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Tsuj’s Ten: Griffs plod to Baron’s 400th win

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Of Jim Baron’s 400 wins, I’m sure most were prettier than Thursday’s 64-60 win over Manhattan to set the milestone. The Buffalo News’ Bob DiCesare wrote at length about Baron’s reaction to the win, including several sentimental quotes from Baron focusing on his sons Billy and Jimmy and the selflessness of his wife along the way.

According to Canisius’ sports information department, Baron becomes the fifth coach with Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference ties to win 400 games, and he’s the second coach in Canisius history—legend John Beilein is the other—to record 400 or more victories.

Baron’s milestone speaks to both longevity and success, and I’m sure Canisius hopes that Baron surpasses 500 in his time with the Griffs. He’s 400-376 in his 25 years of coaching. Congratulations, Jim Baron.

1) Ike from deep: Sweet-shooting Isaac Sosa connected on five more three-pointers in the landmark win, pacing Canisius with 25 points and two crucial, game-sealing free throws with eight seconds left and Canisius nursing a two-point advantage. Sixteen of his points—including four treys—came in the second stanza, and several were big shots that kept the Jaspers at arm’s length.

For instance, Sosa’s second-half threes pushed Canisius lead from eight to 11 (16:09), six to nine (14:09), from seven to 10 (5:30) and eight to 11 (4:51). Without the senior’s long-distance accuracy, there’s a good chance the Griffs would have teetered even closer to blowing their double-digit lead late.

2) Shooter!: Sosa’s output is even more impressive considering the increased attention he’s drawn defensively, as a slew of Manhattan guards were glued to him throughout the game.

“[Opponents are] getting a lot better defensively, especially on the help side,” Sosa explained, “so if the ball’s on the opposite side, my man’s not helping—he’s hugging me. That’s why it’s crucial that our big men come to play—if they show a presence down [low], then [opponents] have to guard them, and that opens up shooters.”

Due to Alshwan Hymes’ suspension—even though it was officially lifted, he still didn’t enter the game—and Jim Baron’s reluctance to play Reggie Groves down the stretch, Sosa logged a season-high 38 minutes and served as the go-to player down the stretch. It feels like an eternity since the Central Florida transfer mustered only 33 combined minutes in the first two conference wins over Fairfield and Marist.

“I thought [Sosa] made some tough shots—he had one open one that I wasn’t happy with—but obviously you know Sosa, Baron and Washington are terrific behind the arc,” Masiello noted. “You have to know where they are at all times—they made big plays and we understood the value of their perimeter.”

3) Breakdown Billy: Vivacious second-year Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello made it clear that his game-plan was to slow down Billy Baron and force other Griffs to beat the Jaspers. Through a swarming, often full-court press and an extended top of the 2-3 zone, Manhattan flustered Baron into a season-high seven turnovers and only 10 points, the fewest the junior guard’s scored in conference play this season.

“We tried to do the best we could—I thought we did a good job on Billy—he’s a terrific player—but we turned him over a lot, seven times,” Masiello said post-game. “We didn’t want him to beat us, and we thought if we didn’t let him beat us, we’d have a chance to win the game, and we had a chance to win the game.”

4) Where’s George?: Manhattan’s two-time All-MAAC guard George Beamon was deemed out for the season earlier this week due to a severe ankle sprain, and he’ll apply for a medical red-shirt to see if he’ll be granted a fifth-year of eligibility. Floor general Michael Alvarado (18 points in 31 minutes) returned to the lineup after missing three games with an ankle injury, partially offsetting Beamon’s absence, but Manhattan had no go-to scorer—the Jaspers mustered only two points in 12:34 between the end of the first half and partly into the second.

“I think anytime you lose arguably the player of the year, first team All-MAAC, I think you’re going to struggle with your identity because [Beamon’s] so much a part of what we do,” Masiello explained. “You see the difference in us with Mike Alvarado back in the lineup, even from an emotional and character standpoint. Subliminally they know, they have an all-league guard. They’re missing a big piece, they know that, but there’s no quit in them and understand that our best days are ahead of us.”

5) No respect for Canisius’ frontcourt: Of the MAAC coaches we’ve met with in press conferences, Masiello had the least respect for Canisius’ big men.

