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Canisius-Evansville Game Wrap

CIT Quarterfinal
Evansville 84, Canisius 83

How Evansville Won: The Purple Aces were in trouble down nine at intermission but opened the second half with a run and then rode the exploits of a finalist for mid-major player of the year. Porous defense tormented the Griffs in the MAAC semifinals and it was the same here. Evansville shot 60 percent in the second half.

Player of the Game: The best Canisius season in more than a decade has come to a close. But there are worse things than saying you were done in by Colt Ryan. The 6-5 senior guard was unstoppable, scoring 39 points on 11 of 22 from the field (5 of 9 on 3s) and 12 of 15 from the line. He also had a team-high six boards. And played 38 minutes. And never looked the worse for wear. Even the most ardent Griffs fan would have to admit he was a treat to watch.

Best Player (Losing Effort): Billy Baron struck for 21 points to finish the season with 584. That's the highest total for a Griff since Ray Hall in 1984-85 and the most points by a Canisius junior since Hall the previous season.

Another Go?: Reggie Groves was honored on Senior Night a couple weeks back but he still has a year of eligibility remaining. Hard to imagine he wouldn't come in handy next year, especially with the graduation losses the Griffs will sustain in the backcourt. Groves had seven points and six assists against two turnovers in 26 minutes. Harold Washington's foul trouble forced him into extended action.

Stat Check: This was the seventh time the Griffs scored at least 74 points and lost.

Stat Check II: Evansville scored 23 points off 16 Canisius turnovers. All nine Griffs who played committed at least one.

Seasonal: Chris Manhertz had six boards, pushing his season total to 297, seventh on the school single-season list . . . Isaac Sosa two treys pushed his school season-season record to 95 . . . With three blocks Jordan Heath went to 53, sixth most in a season.

In the House: 1,403 were on hand but it seemed like more. And the crowd was into it. Yup. After that looooong dry spell the Griffs matter again.

Canisius coach Jim Baron: "Down the stretch here (we were) playing against all good teams. This team beat Wichita State and you see them in the Sweet Sixteen right now. You can see why they beat Wichita State. You got to give them credit. They made their shots they made their plays they made their free throws and we have to play a flawless game to beat them."

Evansville coach Marty Simmons and if he's seen Ryan take over a game in that fashion: "I have. I mean I have. . . . I knowwe played Bradley last year at home and Creighton last year at Creighton he got on a roll like that. But he's been pretty consistent really for four years."

Simmons on Billy Baron: "He's a great player in transition. He really knows how to push it. He's really good off ball screens. . . . He's got great hesitation. He's got a quick first step. His knowledge of the game is tremendous."

Recapping: Canisius finished 20-14, a 15-win improvement over last season.

-- Bob DiCesare

Big 4 players honored by NABC

Niagara's Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason, Canisius' Billy Barron and UB's Javon McCrea were all named to the NABC Division I All-District teams which were announced today.

Green and Baron were named to the District 1 first team with Iona's Lamont Jones, Siena's O.D. Anosike and Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton. Mason was on the second team with Loyola's Erik Etherly, Boston University's D.J. Irving, Fairfield's Derek Needham and Stony Brook's Jameel Warney.

McCrea was on the District 14 first team along with Ohio's D.J. Cooper, Akron's Zeke Marshall, Toledo's Rian Pearson and Kent State's Chris Evans.

---Rodney McKissic

Canisius-Elon Game Wrap

First Round
Canisius 69, Elon 53

How Canisius Won: The Griffs are the more seasoned team and it played out that way. The Griffs forced 19 turnovers and came up with 11 steals and more than doubled the Phoenix in points scored off turnovers, 20-8. Elon placed third in the SoCon, the 27th-ranked conference in the country. They can be dangerous if they're hitting from three. But they weren't.

Player of the Game: Senior guard Harold Washington had that gleam in his eye from the opening tip. He went for 19 points, hitting 7 of 10 from the field.

