HAMDEN, Conn. – Tom Moore threw everything, including the kitchen sink in the form of a 1-3-1 at Canisius Sunday afternoon, but in the end, the story was the same, lots of missed shots in a frustrating 63-53 defeat, the Bobcats’ third straight defeat and sixth in seven games.
“We’re stuck in it,” Moore said. “More stuck in it than any other Quinnipiac team I’ve had here. We have resilient, tough kids, who are hurt and bruised by this offensive funk. But we have to keep working at it and we’ll eventually find ways to put a better offensive team on the floor.”
The game played out eerily similarly to Friday night’s loss to Siena, a very defensive first half on both sides (that ended with Canisius up 29-26) and then the Bobcats (5-11, 2-5) playing their best basketball just after the break. In the end, though, a three-pointer by Ayron Hutton (who finished with a season-high 15 points) would give Quinnipiac its last lead at 38-37 with 13:49 left.
With Quinnipiac unable to do anything offensively, Moore – who had played man-to-man for about 99.9% of the possessions in his coaching career before this season – turned to a 1-3-1 zone with his team down 51-40 (a defense that was successfully in upending Canisius in Buffalo last month), and a few minutes later it was 51-50. But Jermaine Crumpton (17 pts.) and Chris Atkinson (10 pts. and a career-high 30 minutes) finally hit threes and the Bobcats scored only three points in the final four minutes.
On the flip side, it was a second-straight MAAC road win for a Canisius team that looked like it might be fading away after four consecutive losses prior to that. The Griffins (9-10, 4-4) began the week 342nd in defensive efficiency, but held Manhattan to 0.94 points per possession and 41.4% two-point shooting, and Sunday Quinnipiac (who entered as the worst two-point shooting team in the nation), could manage just 0.85 ppp and 33.3% (10-30) two-point shooting. Albeit against two mediocre offensive teams, but Canisius has dropped to 332nd in defensive efficiency and is no longer last in the MAAC (Marist).
“We were coming off a real good win at Manhattan, which we hadn’t done in six years and we just carried it over,” Canisius coach Jim Baron said. “Having that lead at halftime was real important because we really didn’t play that well, but I thought our defense really picked up in the second half. We made good defensive stops, and made some shots at the end.”
What else did we learn at the TD Bank Center Sunday?:
1) What to do if you’re Quinnipiac?
Moore talked briefly about revamping his system, but it will be tough to do that mid-season obviously. Quinnipiac was actually over 1.00 ppp in its first two MAAC games (including the win at Canisius), but has only done so once since in their last nine games (loss at Maine). Tell me something I don’t know, you say, like how to fix it? As Moore pointed out, if there was an easy fix, he would have done it already.
Hutton’s performance was a start, but the biggest problem is in the post. In the win at Canisius, Quinnipiac was 23-45 on two-point shots (51.4%), and they haven’t been there since. Daniels, still not quite 100%, seems like the most likely fix, although he didn’t play in that Canisius win, with Donovan Smith going 7-9 (he went 1-6 in just 10 minutes Sunday).
Other than Hutton and Daniel Harris (14 pts. on 5-7 three-point shooting), there was really nothing to like about Quinnipiac’s offense Sunday and they remain 341st nationally in both efficiency and eFG%, with a 21.7% turnover rate (25.8% Sunday on 16 turnovers in a slow, 62-possession contest) that places them 326th.
Perhaps the only good news is a week off before traveling to Rider next Sunday.
“I think it’s everything, to be honest with you,” Moore said. “It’s a lack of experience at this level, lack of experience together, lack of confidence that comes with big games over the years, lack of a feeling that I can miss two shots and keep shooting and make the next play. We’ve tried to run some different stuff. I do hope and feel that once we put together a couple of good games that we’ll continue to keep getting better.”
2) Chasing first-round byes
It’s hard to know how much of Canisius’ sudden defensive improvement is them being good and how much is the other team struggling, but regardless, the Griffins prevailed even with star Phil Valenti hobbled (just 4 points on 1-6 shooting) and Malcolm McMillan (5 pts., 2-6 FG, 7 assists) and Kassius Robertson (11 pts., 4-9 FG) well below their season scoring average. Crumpton stepped out and hit a couple of huge three-pointers, while Atkinson and previously rarely used JUCO transfer Keifer Douse brought tremendous energy at both ends of the floor. Canisius has a favorable schedule coming up as they look to be in the top five come MAAC Tournament time.
“It’s confidence and being ready to play, that’s all,” Baron said. “We’re in progress, we’re trying to get better every game and at every opportunity. That’s what it’s all about. We have a lot of newcomers, but it starts with our veterans, and they’ve shown a lot of grit and a lot of toughness lately.”
3) McMillan the veteran
Graduate transfers can seem like they’ve played college basketball forever, but Malcolm McMillan returned as a player to the TD Bank Center for the first time since 2013. He played twice here with Central Connecticut, as a freshman, he started and played 21 minutes (scoring two points) in a 72-44 loss and the following season, he had 10 points in a tough 85-78 NEC loss. Quinnipiac put up 1.21 ppp that night behind 17 rebounds from Ike Azotam and 18 points from Shaq Shannon.