Life without Isaiah Reese is not coming without struggles for the Canisius men’s basketball team.
Three days after Canisius announced the indefinite suspension of the junior guard, the Golden Griffins lost, 78-71, in overtime to Marist. The Griffs also lost a chance to move within a half game of first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
The Golden Griffins led, 61-48, with 5:56 left in regulation at the Koessler Athletic Center. But the Red Foxes went on a 14-0 run in a span of 4 minutes, 20 seconds, sparked by three of their four second-half offensive rebounds and a 4-for-7 effort on 3-pointers to force overtime.
Overtime was substandard for the shorthanded Griffs. Marist went 9 for 10 from the free-throw line and limited Canisius to 2-for-9 shooting.
“I don’t think (Marist) did anything that made us turn the ball over,” Canisius guard Malik Johnson said. “I think it was more a lack of focus. We were getting stops at the beginning. Then, a couple miscues on defense and they hit some timely shots, and that hurt us.”
Johnson and Takal Molson each scored 19 points for the Golden Griffins (9-13, 6-4 MAAC), who fell from second place to a three-way tie for third in the conference, with Siena and Quinnipiac. The Golden Griffins entered Monday in sole possession of second behind Rider (12-9, 7-2), which plays Tuesday at Manhattan.
The loss to Marist, which started Monday in last place in the 11-team MAAC, continued a tumultuous six days for the Golden Griffins. Canisius lost, 78-70, at Niagara on Jan. 30. The athletic department announced Reese’s suspension about 90 minutes before a 75-70 win Friday against Quinnipiac.
“I don’t think we’re looking back and adding up things and finding out what’s good and what’s bad,” Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “Today, we didn’t play well enough. It’s not that tumultuous if we win tonight, but at least it doesn’t appear to be. We have to get better in a few areas.”
The Griffs also prepare for a stretch of their schedule that includes a game Friday at first-place Rider, a game Feb. 24 at defending MAAC tournament-champion Iona and then a home game against Niagara three nights later.
Canisius also may have to prepare for a longer stretch without Reese. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound guard from Miami, averaged 11.8 points, 4.4 assists and 5.9 rebounds in 20 games. But less than eight minutes into a 78-70 loss Jan. 20 at Niagara, Reese was benched for the remainder of the game and went scoreless.
Two days later, Canisius announced Reese was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. A Canisius spokesman told The News that Reese is still enrolled in school and is still a member of the men’s basketball program, but that he is suspended from team activities.
Asked if Reese remained indefinitely suspended going into Friday’s game at Rider, Witherspoon referred to the statement Canisius released Friday.
Reese posted a string of cryptic tweets Jan. 26, two days after he scored 11 points and had nine assists in an 80-66 win against Monmouth.
In one, he wrote that “so many opportunities came about during the summer time & that’s when my confidence was at an all time high. That’s also when things started to get harder.”
In a successive tweet, he wrote that “I’ve never had an easy route when it comes to hooping & the one time it do get easy I got people with 'my best interest' tryna limit me.”
“I do believe it’s part of the journey tho!! Be Patient Zay,” he wrote in a third tweet.
Twenty-five minutes before Canisius announced the indefinite suspension of Reese, he wrote in post on Friday, “Kyrie is my mood for the rest of the day” – a tweet he later deleted. The post was an apparent reference to the disgruntled Boston Celtics guard who is expected to become a free agent after this season, and who told reporters last week that “at the end of the day I’m going to do what I feel is best for my career, and that’s just where it stands."
For now, the Griffs have to learn from their recent string of adversity, and must find a way to compensate for Reese’s absence. Jonathan Sanks has started the last two games in place of Reese, averaging seven points and 2.5 rebounds in those two starts. Johnson scored in double figures for his third consecutive game; he entered Monday averaging 8.9 points a game.
“I think we will focus on the things we can control,” Johnson said. “That’s coming in, practicing every day, playing hard and going in, game in and game out, doing those things.
“There’s a lot of outside noise going on and you have to block that stuff out and focus on the task at hand, and that’s kind of what we’re focused on.”
Individual session passes to the 2019 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship tournaments are available. The MAAC tournament is scheduled for March 7-11 at the Times Union Center in Albany.
Individual session passes grant pass holders access to one of 10 designated sessions during the championships. Individual session passes for men’s basketball are $18.50, $25, $37.50 and $50. Individual session passes for women’s basketball are $18.50, $25 and $30. Students receive a special rate of $8 for each session with valid student ID.
Flex ticket packages to the MAAC Basketball Championships are also currently available. Flex ticket packages include four tickets redeemable for any open seat during any session of the MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, including both championship games.
All-session passes are available for fans seeking admission to every single game during the MAAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships. All-session passes are $97, $122, $167 and $227.