Best Supporting Role: The Phoenix have some versatile big men but 6-10 Jordan Heath put them in their place. He scored 13 points, stepped outside for a pair of threes and swatted away five shots.

Best Player (Losing Effort): Elon has a nice player in 6-7 junior Ryley Beaumont, one of those versatile bigs. He had a 20 points and 12 boards -- both game highs. He also commited a game-high six turnovers, a reflection of how much he handles the ball.

What It Means: A postseason win for Canisius, its first since 1995. Elon finished 21-12.

Stat Check: Canisius was outrebounded 48-37 but it wasn't to fret about. When the opponent goes 9 of 34 from behind the arc there's going to be long rebounds difficult to chase down.

Stat Check II: Elon's 29.4 shooting percentage was the worst of the season by a Canisius opponent.

They Said It

Canisius coach Jim Baron on the effectiveness of the Griffs press: "We wanted to make them turn it over and I thought we did a great job forcing 19 turnovers. Again, I've always been a big believer of up-tempo, and we really stepped it up and I think it really got us going."

Baron on Washington: "It's amazing when you continue to play, guys that love to play the game, it doesn't matter, you know what I mean? You're still playing. You're career's still going. I told them, this is what, the first time in 18 years. You're part of Canisius history."

Washington on the press: "Just switching it up defensively threw them off guard. I think that's something we should do a lot more of, just throwing different things at teams, make them change up their strategy."

Jordan Heath on Baron's birthday: "We sang to him in the locker room."

Washington: "Where was I?"

-- Bob DiCesare

More reaction to Witherspoon firing

---Below are thoughts from Mark Bortz and Calvin Cage, two of Reggie Witherspoon's former players, on the news Friday that Witherspoon's 14-year era at UB had come to an end. Cage's comments are from his Facebook page while Bortz's are part of an email he sent to me at 3 a.m. Saturday morning:

Mark Bortz, Class of 2005:

I was in the middle of a store when I received the news and was in complete shock.  I wandered around the store for several minutes in a daze before I came to my senses and rushed to be with my family, my UB family.  I was in disbelief only hours after watching UB in a hard-fought battle against rival Kent St. in the MAC Tournament.

I could not believe that the man who brought UB out of the basement of the MAC had been fired.  The same man that made UB a championship contender on a yearly basis, took his teams to two MAC Championship games, groomed multiple MAC Player of the Year winners, won multiple Coach of the Year awards, took the school to its first ever post-season appearances and won a share of the MAC regular season title in a year they were picked to finish last!

How quickly we forget the past and take for granted what we have.  As I sat in silence, I thought about all of the experiences I had on the court with Coach Witherspoon, but equally about our times off the court, especially since I graduated in 2005.  I thought about the basketball family that Coach “Spoon” had created.  What the public doesn’t get to see is how much Coach really cared for his players beyond points, assists and rebounds.  He cares about making his players into men and believed in the importance of education.  Coach Witherspoon helped to mold me into the man I am today and I credit much of my success as a professional basketball player and in life to his mentorship. 


Calvin Cage, Class of 2006

11 years ago a 17 yr. old kid sat in Bladensburg High at press conference on national signing day. Several high major offers I sign to go to Buffalo, everyone is (upset)!! The Washington Post my coach, a few teammates, at the time I was turning pro at 19 regardless, I get on campus meet Reggie Witherspoon and he's KILLING me from day 1!!! Tells me that until I mature I won't play. We won only 5 games that yr., but I’m forever grateful to this man because this guy made me a MAN!! I'm not person, friend, son, father boyfriend that I am if it wasn't for Reg. Coming from DC I was homesick the 1st day I stepped on campus, his family excepted me like I was their own, the ENTIRE family!! I'm hurt to hear this news my brother (Turner Battle) is there coaching also like I know I’ll (probably) never be in Buffalo again, my ties to the university are done.

