Billy Baron entered tonight's game averaging 23.7 points per game, good for fifth in the country and second in the Metro Atlantic. Tonight's game was expected to be a big one because not only does Manhattan boast George Beamon, who is right behind Baron on the scoring list with 18.5 ppg, but the two would likely spend the night guarding each other.
Canisius was looking to extend their win streak to seven games and get a one game lead on Iona pending the result of the Gaels game against Niagara tonight. The Jaspers, on the other hand, were merely looking to win consecutive games for the first time in almost a month after dropping three of their last five.
Manhattan got off to a hot start early, as several easy baskets paced them to a 13-1 run to open the game. This was made even more impressive by the fact that none of that production came from Beamon. No, that came later in the half, as Beamon's 15 first half points helped the Jaspers push the lead as high as 16 before settling for an Ashton Pankey layup right before the half to give them a 47-35 lead.
Baron posted 15 points of his own in the first half, including several timely threes, but he also turned the ball over three times (for half of the Golden Griffins' turnovers). That was about as good as it would get for Baron, though. In the second half, Baron made a couple of baskets early on to run his point total to 19, but he would finish the night with 22 points and not another made field goal.
That was a bit of a microcosm of the whole game for Canisius, as they put together several runs but couldn't consistently get quality looks on offense in order to make the game truly in doubt as the second half progressed.
Beamon, on the other hand, would open the half with a pair of 3-pointers and close it with a couple trips to the free throw line to wrap up a tidy 27 point performance despite getting a little sloppy with his shot selection late in the game.
Manhattan isn't yet winning consistently, but they are getting better on offense around Beamon, as his quickness got Canisius worried on defense and regularly out of position; the Jaspers were regularly able to make the one extra pass they needed to exploit the Griffins zone, including one set play - the exact same play - that they converted at least a half dozen times that I saw. It says a lot about the Griffin offense that they were able to generate 20 turnovers but were never able to get closer than a five-point deficit in the second half (and even that was very brief).
This may be how the season winds down for the Griffins, as they stay at home to face Iona on Sunday before an easier schedule that closes out with a road rematch at Manhattan. The offense needs to get going around Baron, not just hope that he carries them, and the defense needs to stay disciplined or they will keep getting taken down by quicker offensive teams like the Jaspers or the Gaels.
Manhattan will head to Niagara on Sunday to try and take another step closer to the top of the conference standings.
Elsewhere in the MAAC
Canisius is no longer atop the conference, as Iona got a 3-pointer from Alex English, Jr. with eight seconds left to sneak out a one point victory against Niagara. The Gaels were able to shut down Antoine Mason to the tune of a 6-for-18 shooting night and only 13 points (pretty good defense considering he averages twice that much), but couldn't keep his teammates from picking up the slack. They needed every one of the 28 points they got from David Laury (who suddenly has 70 points in the last three games)... Fairfield didn't have a great night, but the 15 points they got from both K.J. Rose and Marcus Gilbert was enough to snag their second conference win, 60-56 over Monmouth... Saint Peters saw Desi Washington shoot only 1-for-7 from long range but still put together 18 points to lead the Peacocks to a home victory over Siena.
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