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Canisius Golden Griffins knock off Patriot League favorite Lehigh Mountain Hawks in home opener

Strong efforts from Malcolm McMilan and Phil Valenti help the Griffs take down Lehigh, 98-89, in Buffalo.

Canisius Head Coach, Jim Baron, is now 4-0 in home openers.
Canisius Head Coach, Jim Baron, is now 4-0 in home openers.
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The Canisius Golden Griffins are now 4-0 in home openers under head coach Jim Baron after a hard fought 98-89 victory Monday night against the Patriot League Lehigh Mountain Hawks. The win evens the Griffs record at 1-1 on the season after two tough games against preseason favorites in the CAA (Hofstra) and Patriot League (Lehigh). The Mountain Hawks fall to 0-2 to start the season after a tough Western New York trip in which they fell to Syracuse on Friday before stumbling at Canisius on Monday.

Both teams were excellent behind the arc in this high scoring affair knocking down a combined 24 3-pointers on the evening. Lehigh jumped out to a large 21-7 lead after a nearly 7-minute long 18-1 run thanks to a strong effort on both sides of the court from Lehigh big man, Tim Kempton who had 17 points and seven rebounds on the night.

Canisius newcomer Malcom McMilan helped keep the Griffs alive knocking down 17 of his game-high 31 points in the first half including a four-point play which sparked an 8-0 Canisius run. Ultimately Lehigh took a 41-39 lead into halftime

The momentum from the Griffs first half comeback appeared to pick up where it left off as they scored a quick bucket to open the second half pulling within one of the Mountain Hawks. However, right after that bucket, Lehigh rattled off eight points in a row to take a 49-40 lead. The Mountain Hawks seemed to be in control cruising to a 14-point lead at 62-48 before the Griffs hit their stride going on a 20-3 run capped by back-to-back threes from Phil Valenti and Kassius Robertson to pull ahead of the Mountain Hawks 68-65.

McMilan would give the Griffs their largest lead of the evening with 4:44 remaining when he made three the hard way to put Canisius ahead 86-79. Lehigh, however, would not roll over and again scored eight straight to tie the game at 86 with 2:31 to go.

The decisive sequence started with a Valenti 3-pointer with 1:08 left to put the Griffs up 92-89. On the next possession, Kevin Bleeker drew an offensive foul against Kempton and followed it up with a monster slam on the other end which proved to be the dagger.

Valenti finished 19 points and a career high five 3-pointers. Jamal Reynolds was also a major contributor for the Griffs earning a double-double with 13 rebounds and 16 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Lehigh Junior, Austin Price, lead five Mountain Hawks in double figures with 19 points. Jesse Chuku (19), Kahron Ross (14), Kempton (17), and Kyle Leufroy (12) also scored in double digits for Lehigh.

Canisius will look to extend their win streak Saturday when they host Ivy League challenger Cornell at 3:15 p.m. The Mountain Hawks will finally head to back to Bethlehem for their home open Thursday whn they will also take on an Ivy League opponent in Yale in a 7 p.m. bout.