---Rodney McKissic

Postseason Hoops Honors

Catching up on some postseason honors that have been doled out while awaiting the start of the UB women's second-round MAC Tournament game against Miami here in Cleveland:

Ohio senior guard D.J. Cooper was named MAC Player of the Year today and Akron's Keith Dambrot was named Coach of the Year. I voted for both of them.

I was extremely high on UB's Javon McCrea but when the Bulls failed to finish .500 in conference I couldn't bring myself to cast the vote. And Cooper won me over with that go-ahead 3 he hit from Getzville in Ohio's 72-69 win at Alumni on March 5. Plus, Cooper will go down as one of the best guards in MAC history. It seemed kind of crazy he might leave never having won the award. So I'll admit it. Career achievement factored into my vote.

As for Dambrot, when you win the conference and put together a 19-game winning streak you don't leave much room for debate. Plus, I admired the way he responded to the Alex Abreu arrest that's probably going to cost the Zips an at-large if they don't win it all here.

The All-MAC first team consists of McCrea, Cooper, Akron center Zeke Marshall, Kent State forward Chris Evans and Toledo guard Rian Pearson. I believe that's exactly how I had it on my preseason ballot although ultimately Evans didn't make the preseason first-team.

UB's Jarryn Skeete was on the all-freshman team.

On the women's side, UB had two players receive honorable mention: freshman Mackenzie Loesing and sophomore Christa Baccas. Loesing also mad the all-freshman team.

* * * * *

In the MAAC, Coach of the Year Joe Mihalich is one of 20 finalists for the Skip Prosser Award given by The award was initiated in 2008 and goes to a coach who achieves success on the court and demonstrates moral integrity off the court.
Western New York native and former ECC and Canisius coach John Beilein of Michigan also is a finalist.

Also from, Niagara's Juan'ya Green and Billy Baron of Canisius were tabbed as MAAC co-MVPs.

-- Bob DiCesare

Central Michigan-UB game analysis

Game analysis: UB usually finds a way to lose close games but on Monday in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament it found a way to win. Actually, it was more like an escape. Central Michigan rallied from a seven-point deficit to send the game into overtime and had a chance to win but Kyle Randall's 3-pointer bounced off the backboard and the Bulls won, 74-72, to advance to the tournament's second round against Ball State.

How UB won: Javon McCrea who earned first-team All-MAC honors earlier in the day controlled the paint while Will Regan kept some of the pressure off McCrea inside by hitting 3 of 6 3-pointers. Randall went nuts after halftime, but the Bulls came up with a huge defensive stop to win the game.

Turning Point: McCrea gave the Bulls a four-point advantage in overtime when he drove right and flushed in a left-handed dunk with 2:59 left in the game. Central Michigan pulled within a point on a Randall free throw but Watson made 1 of 2 free throws with 3.4 seconds left.

Player of the Game: Randall had three points at halftime but finished with a game-high 31.

Who is that guy?: Raphell Thomas-Edwards career at UB has been nondescript to say the least but he scored a career best 10 points in the first half, all off the bench. Coming into the game, he made a grand total of 10 field goals this season.

Key stat: Watson was 1 of 10 from downtown.

What It Means: UB advances to Cleveland for the 10th consecutive season.

In the House: 2,309 at Alumni Arena.

He said it: "Partly why we didn't want to play Buffalo was because of Javon McCrea. We don't have anybody that can defend him. We have undersized post guys in there as freshman so we were going to try to be as physical with him as possible and limit his touches he got. As special of a player as he is, he kept working and kept fighting." - Central Michigan coach Keno Davis.

Up next: vs. Ball State at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Cleveland

---Rodney McKissic

McCrea named first-team All-MAC

UB junior Javon McCrea and freshman Jarryn Skeete were honored this morning by the Mid-American Conference. McCrea was named to the All-MAC first team while Skeete made the All-Freshman team.

