Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Canisius Dreams of Another Monday Night

Canisius' senior point guard Frank Turner said that his team's meeting with Siena at the Saints' Times Union Center home court in Albany, N.Y., on Monday came with a theme: Get ready for a Monday night later this season.

Of course, that would be Monday, March 8, the night of the conference tournament's championship game.

"That's how we approached this game," said Turner. "Everything we did was to go through the experience so we'll be prepared for it again for the Monday night championship game."

For the first time in Turner's career it appears that the Golden Griffins have a legitimate chance to get there. That was evidenced on this Monday in an 82-70 loss to Siena, one in which the Griffs held a 59-58 lead with with 12:20 remaining and had a chance to extend that advantage on their next possession.

Instead, Turner made a turnover, and Siena got hot going on a 15-1 run to put the game away.

But, for close to 28 minutes, Canisius dared to dream of knocking off Siena and ending the home team's now-30-game winning streak at the TUC. Still, there was enough good done by Canisius not only on this night but through the season to date for it to dream of playing on another Monday night later this season.

The Griffs entered this Monday's game with an 8-8 record, its furthest run with a .500 record into a season since 2000-01.

And, that turnover by Turner just before Siena's game-deciding run? It was one of just two the 5-foot-10 guard made all night.

Otherwise, he continued to solidify his candidacy not only for a first-team all-MAAC selection, but as a legitimate Player of the Year possibility.

Against Siena turner had 23 points, five rebounds, two steals, a block and four assists. He now averages a league-best 17.4 points per game, 5.2 rebounds (17th-best in the conference) , 5.0 assists (4th), 2.4 steals (1st) is shooting 53.1 percent from the floor (5th), and has a respectable 1.52 assist-to-turnover ratio (7th).

Turner has always been one of the league's more-talented players, but his early years were often marked with less-controlled performances than has been on display this season.

He has clearly matured as a player, and Canisius' roster has matured around him.

The Griffs have been 29-64 over the previous three seasons, but an 18-44 mark over Turner's first two years could be partially attributed to the growing pains of young players.

Last year's team showed improvement (11-20), particularly late in the season. And, now, the team has a more-experienced cast with four juniors and a senior (Turner) as starters and two more juniors among the team's top three reserves.

The Griffs appear to have some strong supporters for Turner. The 6-foot-7 Tomas Vazquez-Simmons (5.8 points, 6.3 rebounds) and 6-7 Greg Loggins (10.7, 5.2) provide a solid front court, while 6-5 Elton Frazier (7.5, 4.8), 6-4 Julius Coles (14.8, 4.9) and 6-0 Robert Goldsberry (2.0 1.7 and averaging 5.0 assists in his last six games) have all been major contributors.

"The experience is a big thing, as is all the work we put in together over the summer," said Turner. "It has helped us build the type chemistry you need to win games."

And even this Monday's loss to Siena is viewed as a positive step.

"We wanted to win, but we'll come out of this with a good feeling, actually," said Turner. "We showed we could play with them. We don't accept losing, but we'll build off this game."

If Canisius, now 3-3 in league play and 8-9 overall, continues to build, with Turner serving as the primary director of the project, it's not difficult to imagine the team producing its first winning record since the 2000-01 season.

And, maybe, getting to play on a much-more desired certain Monday night in March.

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