Courtesy of GoGriffs.com
LEWISTON, N.Y. – Canisius sophomore Isaiah Reese led four Golden Griffins in double-figures with 26 points, and the Blue and Gold shot 58.0 percent from the field, as Canisius went on the road and scored a 95-88 win over long-time rival Niagara in front of a sold-out Gallagher Center Wednesday night. The win, Canisius’ 16th victory in its last 19 outings, improved the team to 20-10 overall and 14-3 in MAAC play, while the Purple Eagles fell to 18-12 on the season to go with an 11-6 mark in conference action.
The victory locks up a top-two seed for the Griffs in next week’s MAAC Tournament in Albany, N.Y. It will mark the first since 2001 where Canisius is a top-two seed in the conference’s postseason tournament. Canisius now knows that it will play at either 7 p.m., or 9:30 p.m., on March 2, pending final seeding at the end of the MAAC regular-season on Sunday. Additionally, the victory gives Canisius’ its ninth 20-win season in school history and first since 2013-14, while also allowing this year’s edition of the Griffs to tie the program record for MAAC wins in a year at 14 – a record set by the 2013-14 squad.
Reese added six assists, four rebounds and two steals in 38 minutes to his final stat line as the Griffs insured they would not be swept in league by a conference rival for the first time since 2012-13. Senior Jermaine Crumpton added 16 points, six boards and two steals to the winning cause, while freshman Takal Molson was good for 13 points, seven rebounds and a career-high four steals. Sophomore Malik Johnson, who played just three minutes in the first half thanks to early foul trouble, added 10 points, five boards and five assists for the Blue and Gold, who ended the night with 17 assists on 30 makes from the field.
Canisius trailed Niagara 40-37 at the break, and back-to-back 3-pointers by the Purple Eagles just 3:11 into the second stanza had the home team up 48-45. The game remained tight for the next five-plus minutes before Canisius used a 17-4 run over the game’s next 2:30 to turn a 58-58 tie into a 75-62 lead for the Griffs with 8:02 left to play. In that run, the Griffs got scoring from five different players, including Molson, whose jumper from just outside the lane forced Niagara to call a timeout.
The Griffs, who led by as many as 15 points at the 5:33 mark of the second half, shot 58.6 percent from the field and 60 percent (6-for-10) from 3-point land in the second half. The difference in the game was turnovers, as Canisius forced Niagara into 10 second-half turnovers, which the Blue and Gold converted to 13 points.
Niagara redshirt-senior Kahlil Dukes scored 26 points in the loss for the Purple Eagles, who have now dropped two straight after winning four in a row. Junior Marvin Prochet was good for 13 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore James Towns scored 13 points off the bench. Nine of the 10 Canisius players who saw action on Wednesday night scored at least two points and was credited with a rebound.
Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon’s Postgame Comments
“This was a hard-fought game. It was a great college basketball atmosphere. The building was loud, and it was really hot. This was a great team win for us as a program. We needed a lot of contributions for a lot of different guys because we got into that early foul trouble. We have talked to those guys all year about being ready because you never know when your time is coming. Those guys were ready tonight and it really payed off. I also thought we did a good job of taking care of the basketball. Our turnover number got high because we got a little sloppy at the end, but for the most part, especially in the second half, I thought we did a good job of limiting turnovers and forcing them to give it up.”
• This was the 183rd all-time meeting between the two schools, with Niagara leading the series 100-83.
• Canisius’ win gives the team two more points in the “Battle of the Bridge” standings for the 2017-18 season. The Griffs lead the all-sport rivalry series 21-3.
- The Blue and Gold is now 4-8 on the year when trailing at the break. All four of those wins have come in MAAC play.
• As a team, Canisius has made 30 field goals in four-straight contests.
• The 26-point effort for Reese gives him 20-or more points scored in three-straight games.
• Crumpton moved his streak of scoring 10-or more points in a game to 26 with his 16-point performance.
- Molson now has double-digit points scored in 17 games this season, the most for a Canisius rookie since Frank Turner had double-figures in 20 games during the 2006-07 season.
• Johnson’s five assists gives him five-or more assists in a game in 31 times in his career.
• The win in the Gallagher Center gives Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon a victory in every opposing MAAC building in just his second season as the Griffs’ head coach.
Canisius will close out the 2017-18 regular season on Sunday, Feb. 26, when the team plays host to Marist in the Koessler Athletic Center on Senior Day. Canisius will honor Crumpton and fellow senior Selvedin Planincic prior to the start of the game around 1:45 p.m. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN3. The radio call will be available on Buffalo’s WECK 1230-AM and 102.9-FM, GoGriffs.com and the TUNEIN app.