First Team
Zeke Marshall, C, Akron
Javon McCrea, F, UB
Chris Evans, G/F, Kent State
Rian Pearson, G, Toledo
D.J. Cooper, G, Ohio

Second Team
Tree Treadwell, F, Akron
Jauwan Scaife, G, Ball State
A'uston Calhoun, F, Bowling Green
Kyle Randall, G, Central Michigan
Shayne Whittington, F/C, W. Michigan

Third Team
Majok Majok, F, Ball State
Randal Holt, G, Kent State
Walter Offutt, G, Ohio
Reggie Keely, F, Ohio
Juice Brown, G, Toledo

Honorable Mention
Alex Abreu, G, Akron
Jordon Crawford, G, Bowling Green
Glenn Bryant, F, Eastern Michigan
Will Felder, F, Miami
Nate Hutcheson, F, Western Michigan

All-Freshman Team
Jake Kretzer, G/F, Akron
Jarryn Skeete, G, UB
Chris Fowler, G, Central Michigan
Nathan Boothe, C, Toledo
Darius Paul, F, Western Michigan

---Rodney McKissic

Ohio-UB game analysis

Game analysis: D.J. Cooper has broken the hearts of several teams over the years and he did it again against UB on Tuesday. The Bulls cut off Cooper's drive to the basket so he sank a deep 3-pointer with 1:34 left in the game that proved to be the game winner as the Bulls fell to the Bobcats, 72-69.

How UB lost: The Bulls committed 19 turnovers and several came at critical times in the contest. They also failed to convert a field goal after Javon McCrea's basket with 3:51 left in the game.

Turning Point: After McCrea's final basket, UB went 0-4 from the floor with four turnovers.

Player of the Game: Cooper scored a game-high 24 points and was 5 of 10 from downtown.

Mr. 2,000: Cooper went over the 2,000-point mark for his career with his first basket of the night, a 3-pointer which stopped a 14-4 Bulls run.

Nice stat line: in his final game at Alumni Arena, senior guard Tony Watson had 11 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and no turnovers in 40 minutes. He was also 8-for-8 from the free-throw line.

Key stat: The Bulls outrebounded the Bulls, 43-22.

What It Means: With a game remaining at Bowling Green, the Bulls are locked in a three-way tie for the No. 4 seed in next week's MAC Tournament with Kent State and Eastern Michigan at 7-7.

In the House: 3,132 at Alumni Arena.

He said it: "We know we're getting better and we know we have the ability to beat every team in this conference. We have to take the mindset everyday that we have a challenge in front of us one game at a time and take our opponents seriously.'' - UB forward Will Regan.

Up next: at Bowling Green at 6 p.m. Friday.

---Rodney McKissic

UB-Akron Game Wrap

UB 81, Akron 67

How UB Won: The Bulls shot it up from three in the first half (7 of 14) and then worked inside for 18 points in the paint in the second half. They were unfazed by the Akron's switch to zone, unlike when they squandered a 20-point lead in the first meeting. They made it to the free throw line 23 times, compared to just 12 for the Zips. And they turned it over a scant 10 times -- just four in the second half. Plus UB's starting backcourt of Tony Watson and Jarryn Skeete outscored Akron's backcourt starters, 31-20.

National Alert: Akron's national-best 19-game winning streak comes to and end. The Zips hadn't lost since Dec. 15 at Detroit.

Player of the Game: Akron's impressive season and its 19-game winning streak that ended Saturday are bound to give Zips like Zeke Marshall and Demetrius Treadwell support in the Player of the Year vote. But how can it really be anyone but Javon McCrea? He had 26 points, six rebounds, four blocks and two assists against the conference's most imposing front line. He went 13 of 18 from the field. He carried UB with 18 second-half points. And he's at or near the top in all the big statistical categories. Look at the numbers and it's a no-brainer.

Best Supporting Role: It would be criminal not to wrap UB's other starters into one package. Watson and Skeete both played 40 minutes. Will Regan went for 36 and Auraum Nuiriankh 32. The starting five went 27 of 47 from the field and only turned it over eight times.

Best Player (Losing Team): Zips 7-foot senior Zeke Marshall has come such a long way since those early days. He had 17 points on 8 of 13 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and blocked five shots. He should be the MAC's Defensive Player of the Year. And he's a class act.

