Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) -- The Canisius Golden Griffins had to rally late to top the South Dakota Coyotes 71-66 for their first win of the 2013-14 season on Monday night at Koessler Athletic Center. A clutch three-point basket by Billy Baron helped the Griffs overcome a late deficit with under two minutes to go in the game.
The senior guard helped Canisius to a 35-33 halftime lead, but struggled from the field all night long. Baron scored 12 points in the opening twenty minutes on just 2 of 7 shooting from the field, both baskets coming from behind the three point line. However, he went 6 of 7 from the free throw line to lead the team. Phil Valenti came off of the bench and added 6 points and 9 rebounds in 11 minutes of play in the half. Fellow freshman Zach Lewis contributed 6 points in 10 minutes for the Griffs.
South Dakota forced Canisius into 11 fouls in the first half. Guard Brandon Bos led the Coyotes in scoring in the first half with 10 points in 17 minutes. Also, center Trevor Gruis chipped in 9 points and 6 rebounds for the visitors. Trey Norris went 4 for 6 at the three throw line in the half, attempting half of his team's free throw opportunities. South Dakota went 10 for 12 from the free throw line in the half.
The two teams traded the lead all the way through the second half, with Canisius going nearly four minutes between baskets early in the half. The Coyotes were able to capitalize on the Griffs mistakes, holding a 46-42 lead with 12:56 to go in the game. However, when Canisius needed a go-ahead bucket, it was Baron to take the shot. He knocked home a three with 9:51 to go in the game to give his team a 49-48 lead, which would be short lived. The senior would put Canisius up for good with :57 remaining in the game on a fall-back three-point jump shot. The basket gave the Griffs a 67-64 edge.
Chris Perez hit a clutch jump shot from the left corner of the offensive zone to re-up the lead to 3 points with just :20 to go. Baron then capped off his 27-point night with a pair of free throws after gaining the rebound on a Norris missed three-point shot.
Canisius is now 76-32 all-time in their opening game of the season, in addition to their 13-9 home record at Koessler Athletic Center.
The Golden Griffins are 1-0 on the season, and will travel to St. Bonaventure to tip off with Bonnies on Saturday night at 7 o'clock. You can catch all of the action on our sister station WWWS AM-1400 with Jay Moran.