Canisius and UB meet at the First Niagara Center tonight in the feature presentation of doubleheader that also includes Niagara against Davidson. NU tips off at 6 p.m., with Canisius-UB to follow around 8.
The teams: Canisius: 5-3, 2-0 MAAC. RPI: 176. Streak: Won two in a row and four of last five.
UB: 4-2, 0-0 MAC. RPI: 217. Streak: Won four straight.
Vegas line: Buffalo -3.5
Previous game: Canisius beat Siena, 93-78, on Sunday at the Koessler Center. It marked the second straight year the Griffs swept the opening weekend of conference play and the first time since 1996-97 that Canisius won consecutive MAAC games by 15 points or more.
UB beat St. Bonaventure, 78-73, on Saturday behind 17 points from Jarynn Skeete and Shannon Evans. SBU is the only common opponent between the teams. Canisius lost to Bonaventure, 86-64, in the second game of the season.
About UB: Senior forward Javon McCrea leads the Bulls in scoring and rebounding and averages nearly a double-double at 16.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game. Senior Joshua Freelove, and Alabama State transfer, is next at 12.2 points per game. Jarod Oldham (9.7 ppg) is also a threat to score, and he averages more assists per game than Billy Baron.
UB is coached by Bobby Hurley, who was brought in after Reggie Witherspoon was fired last spring.
Series history: Canisius won last year’s meeting, 71-64, but lost seven of the last eight before that. In November 2011, UB players took offense to Canisius allegedly disrespecting the Bulls’ center-court logo at Alumni Arena after the Griffs’ 73-71 win. Canisius players said it had something to do with what UB did the year before. It hasn’t come up since. Jim Baron is 6-2 against UB in his career.
Manhertz vs. McCrea: The Griffs can stay with anyone in the country if they shoot like they did Sunday (made 15 three-pointers), but how Canisius handles Javon McCrea and UB’s bigs will likely determine the outcome of the game. Interior defense hasn’t been a strong spot for the Griffs and they’ve been getting killed on the glass. McCrea vs. Chris Manhertz has the potential to be the best matchup in the Big 4, but it’s never materialized.
McCrea has a slight size advantage on Manhertz, but in head-to-head meetings, he’s played gargantuan. Manhertz played only five minutes against UB as a freshman and fouled out in each of their last two meeting. He has nine rebounds, 15 points and six turnovers in three games against the Bulls. McCrea, in those games, has 40 points and 20 rebounds.
Noteworthy: The games are being played downtown tonight because Buffalo is hosting NCAA tournament games this season, and the NCAA says all host teams must play a game where the tournament will be held — essentially in a dress rehearsal for the doubleheaders coming in March. Tonight also marks Canisius’ first-ever “away” game at the First Niagara Center (or HSBC Arena or any other name it held). The trip from FNC to Canisius’ Koessler Center is 3.5 miles. FNC to UB’s Alumni Arena? 11.9 miles.
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