Major Bit Player: UB siwngman Raphell Thomas-Edwards, who's been out with back problems, played the final 4-plus minutes after Nuiriankh was ejected along with Akron's Deji Ibitayo. He came up big in that short time, making 3 of 4 free throws and snaring two rebounds.

Stat Check I: Akron went just 4 of 21 from three. They came in tied for second in the MAC in shooting percentage from behind the arc.

Stat Check II: The Bulls shot 60 percent in the second half (15 of 25) and outscored Akron by nine despite managing 12 fewer field goal attempts.

What It Means: Akron (23-5, 13-1) maintains a firm grasp on the MAC lead despite the defeat. UB (12-17, 7-7) remains tied for fourth with Kent State and Eastern Michigan but loses the tiebreaker to both. The top five teams avoid a first-round campus game in the MAC Tournament. Two games remain.

In the House: The crowd of 4,204 included former UB great Sam Pellom, who was honored in a pregame ceremony.

Next Up: UB entertains Ohio and star guard D.J. Cooper on Tuesday night. Akron's home to Miami.

They Said It

UB Coach Reggie Witherspoon: "Obviously our guys had to play well to beat this team. They're a great team. I said this before the game and I'll say it now, that we shouldn't be in the position where we're talking about whether they get an at=large. We should discontinue that talk and talk about their seeding, like we do some other teams around the country,

"Having said that, I think our guys have pesevered all year and made a great effort to just take it a day at a time in an attempt to just get better every single day and block out all the rest of the things. And I think today we put together a pretty good 40 minutes."

Akron center Zeke Marshall: "Their whole team was energized. . . . That number right beside our name (24th ranked), everyone wants to come and beat you. Everyone's going to come in energized against us because we've been on that huge winning streak. Sure enough they did tonight."

Akron Coach Keith Dambrot on 19 straight wins in an age of great parity: "It's incredible. The only time I've ever been involved in that is one time at Ashland College we won our first 15 games. And then obviously when I had LeBron (at St. Vincent-St. Mary's). Your margin of error's pretty good when you got LeBron. When you got better guys and you're noticably better than most of the teams you play you're going to win 53 out of 54 games.

"I felt like we might have felt it a little bit. We just didn't play relaxed, just never relaxed."

Dambrot on McCrea: "He was 11 points at our place. He was really good tonight. He kicked out guys asses really. But that's tonight. We'll see the next time. He's good. I mean he's one of the best players in the league obviously. He's been good as a freshman."

-- Bob DiCesare

UB-Toledo game analysis

Game analysis: UB's defense made it a tough night for Toledo's Rian Pearson, the MAC's leading scorer, who was held to 10 points on 3 of 12 shooting in the Bulls' 75-60 victory on Wednesday.

How UB won: Toledo shot just 32.4 percent for the game, including 27.8 percent in the first half while the Bulls were on fire from everywhere. UB hit 51.9 percent of its shots and was 9 of 18 from long range.

Turning Point: The Rockets got within 11 points with 13:42 remaining when the Bulls pushed the lead to 20 with a 12-3 run.

Player of the Game: Coach Reggie Witherspoon says Tony Watson plays better when his mother attends the games. If he has nights like Wednesday (career-high 24 points) perhaps she should come more often.

Unsung player of the game: Javon McCrea had a double-double by halftime and finished with 14 points and a career best 16 rebounds.

Key stat: The Bulls had 16 assists and 11 turnovers.

Key stat II: McCrea led a nice UB block party with four of the team's eight rejections.

What It Means: UB is now 10-15 overall and 5-6 in the MAC.

In the House: 2,338

He said it: "I thought overall it was one of our best team defensive effort. I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping them out of the paint. I thought we kept them from getting easy baskets for the most part." - UB coach Reggie Witherspoon.

Up next: The Bulls play at Miami (Ohio) at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

---Rodney McKissic

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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |