RMU vs Canisius
(AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

As I do for all Canisius Golden Griffins basketball games, I will be giving my live reaction on the game as it happens courtside. You can read my full preview and prediction of the Robert Morris matchup here

The Griffs are looking to rebound from their current six-game losing streak and this game against the Colonials looks to be the game to right the ship (at least on paper). RMU doesn’t have the elite size Canisius has been dominated by during their winless streak–if the Griffs can hang with the Colonials on the boards it will go a long way in pulling out the victory.

What I will be looking for out of the gate? EFFORT and COMMUNICATION.

Canisius’ effort level has come into question seemingly every game during these previous six games. After a week off and playing only their second home game (the first in 18 days), will the team come out fired up? Will they talk on the court? Being courtside throughout the AdvoCare Invitational only junior Malik Johnson was talking to his teammates on the court. Play as a team, win as a team. There have been too many guys trying to get theirs instead of playing together. I’m expecting to see that tonight…

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Canisius (1-6) vs. Robert Morris (4-4)
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Buffalo, N.Y. | Koessler Athletic Center
Online Broadcast: ESPN3
Talent: Jay Moran (p-x-p) and Richard Walsh (color)
Live Audio: WECK-Radio Buffalo; Golden Griffin Broadcast Network

1st Half

Before tip-off during pre-game warm-ups I noticed a disparity between the two teams. Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole, is out on the floor with his guys working on individual drills–in this case rebounding. To me, that’s a coach that watched tape, knows what Canisius struggles with and is going to attack it tonight.

Conversely, Reggie Witherspoon was not out on the floor with his during pre-game warm-ups. Not that means a whole lot–each coach has their own routines–however, I came away impressed with Toole, who I remember watching at Penn in the early 2000’s.

As soon as Canisius wins the tip, Isaiah Reese turns it over—is that a bad omen or what?

Reese quickly redeems himself with a beautiful drive in the lane and no-look pass to Jalanni White for the easy layup. We haven’t seen Reese the ‘playmaker’ all season.

With three minutes gone in the first, Canisius leads 4-2.

Reese is still struggling with his confidence, he passed up three wide open shots on the same possession to drive the lane and make a contested–pass. Ultimately Scott Hitchon grabbed an offensive rebound with EFFORT and put it back with a dunk that got the fans a little rowdy here at the Koessler Center.

Robert Morris is beginning to turn the Griffs over and get out on the fastbreak. With 12:35 to play, the COlonials have jumped out to a 16-10 lead.

Five early turnovers for Canisius, one for RMU.

The rebounding battle we have talked so much about? Even through eight minutes in the first. Small sample size, but it’s a win for the Griffs.

With 9:20 to go the Griffs trail 17-12 but they are outplaying RMU. The difference continues to be turnovers–the Griffs have committed six turnovers in the last 5:19 of game time.

When they aren’t turning it over, Canisius is shooting well–56 percent from the field. Robert Morris, not so much–only 36 percent from the field, but the turnovers they are causing are keeping them in it. The game is tied at 19 with 7:07 to go in the opening half.

Reese just got back-to-back layups (one on a breakaway steal)–could this be the ‘easy shots’ needed to break out of a cold spell? I mean, it is a six-game cold spell.

We’ll look at his stats at the end of the first because he is filling up the stat sheet.

We are seeing the first ‘run’ of the Griffs season. Serious run at least. Canisius is on a 17-2 run in the last 5:17 of game time to open up the game 27-19, five minutes remaining.

The effort on the boards and in this game is a complete 180 from the previous road trip. Maybe it’s the home crowd, maybe it’s shots falling, maybe it was a coaching adjustment–whatever it is, it’s working.

They might be losing, but RMU coach Andrew Toole is very fun to watch. Always talking, clapping, a very high-energy guy. You could say the polar opposite to Reggie Witherspoon’s laid back style. Toole ran up-and-down his bench clapping, shouting “DEFENSE, DEFENSE” getting his players to shout with him. Love that energy and passion for the game.

At the half, Canisius leads 31-25. 

The three things we talked about leading up to this game have been on full display in the first half:

Rebounding: As previously mentioned, the effort level is night and day. Hustling for every rebound is evident in the numbers.

Robert Morris: 12 total rebounds, 4 offensive.

Canisius: 18 total rebounds, 4 offensive.

Wow, the first time the Griffs have been in the plus rebounding column since Game 1 versus Bucknell.

