Immediate reactions: Canisius 77, Niagara 64 — 12/6/14

Canisius 34 43 — 77
Niagara 34 30 — 64

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: Canisius started hot and never stopped hitting shots, roaring to a 77-64 win while shooting a season-high 49.1 percent from the floor.

Four Griffs scored in double figures, led by 15 points Phil Valenti, who added 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. Jermaine Crumpton and Josiah Heath each scored 13 points while Jamal Reynolds had 12.

Niagara closed the first half on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 34 going into the locker room. Matt Scott led the Purple Eagles with 13 points. Wesley Myers had 11.

What it means: Canisius takes the lead in the MAAC at 2-0. Canisius has won three straight games at the Gallagher Center for the first time since 1984-87, when it won four straight. Prior to this streak, Canisius had lost nine in a row on Niagara’s court. Second-year NU coach Chris Casey is yet to beat Canisius. Canisius avoided being swept by Big 4 opponents, which last happened in 2011-12.

Turning point: The game was tied 40-40 with 15:20 left when Jeremiah Williams checked in for Jan Grzelinski at point guard. Canisius outscored Niagara 37-24 the rest of the way. Williams was much more dynamic at the point, dishing out five assists and adding seven points. Grzelinski has struggled over the last two weeks and didn’t have a point or an assist today. He’s on the verge of being replaced in the starting lineup, though I will say his defense was better today while matched up on Karonn Davis.

Crumpton’s big day: Niagara probably didn’t gameplan to guard Jermaine Crumpton 20-plus feet from the hoop. That was a mistake. The 6-foot-6, 245 pound redshirt freshman finished with 13 points, two off his career high, and made five of his seven shots, including two three-pointers and two long jumpers. The big man can shoot. (He just didn’t rebound today.)

[VIDEO: Crumpton talks about playing the school he grew up rooting for]

Niagara game ball: Matt Scott entered the day averaging only 2.4 points per game but scored a career-high 13 points making every shot he took — two front behind the arc, five total from the field and one from the free-throw line. Ten of his points came in the first half.

Lewis held down: Zach Lewis only played six minutes in the first half and 23 total after picking up two early fouls. He finished with just five points on 1-of-6 shooting and was shut out for the first 28 minutes. Adam Weir had a similarly poor night, going 0-3 with some bad misses, which will drop his season shooting percentage to .222.

Layden Court: Niagara’s court was renamed for Frank Layden and his wife, Barbara, before the game. Frank played at Niagara under ‘Taps’ Gallagher, coached during the Calvin Murphy years and then moved on to a long career in the NBA. Frank and Barbara’s signatures are on the floor in front of the Niagara bench.

Next: Both teams play next on Saturday, Dec. 13. Canisius is at UMass at 4 p.m. and Niagara heads to Davidson for a 7 p.m. contest.

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