New Rochelle, NY – Billy Baron scored 29 points to lead Canisius to an exciting 85-83 win over Iona on Friday night. Canisius (12-6, 6-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) led by 20-points (61-41) with 16:39 left in the game before Iona battled back with a 34-10 run to take a 74-71 lead with 7:24 remaining.
The Golden Griffins were still down by two until Chris Perez hit back-to-back lay-ups to give his team an 83-81 lead. After Tre Bowman tied it for Iona, Baron came up with a steal, was fouled with 14 seconds left and made both free throws. Sean Armand missed a three-pointer at the buzzer that would have won it for the Gaels.
Canisius tied Manhattan for the conference lead with the win and subsequently took a one-half game lead after Fairfield’s upset over the Jaspers today.
Baron added eight rebounds, four assists and two steals to his line for the game. After stints at Virginia and Rhode Island, Baron has come into his own in his final season at Canisius. The strong 6’2″, 195-pound point guard is fifth in the nation in scoring (23.2 ppg) and ninth in the nation in free throw percentage (91.7 percent). He’s also shooting a career-best 44.4 percent on three-pointers and is averaging 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds while playing almost every entire game (38.8 minutes per game).
He has scored greater than 25 points in his last six games with a high of 38 points in a double-overtime win over Rider. Baron started that streak in a tough overtime loss at Notre Dame in which he almost led Canisius to a big upset with 33 points, six rebounds, five assists, six steals and only one turnover. That’s one of the best games that any player has had this season.
Baron has a very strong work ethic and has made himself into an elite college guard. His previous schools, Virginia and Rhode Island, could certainly have used him in their starting lineup this year. He has improved steadily each year. After averaging only 11 minutes per game at Virginia, he scored at a 13-point clip for Rhode Island while shooting 31 percent on three’s. Last year at Canisius he bumped his averages up to 17.2 ppg and 38.2 percent on three-pointers before breaking out this season.
Baron has made himself into an excellent shooter with unlimited range through practice and repetition. In his first two college seasons he was thought of as a combo-guard, but he worked and developed solid point guard skills. He spent time in the gym and has gotten noticeably stronger.
He’s a prime example of a player that has improved throughout his career through hard work and improving the skills that needed to be improved. His strength, shooting ability and point guard skills will give him attractive opportunities overseas. But as well as he is playing we expect him to get an invitation to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament first to see how he can compete against elite, athletic guards.