Isaiah Reese/Shooting: As a team, Canisius is stroking it, shooting 54 percent from the field. Three-point shots aren’t falling only 16 percent from deep, but overall a lot better shooting effort.

As for Reese, he is filling it up: 6 points (3-of-5 shooting), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals.

I would like him to be more aggressive with his shot because he is passing up a lot of open looks, but he is being the playmaker the team desperately needs.

Coaching: I made the note about Witherspoon during pre-game warmups. Well, I’ll shut up because the team was doing something other than weave/handoffs outside the three-point line. Players were driving the lane, attacking the paint and kicking out when necessary. The offense did not look stagnant and was attacking. Where has this been all season?

2nd Half

The start of the second half had both teams scoring points on their opening possessions, but the lack of confidence Reese has in his shot remains.

And just like that RMU takes the lead on a 9-0 run over the span of 67 seconds. RMU 34 Canisius 33.

The Griffs look flat. They do not have the same energy they started the game out with. Turnovers and fouls are plaguing them. The Koessler Center is silent.

Witherspoon is quick to his bench bringing in Dantai St. Louis for Scott Hitchon and Jibreel Faulkner for Jalanni White with 17:30 to play. Both forwards lacked their usual energy.

This might be the game of runs…after RMU bolted out to a 9-0 run to take the lead, Canisius stormed back with a 6-0 run of their own, fueled by Isaiah Reese to lead 39-34 with 15:14 to play.

I would like to see St. Louis take a step forward in this game. He’s going to get some run in the second half and he is the biggest body on the court. Take advantage of that. His stat-line in five minutes of game action: two points, three rebounds and two turnovers.

The second half Canisius offense is looking eerily similar to the offense that lost the last six games. WHol bunch of passing on the perimeter without any penetration.

No coincidence it has led to a scoring drought of 3+ minutes and RMU has retaken the lead 40-39 with 12 minutes to play.

A back-and-forth game with 10 minutes to play, the game is tied at 44.

Freshman Jordan Henderson is getting more run this game (no sign of Kejuan Johnson-Alls) and is performing well. His stats aren’t jumping off the page, but he brings athleticism and the potential to score on any possession. Henderson has five points and one assist without missing a shot from the field.

Can the Griffs close it out? Seven minutes to play they hold a slim 51-48 lead. The energy level will need to be there.

Hitchon is learning the flopping game–sign him up for drama class because he just fooled the refs with that performance. Those little things are what win you close ball games. 5:56 to go and it’s a two-point, 52-50 lead.

It’s been an ugly four minutes of game action:

Canisius: Scoreless the last 3:41

RMU: Scoreless the last 2:53

Canisius still leads 54-50.

Before the game in my preview, I figured Takal Molson would take over in this game. He is an athletic mis-match against any of the RMU guards, but with five minutes to play he only has seven points on 3-of-9 shooting with one rebound and one assist.

We have a one-point game with four minutes to play–and Molson just moved that to four points with a dagger three, assisted by Isaiah Reese.

And another dagger three, this time by Malik Johnson–assisted by Reese who passed up a WIDE OPEN layup for that attempt. He’s lucky Johnson bailed him out. I like the passing, but Reese will need confidence in his shot if Canisius wants to compete at the upper level of the MAAC.

With 2:57 to go, Canisius has extended their lead 60-53 thanks to those pair of three-pointers.

Reese is three assists away from another triple-double (10 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists currently).

Canisius is clamping down defensively–RMU is 1 for their last 10 shots, allowing the Griffs to slightly pull away.  With one minute to play, Canisius leads by six, 63-57.

After missing both free throws, Reese has not made a shot beyond the free throw line in this game (0-for-2 FT, 0-for-2 three-point land).

Robert Morris has pulled within two points, 63-61, 32-seconds to play.

It’s Jonathan Sanks turn to make free throws as he heads to the line attempting to push the Canisius lead to four. He makes the first…and misses the second…but an OFFENSIVE REBOUND by Takal Molson may have just clinched this game.

Molson sinks both, 66-61 Canisius with 24-seconds to play.

As the final seconds count down, the Griffs have clinched their second victory on the season:

Canisius 68 Robert Morris 62

Let’s look at those areas we talked about in the pregame:

Rebounding

Canisius: 37

RMU: 31

Margin: +6

Shooting Percentage: 49 percent from the field.

Isaiah Reese: 10 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists. 

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