ALBANY, NY (Canisius Press Release/WKBW) - Canisius senior Billy Baron scored a career-high 40 points to go with 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot as the Golden Griffins battled for a 92-88 win over Siena in triple-overtime Sunday afternoon in the Times Union Center. Baron’s 40 points are the third most for a player on the Times Union Center floor and it is the most points for a Canisius player since Ron Peaks scored 40 at Niagara Dec. 9, 1978.
The win moves Canisius to 18-9 overall and 12-4 in MAAC play. The 12 wins ties the program record for conference victories in a season and the win in the Times Union Center snapped the program’s nine-game road losing streak to Siena, which dated back to Jan. 17, 2005. The Saints fell to 11-16 overall and 7-9 in conference play with the loss.
Baron, who has now scored 30-plus points in seven games this season, went 10-for-24 from the field, 2-for-12 from 3-point land and 18-for-19 from the free-throw line. Baron’s career-high 10 rebounds gave him his fifth career double-double, and he has now dished out five assists or more in 15 games this season and 36 times in his career. Fellow senior Chris Perez matched a season-high 25 points in the win to go with three assists, and senior center Jordan Heath posted 11 points, four boards, a career-high four steals and three blocks before fouling out of the game in the third overtime period. Canisius shot 44.3 percent from the floor in the win and the team ended the contest by going 33-for-41 from the free-throw line (80.5 percent).
“This was a hard fought battle for sure,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said after the game. “We knew it was going to be a tough, physical game. Siena battles. They just keep coming at you. This week has been an emotional one for us. We got the win up at Niagara on Friday and then had to turn around quick and come down here. Our guys really played hard all the way through, which is a credit to them. They made the extra pass and they followed the game plan of defense and we got some big stops when we needed them.”
Siena led the game by eight points at 51-43 with 13:15 left in regulation time before the Griffs battled back and tied the game at 57-57 with 6:19 left on the clock after the Blue and Gold went on a 14-6 run, capped by a jumper from redshirt sophomore Dominique Raney. Siena scored the game’s next five points to make the score 62-57, but the Griffs answered again, this time with a 6-0 scoring spurt, capped by a jumper in the lane by Perez with 3:16 left to play that put the Blue and Gold up one at 63-62. After Siena regained the lead on its next trip down the floor on a 3-pointer, Baron made four-straight free-throws to push Canisius to a 67-65 lead with 1:40 left. With Canisius clinging to a one-point lead at 67-66, Siena guard Rob Poole was fouled on a drive to the basket and he made two free-throws to put Siena ahead 68-67 with 59 seconds left in the second half. Jordan Heath was fouled on the Griffs’ next possession, and the senior made 1-of-2 charity tosses to knot the game at 68-68 with 47 ticks left.
Siena had the ball and ran the clock down to 13 seconds before freshman Marquis Wright drove to the bucket, but his shot was blocked by Jordan Heath. As the Griffs raced to pick-up the loose ball, the shot clock horn sounded, and the Blue and Gold were given the ball with 11.9 seconds left. Baron tried a 3-pointer as the final seconds clicked off the clock, but that shot hit the right side of the rim and the game headed into the first overtime period knotted at 68-68.
In the first overtime, Poole hit a deep 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:54 left to play to give Siena a three-point cushion at 73-70, but three-straight made free-throws by redshirt freshman Phil Valenti and Perez tied the game at 73-73 with 1:38 on the clock. Canisius again had a chance to win the game as the final seconds clicked off the clock – Canisius had three chances in the final 40 seconds of the first overtime, but the Blue and Gold couldn’t get one to fall. In the second overtime, Siena guard Ryan Oliver and Baron traded buckets, but Oliver’s jumper from just inside the arc with 2:32 left in the second overtime put the Saints up 77-75. Canisius answered with a trey by Perez with 1:36 left in the second overtime to help Canisius take back the lead at 78-77, and moments later, Jordan Heath was able to grab an offensive rebound and put the ball back in the bucket with 48 seconds left on the clock to give the Griffs an 80-77 advantage. Poole answered the bell once again for his Siena team however, as the sophomore guard sent the game to a third overtime period after he drained a deep 3-point field goal from the top of the key with 27 seconds showing on the clock to knot the game at 80-80. Out of a Canisius 30-second timeout, the Griffs had a look at the basket to win the game in the second overtime session, but Perez’s 3-point shot from the right wing hit the back-iron and the game advanced to the third overtime, Canisius’ first three-overtime game since the 2004-05 season.
The third overtime period belonged to Baron. He scored nine of the Griffs’ 12 points in the final period of play, highlighted by a bucket and a made free-throw with 45 seconds left on the clock that gave the Blue and Gold a 90-88 lead. In the third overtime, Canisius trailed 85-84 with 1:51 left, but the team took the lead back on its next trip down the floor. Baron knifed through Siena’s defense and drove down the right-hand side of the lane before he kicked the ball to redshirt sophomore Kevin Bleeker. Bleeker took the pass in the corner and ripped a 3-point field goal with 1:35 left in the contest to give the Griffs an 87-85 advantage. Poole answered with an traditional three-point play of his own on Siena’s next possession to give the host Saints an 88-87 lead, but Baron’s drive and free-throw gave the Griffs the lead for good with less than 50 seconds left on the clock. Poole tried a deep trey from the far corner on Siena’s next possession, but that banged off the back-iron and Valenti grabbed the board, one of his five rebounds on the day. Baron was fouled by Siena in an effort to stop the clock with six seconds left, and he walked to the other end of the floor where he drained a pair from the stripe to seal the victory for the Blue and Gold.
All eight Canisius players that saw time in the game on Sunday scored at least one point. Bleeker had five points off the bench for the Griffs, while Raney and Josiah Heath had four points apiece in the victory. Canisius tallied 12 assists on 27 made field goals and the Blue and Gold were credited with eight blocks, with Valenti posting a career-high three blocked shots for the Griffs.
For Siena, which shot 43.3 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from 3-point land and 67.7 percent from the free-throw line, Poole scored a team-high 33 points in the loss. Brett Bisping had 16 points, with 14 of those coming in the second half and the overtime periods, to go with nine rebounds and Oliver came off the bench to chip in 12 points and three assists. Wright had a double-double in the losing effort for the Saints as he scored 10 points to go with a career best 11 assists.
With the win, Canisius keeps pace with Manhattan and Quinnipiac, as all three schools are tied for second in the MAAC’s standings with 12-4 league records. The Griffs will return to action Thursday, Feb. 20, when the team plays host to Quinnipiac in the Koessler Athletic Center. Game time is set for 7 p.m.