MAAC Preseason Player of the Year Billy Baron scored a game-high 27 points and drilled a go-ahead three-pointer with 57 seconds left to lead Canisius to a season-opening 71-66 win against the University of South Dakota Monday evening at the Koessler Athletic Center.
It was the fourth meeting between the two programs in the last four years and the first time the home team has emerged victorious. Baron made just 6 of 15 shots from the field, but had half of the Griffs’ 10 three-pointers and went 10 of 11 from the free-throw line.
Senior center Trevor Gruis needed one rebound to become the 11th player in program history to score 1,000 points and pull down 600 rebounds. He got nine boards Monday and scored a team-high 18 points on 7 of 12 shooting.
“My hat’s off to Trevor,” said USD head coach Joey James. “He deserves it. He has been a four-year starter for us and we really appreciate all the hard work he has put in as a Coyote.”
Gruis gave the Coyotes a 64-62 lead with a one-handed shot in the lane with two minutes to go. Chris Manhertz tied the game with two free throws on the other end, then got a steal on defense moments before Baron hit his long trey from the top of the key.
USD point guard Trey Norris drew a foul and made two free throws to pull the Coyotes within one, 67-66, with 51 seconds left. Chris Perez hit a jumper from the side of the basket with 20 seconds left to push the Grifs’ lead back to three.
James called timeout with 16 seconds to go. Norris took the inbounds pass, worked off a high screen and pulled up for 3 from the left side of the key. The shot was short. Baron rebounded and was fouled with five seconds left. His two free throws sealed the win.
Canisius led 21-12 eight minutes into the contest, but the Coyotes pulled within two points, 35-33, before halftime. USD guard Brandon Bos scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half and knocked down three 3-pointers. Tyler Larson’s 10 points off the bench gave USD three double-digit scorers.
Jordan Heath had 12 points on 6 of 9 shooting and added eight rebounds for Canisius. Phil Valenti had a game-high 10 rebounds to go with six points.