Men’s basketball: Canisius Preview

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio and Jeff Fasoldt @Jeff_Fasoldt

The St. Bonaventure-Canisius rivalry adds another chapter tomorrow when the Bonnies and Golden Griffins meet for the 163rd time on Saturday afternoon.

The Bonnies have gotten the better of their Little Three rivals the past two meetings and lead the all-time series 97-65. Who will grab the bragging rights this year? Let’s break it down.

Key players for Canisius:

Zach Lewis- 6-3 sophomore guard. Canisius’ leading scorer is just a sophomore, but has stepped up as the leader for the Golden Griffins this season. Last season, he started 19 of Canisius’ 33 games and made seven threes in his career-high 25 points against Monmouth.

Phil Valenti- 6-7 sophomore forward. The former star at Aquinas Institute in Rochester has averaged 13.5 points per game in the Golden Griffins’ wins against Vermont and Lehigh. There’s no doubt Canisius head coach Jim Baron will be hoping for another big performance from Valenti.

Josiah Heath- 6-9 senior forward. This big man is not a huge threat to score but he has seen his minutes increase to 21 per game this season and will spend most of his time guarding the Bonnies’ much larger big men. He is one of the Golden Griffins’ best defenders, with 46 blocks and 39 steals a year ago.

Key players for St. Bonaventure:

Youssou Ndoye- 7-0 senior center. Ndoye gave the Bonnies the big momentum boost in last year’s meeting with his monster putback dunk on the second SBU possession. In Wednesday’s loss to Siena, he only had four points and didn’t get many touches. Mark Schmidt will be looking for a bigger output from his big man against the Griffins.

Andell Cumberbatch- 6-5 senior guard. Cumberbatch was one of the few bright spots for Bonaventure on Wednesday, scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for another double-double. When the chips are down offensively, he uses his strength and aggressiveness to keep his team in the game. Look for another big game from 23 on Saturday as he hopes to continue his consistent performance.

Jaylen Adams- 6-1 freshman guard. Coach Schmidt freely admitted after the Siena game that his young point guard did not play well. Growing pains are to be expected for the youngest player to crack Schmidt’s starting five in his time in Olean, but the Bonnies are looking for a performance with more resemblance to the Dartmouth game against Canisius. Adams needs to cut down on turnovers, stay out of foul trouble and have more composure under pressure in order for Bonaventure to get the win.

Key to victory for Canisius: The Reilly Center will be packed and loud Saturday afternoon. Ignoring the noise is the most obvious key for Canisius, perhaps something they struggled with last year in the 86-64 loss to the Bonnies. Another would be making free throws like they have so far at 76 percent on the season compared to the Bonnies’ 65 percent. If this turns into a foul for foul, grind-it-out game, the 1-1 Bonnies could be in trouble.

Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: It will all come down to execution on Saturday. The Bonnies cannot force up low-percentage shots, be careless with the ball or miss many free throws. Getting good looks, protecting the orange and knocking down the free ones is of utmost importance. The Griffins may have been a better team last year with Billy Baron running the show, but in a rivalry game it doesn’t matter; you have to come out and play your “A” game.

The Prediction: 72-63 Bonnies

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