The Stags had another tough team to face as they defended their home court against a hot Canisius team, who are in the hunt for the top spot in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings. Unfortunately, the Stags fell to the Golden Griffins 64-50, but Head Coach Sydney Johnson is confident about his team in the conference.
“We’re 4-6 in the conference; we’re playing our best basketball in the MAAC conference,” said Johnson.
Freshman guard Tyler Nelson looked to continue his hot play of late after being awarded his second MAAC Rookie of the Week award. The Stags were looking for a big game from both Nelson and Mike Kirkland Jr. ‘16, who both had impressive numbers in the last three games. Nelson averaged 14.7 points per game while Kirkland shot 75 percent from the floor and averaged 12.3 points in the last three games.
Both teams started the game aggressive, looking to drive and score from the paint. For Canisius, Phil Valenti scored six of the first eight points. The Stags were led early on by Kirkland, who connected for eight points while making three of five shots through the first 10 minutes of the contest. Both teams were battling to get open looks, as both defenses were battling to defend the ball. Canisius finished the half shooting 50 percent from both the field and beyond the arc. The home team was struggling to protect the ball as they lost possession of the ball nine times, which lead to nine fast break points.
The Stags were struggling offensively as they shot 9-22 from the field after the first half. Although they had trouble knocking down shots, they were able to draw fouls and convert from the free throw line where they shot just 57 percent in the first half. However, the Stags were still in the game as Canisius led by only seven points at halftime, with the score being 30-23.
At the start of the second half, Canisius came out ready to play. They were shooting a high percentage from the field and knocking down heavily contested three-point shots. After the first five minutes of the second half, Canisius had increased their lead to 12, making the score 40-28.
“They got some easy baskets. There were a few possessions before the half and to start the second [half] where we played really good defense, but then they got an offensive rebound and they converted,” said Johnson. “I think it’s about closing out defensive possessions for us, finishing defensive possessions, and we can stop runs like that.”
The Stags had difficulty scoring in the second half, except for Marcus Gilbert ‘16. Gilbert finished the first half with eight points. In the second half, though, he was the go-to option as the rest of the team was struggling to knock down shots. Gilbert took the game into his own hands and became the lone bright spot for the Stags. He scored 10 points in the half to finish the game with 18 points and 6 rebounds. Gilbert was the only Stag to reach double digits in points scored.
Valenti led Canisius with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Kassius Robertson and Josiah Heath each added 11 points and snagged a few boards for Canisius.
The final score was 64-50 as Canisius took the road win. A pivotal player part of the team is Amadou Sidibe ‘16, who is always a guarantee for points and rebounds. Facing several injuries, Sidibe did not have his best game and finished with just two points and six rebounds.
“Amadou is a big part of what we do. We’ve got to make sure that he’s OK,” said Johnson. “We thought he was a full-go, but he seemed to be hobbling out there; he’s the heart and soul.”
The Stags look to bounce back as they face Monmouth on Jan. 30.