“When [Canisius] went inside, we didn’t think from a personnel standpoint that their four or fives (power forwards and centers) could beat us,” said Masiello, who won 21 games with the Jaspers in his first season at the helm. “We thought in single coverage we’d play them straight up—we hadn’t seen them go off—no disrespect to them.”

Jordan Heath had a solid game for Canisius—nine points and eight boards in 26 minutes—but he still lacks any type of low-post game. He’s more comfortable patrolling the perimeter and leaking out for jumpers. Foul trouble plagued both Chris Manhertz (five points, four rebounds) and Freddy Asprilla (14 minutes), and Manhattan’s junior center Rhamel Brown was deceptively quick and very active in the post at both ends.

6) Niagara creams Siena: Joe Mihalich’s Purple Eagles shot 54% from the field and boasted five players in double-figures as Niagara stomped Siena 87-64. A team more than eager to shoot the three, Niagara was a remarkable 12-24 from beyond the arc. Juan’ya Green hit 4-of-6 from deep, while Antoine Mason, Ameen Tanksley, T.J. Cline and Marvin Jordan all sank two apiece. Browse through Niagara Gazette reporter Jonah Bronstein’s write-up of NU’s win. Embedded below is a highlight-reel, behind-the-back assist from Juan’ya Green to Antoine Mason on a fast-break:

7) Alone at the top: Don’t look now—actually, it’s fine, look down a little bit—Niagara sits alone at the top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings. The Purple Eagles host Manhattan at 3 p.m. Saturday, a bit of a “trap game” for Juan’ya Green and co. Masiello’s Jaspers are deep, athletic and show a variety of pressure defenses—2-3 zone, match-up zone and man-to-man—that could fluster the Purple Eagles’ guards. Like Canisius, Niagara doesn’t have a post presence, and burly, scrappy Rhamel Brown may be a better interior player than NU’s Devon White.

If the Purple Eagles shoot > 50% from the floor again, they’ll win easily—the Jaspers simply don’t have the firepower to keep up. If Niagara struggles early, this one could come down to the wire.

8) UB rumbles with Falcons Saturday: The Buffalo Bulls are the lone MAC team without a conference victory. At 0-3, the Bulls are starting to reach desperation mode, the point of the year where slim hopes for post-season play morph into the realization of a rebuilding season. Fortunately for Reggie Witherspoon’s club, Bowling Green is in a similar tailspin, losing six of its last seven—and the lone win was a 46-44 slop-fest over Eastern Michigan (i.e. BG point guard Jordon Crawford had nine turnovers in the win).

9) Scouting the Falcons:  It hasn’t been a memorable season for Bowling Green (6-10 overall, 1-2 in MAC), as head coach Louis Orr was the victim of an October hate crime. Senior forward A’uston Calhoun is Orr’s best player—he averages 16 points per game and shoots a respectable 46% from the floor—and Calhoun is essentially a poor man’s version of Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas.

We’ll see if Javon McCrea matches up exclusively on the 6’7, 234-pound Calhoun, who was exceptional—23 points, five boards—in Bowling Green’s season-ending loss to UB last year. See Ben K.‘s live-blog from that game.

10) Griffin revenge against Siena: Eight days after a shocking 57-54 loss to lowly Siena—which snapped the Saints’ 11-game losing skid—the Canisius Griffins have a chance to avenge the low-point of their season at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Koessler Athletic Center.

Saturday’s game wraps up a span of four games in nine days for Mitch Buongaro’s Saints, who defeated Canisius and St. Peter’s before losing badly to Niagara. As Jim Baron is well aware, Siena is dangerous due to interior force O.D. Anosike—still tied for the nation’s lead in rebounding at 11.8 per game—and streaky guards Evan Hymes and Rakeem Brookins, who alternated sinking daggers into the Griffs during the first meeting.

(Photos from last night’s Canisius vs. Manhattan game courtesy of Cody Osborne—see full gallery. Photo of George Beamon and Steve Masiello courtesy of New York Daily News’ Norman Y. Lono, and photo of Javon McCrea against Bowling Green courtesy of Dave Marino from 2011.)

TAGGED: a'uston calhoun, bowling green, canisius griffins, george beamon, isaac sosa, jim baron, maac basketball, manhattan jaspers, steve masiello

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