can pass at the top of the key. It is a simple ball screen motion that is not easy to guard,” coach Dunne said about the difficulty of defending the system Canisius runs.
To combat the bigger lineup of Canisius, head coach John Dunne employed a three-guard lineup. Ricardo Wright, Jao Ituka, and Noah Harris were all on the floor at the same time. This decision saw immediate success, as a made three-pointer from Harris in the left corner tied it at 25 with 4:16 left in the half.
Following the final media timeout of the first, both teams traded baskets. A layup from Wright made it a one-point game in favor of Canisius with just 18 seconds remaining.
The Golden Griffins had the final possession of the first half. With the game clock running down, 6-foot-10 forward Jacob Fritz lost control of the ball. The basketball ended up in the hands of Malek Green, who threw up a last-second heave to beat the buzzer. Marist went into halftime trailing 32-29.
Jordan Henderson led all scorers with 13 points at the break, including three makes from beyond the arc.
Canisius got off to an excellent start to begin the second half. The Golden Griffins earned their largest lead of the night at 41-31 after a layup from Armon Harried. Less than four minutes into the second half, the Red Foxes trailed by double digits.
Following a quick timeout from coach Dunne, Marist began to chip away at the deficit. At the U12 media timeout, the Red Foxes trailed by just four following a made layup from Rahiem Sullivan.
Marist finally regained the lead following a layup from Wright, making it a 55-53 game with just under eight minutes remaining. Over the next few minutes, the Red Foxes began to increase their advantage. With 4:17 left in the game, the home team earned their largest lead on the night on a layup in traffic from Ituka.
Canisius went on a 6-3 run over the next three minutes, cutting the deficit to three with under a minute remaining.
With 39 seconds remaining in the game, Henderson went to the line for two. The guard sunk both shots, making it a one-point game. On the ensuing possession, Wright missed a shot from inside the paint.
Canisius got the rebound, giving themselves a chance to steal a game on the road. Once again, the ball was placed in the hands of Henderson as his team looked for him to make a play.
The 6-foot-5 senior drove towards the right side of the basket but was forced to stop short by some excellent defense from Samkelo Cele. Henderson pulled up, but the shot was off the mark. The ball was loose for a few seconds before Ituka grabbed the rebound and dribbled the ball out.
Ituka had a dominant performance for the Red Foxes, scoring a game-high 22 points on nine-for-14 shooting, including 15 points in the second half. The 6-foot-1 guard also contributed with six rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes.
Harris was another key contributor against the Golden Griffins, adding 14 points on five-for-seven shooting from the field and four-for-five shooting from three in 28 minutes. The 6-foot-1 freshman has made 17 three-pointers over the last five contests.
“In the beginning of the season, I was playing timid and hesitant. Over the last few games, I’ve been starting to feel it in myself. I know what I can do on the court so it’s all about going out there and playing with confidence,” Harris said about his recent success on the floor.
Henderson was the notable player for the Golden Griffins against Marist. He had a team-high 19 points on seven-for-13 shooting from the field along with five rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes.
Ahamadou Fofana provided a major offensive threat for Canisius, especially in the second half. The 6-foot-1 senior scored 16 points on six-for-14 shooting from the field and three-for-five shooting from beyond the arc, including 14 points in the second half.
Marist returns to play on Feb. 14th at 7 p.m., when they face the Niagara Purple Eagles at McCann Arena. The Purple Eagles earned a 67-62 victory in the Hercules Tires MAAC Men’s Basketball Championship quarterfinals when these teams last faced off on Mar. 11, 2021.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Marist Athletics