Immediate reactions: Niagara 82, Canisius 71

Niagara 31 51 — 82
Canisius 35 36 — 71

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: Canisius kept a small but comfortable lead for much of the first half before Niagara surged ahead with a 14-2 run out of halftime and led the rest of the way. Niagara had a some difficulty closing out the victory but looked much better than its 21-loss record, holding on for an 11-point win behind 20 points from Dominique Reid, 18 from Emile Blackman, 15 from Ramone Snowden and 14 from Wesley Myers and Karonn Davis.

Canisius looked out of sorts in the second half, giving up 51 points and shooting just 31.4 percent from the field. Jeremiah Williams again led the charge on offense, scoring 18 points. Kassius Robertson had 13 and Josiah Heath had 12 while Zach Lewis was 3 for 10 on three-pointers for 9 points. The closest Canisius’ comeback got was five points at 75-70 with 58.7 left.

But the story was Niagara’s suddenly resurgent offense, which scored its highest point total for a non-overtime game this season and has won three straight games. The Purple Eagles carved up Canisius’ defense in the second half, shooting 78.9 percent from the field and making all three three-point attempts.

What it means: This game was actually fairly meaningless in terms of the conference standings — Canisius couldn’t move above or below the 4-vs-5 game in the MAAC Tournament and Niagara can’t move higher than one of the bottom three seeds in the play-in round — but rivalry games are always important for local pride. Second-year NU coach Chris Casey earned his first win against Canisius (1-3), and three games sets the longest winning streak of his Division I coaching career.

Canisius falls to 15-13, 10-9 MAAC and will finish fifth in the conference — the same as Billy Baron’s first year at the school, though in a down year for the MAAC. Niagara goes to 7-21, 6-13 and appears to be peaking with the tournament around the corner.

It was over when: Emile Blackman threw down one of the nicest alley-oops the KAC has seen since Elton Frazier’s graduation and Karonn Davis followed with a corner three that put Niagara up 53-42 with 10:14 to go (video of it here). The Purple Eagles had a little trouble closing it out, but the momentum was all Niagara after this #SCTop10-worthy slam.

Streak over: Canisius lost four straight games after Phil Valenti was injured but had rebounded to win three straight. That streak ended Tuesday.

Short bench: 

Stats that were good: Emile Blackman’s line: 7 of 12 shooting for 18 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 turnovers. … Jan Grzelinski played a limited role but had three assists and no turnovers in 10 minutes. … Dominique Reid was 8 for 12 shooting.

Stats that were bad: Reid’s 20 points came with five turnovers. … “Paid attendance” was a sellout of 2,196 people, but the KAC was definitely not at capacity.

Vegas line: Vegas Insider had Canisius -10.5 and over/under 127.5. Niagara covered, total was 153.

Next: Canisius hosts Fairfield at 7 p.m. Friday in the Griffs’ regular-season finale while Niagara hosts Fairfield on Sunday.

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