Niagara eliminates Canisius from MAAC Tournament

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Canisius’ nightmare season came to an uninspired end Friday night in the play-in round of the MAAC Tournament, where the Niagara Purple Eagles finished off their arch rival, 80-70, beating Canisius for the third time this season.

Any time Canisius made a push to get back into the game, Niagara answered with a big shot to protect its ten-point cushion in the second half. MAAC Rookie of the Year Juan’ya Green led Niagara with 20 points, including 13 in the first half, while Ameen Tanksley had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. All five Niagara starters scored in double-digits.

Harold Washington lived up to his title as a Second Team All-MAAC member, shifting through Niagara’s 2-3 zone for a game-high 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but missed six of his ten free throws. Guards Washington and Alshwan Hymes combined for nine of Canisius’ 16 turnovers.

The Griffs actually shot 52.1 percent in the game but missed free throws (7 for 17 on the night) and allowed Niagara to collect 18 offensive rebounds.

“That was the difference in the game,” Canisius coach Tom Parrotta said. “Over the course of 40 minutes, to give up that many offensive rebounds  … was ultimately our demise.

“In my mind, anytime you give up an offensive rebound, I just kind of look away and say ‘it’s a basket.’ And that seemed to happen obviously more than it should have tonight. … They beat us to loose basketballs, they got those offensive rebounds and made us pay for it.”

Gaby Belardo was 0-for-6 shooting in the first half but found his touch in the second half, finishing with 18 points. Hymes was 2-for-3 from behind the arc and had 16.

“Shooting 52 percent, most teams would win,” Hymes said. “I think we didn’t take care of the ball enough throughout the game. We gave them a lot of shots that we shouldn’t have. We just didn’t have a good feel for the game.”

A 13-2 run midway through the first half gave Canisius its only lead of the game. It got as close as seven points in the second half but Niagara wouldn’t let its rival creep any closer. Niagara led 33-26 and halftime and Canisius finished the year 0-19 when trailing at the break.

The Griffs ended the year with a 5-25 record and only one victory against a conference team. The only loss for next season is scarcely-used forward Marial Dhal, the tallest player ever to play in the MAAC (7-foot-3), while forwards Freddy Asprilla and Jordan Heath as well as guard Isaac Sosa all become eligible. All three were forced to sit out this season after transferring to Canisius.

Parrotta has one year left on his contract. Through six years on the job, his record as Canisius coach is 64-121 and this season is his second time with 25 losses. What he has going for him is the academic side — all seniors in his program graduate with their master’s degrees in four years.

David Santiago did not make the trip to the tournament due to a violation of team rules. The athletic department said his violation was a separate incident from the one that kept Melissa Gardner of the women’s team back in Buffalo.