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Canisius to battle Youngstown State in CIT’s Sweet 16

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Here’s a sentence we haven’t heard in over a decade: Canisius men’s basketball is one victory away from a 20-win season.

Jim Baron’s Griffs (19-13) take to the road for a second-round CIT contest against the Youngstown State Penguins (18-15) at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Beeghly Center—just two hours and 57 minutes away from downtown Buffalo for you rapid Griff fans.

Canisius easily dispatched Elon in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, 69-53, behind 19 points from senior Harold Washington. A 16-2 Canisius run from the final minutes of the first half to 4:05 into the second frame doomed the Phoenix in their first postseason appearance in the program’s Division I history. YSU outscored Oakland in a shootout 99-87 behind a school-record 18 three-pointers.

Considering how far into the basketball calendar we are, Canisius is in remarkably good health. Chris Manhertz is the lone Griff who’s noticeably hobbled, as he’s playing through a lower body injury that’s bothered him from before the MAAC Tournament.

Brothers Jordan and Josiah Heath have picked up the slack for the ailing Manhertz, however, as Jordan’s five blocks and Josiah’s energy off the bench—as well as a rare fast-break dunk—injected energy into the Griffs throughout Wednesday’s win.

If the Penguins ring a Big 4 bell for you, it’s because the UB Bulls knocked off Youngstown State 80-72 in Dec. 2011 behind Javon McCrea’s 29 points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes.

The Pens are a year older now, and despite finishing fifth in the Horizon League at 7-9, they should pose quite a challenge for Canisius—especially in the backcourt.

While the Griffins boast Buffalo.com’s All-Big 4 Player of the Year in Billy Baron and red-hot Washington, YSU trots out junior star Kendrick Perry, who posted averages of 17 points, five rebounds and four assists, earning first-team Horizon League honors and a selection to Horizon’s All-Defensive Team.

6’7 senior springboard Damian Eargle (12 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.3 blocks per game) holds the franchise record for career rejections with 293, and he was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year—he’ll have Canisius’ guards thinking twice before they penetrate into the paint.

Perry and senior guard Blake Allen (pictured, left) combined for 58 points on 18-for-33 shooting, including 13-for-23 from beyond the three-point arc, in the first-round win over Oakland. Eargle added

The best point of comparison to understand how Canisius stacks up with Youngstown State is viewing Detroit as a common opponent. The Griffs lost to the Titans 83-78 in a non-conference road nailbiter, while the Penguins were shellacked by the McCallums 101-60 and 88-77 in two Horizon meetings.

Canisius may be the better team overall—the Griffs did upset NCAA Tournament No. 9-seed Temple in the non-conference schedule—but Youngstown State is the hotter team at the moment and will host. Expect the margin of victory to be fewer than five points.

If Jim Baron’s team wins, a representative from the Canisius athletic department noted that the Griffs would do their best to host a third-round CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament game.

(Top two photos courtesy of Robin David Brown from the UB vs. Canisius game early in the year— see the full gallery here).

TAGGED: billy baron, canisius griffins, chris manhertz, cit, collegeinsider.com, damian eargle, harold washington, jim baron, kendrick perry, youngstown state penguins

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