Canisius and Niagara men’s basketball, women’s basketball and hockey all to meet in playoffs

By Nick Veronica

Canisius and Niagara have met in the playoffs plenty of times, but never quite like this.

The Western New York rivals’ three most prominent sports teams – men’s basketball, women’s basketball and ice hockey – will all face each other in the first round of their respective conference tournaments this week.

Never before have all three teams met in the playoffs in the same year, let alone in the same round or weekend. 2011 was the only year Canisius and Niagara met in the postseason in two of the three sports, with Canisius women’s basketball beating Niagara in the play-in round and the Griffs hockey team winning in the semifinals.

The chart below shows the history of their postseason meetings. The teams are 3-3 in men’s basketball while Niagara has never beaten Canisius in a postseason women’s basketball or hockey game.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 1.11.32 AM

This week’s schedule

The Canisius-Niagara women’s basketball game kicks off the entire MAAC Tournament weekend, starting things bright and early Thursday morning with a 9:30 a.m. contest at Albany’s Times Union Center.

[2016 MAAC Tournament brackets]

Canisius (8-12) is seeded eighth and Niagara (5-15) is seeded ninth. Canisius swept the regular-season meetings, winning the road game in overtime. The winner plays No. 1 Quinnipiac at noon Friday.

The men’s basketball teams meet in the play-in round at 7 p.m. Thursday night. Seventh-seeded Canisius (also 8-12) swept both games from Niagara (also 5-15) this year.

The winner faces No. 2 Iona at 9:30 p.m. Friday.

The hockey teams play a best-of-three series this Friday-Sunday. No. 7 Canisius (10-13-5) is the higher seed, so it will host all three games at HarborCenter, with faceoff at 7:35 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5:05 p.m. Sunday if necessary. 

Canisius took the season series from Niagara (5-18-6, seeded 10th) with a win and a tie. Both games were at HarborCenter.

Atlantic Hockey reseeds teams after the first round, so the next opponent is not yet known. It will either be 1-Robert Morris, 2-Air Force or 3-Holy Cross.

Canisius has already clinched the Battle of the Bridge – the all-sport competition between Canisius and Niagara – for the sixth year in a row. Only regular-season games are included in the competition.

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Postgame interviews: Canisius 67, Rider 61 – Baron’s brother ejected

By Nick Veronica

Only 792 people paid to watch Canisius and Rider play basketball on Super Bowl Sunday, making for an intimate atmosphere at the Koessler Athletic Center. Fans who voiced their displeasure could be heard from one end of the gym to the other, which led to referees taking the unusual step of asking security to remove particularly boisterous fans from the game.

One fan who was sent home early happened to be Ed Baron, the brother of Canisius head coach Jim Baron.

In his press conference, Jim Baron essentially said the insults fans yell at him everywhere Canisius plays are much worse than anything his brother said Sunday.

“It’s a game, what do you want? What do you expect?” Baron asked. “Go to a tennis match where you can be quiet. Go to golf, shhh, quiet. They got signs for quiet. This is a basketball game.

“You go to the other places, they’re screaming at me, they’re cursing at me,” Baron added. “They’re appalling to me. Monmouth, I was gonna punch somebody in the face sitting right behind me. I looked at the guy, guy was an idiot. I’m like, what are you talking about? We just beat your team up here. Who the hell are you? This guy sitting right over here, old guy, must’ve been about 75, I think when I stared him down, I think I made his heart, like, quiver.”

[Immediate reactions: Canisius 67, Rider 61]

The referees Sunday were Jeffrey Anderson, Ron Tyburski and Andrew Maira. Anderson came over to a fan before the second half started and reminded him he could be kicked out at any time. Ninety seconds into the half, Maira threw him out. Half an hour later, Ed Baron received the same fate.

Baron attends most, if not all, of Canisius’ games and sits in an aisle seat about ten rows behind the team’s bench. He isn’t shy about voicing his displeasure when calls go against Canisius but usually means well.

Skip to 8:06 on the video above for Jim Baron’s answer about the fans and refs. Here’s the full quote:

“Eh, I don’t wanna … it is what it is. We move forward. I don’t know. People are just, they’re into the game. You come here, this is what … what do you expect? You know? We go, you go to the other places, they’re screaming at me, they’re cursing at me. They’re appalling to me. Monmouth, I was gonna punch somebody in the face sitting right behind me. I looked at the guy, guy was an idiot. I’m like, what are you talking about? We just beat your team up here. Who the hell are you? This guy sitting right over here, old guy, must’ve been about 75, I think when I stared him down I think I made his heart, like, quiver. Because I looked at him like I was gonna … [he said] ‘You asshole!’ Like, come on. … It’s a game, what do you want? What do you expect? Go to a tennis match where you can be quiet. Go to golf, shhh, quiet. They got signs for quiet. This is a basketball game. Alright, thanks guys.”

Canisius players Keifer Douse and Kassius Robertson

The Griffs pressed Rider a lot Sunday, and that’s something Kassius Robertson wants to see a whole lot more of. Robertson and Keifer Douse also discussed his Douse’s new role starting for Jamal Reynolds and how that’s alleviating some of the burden from Reynolds’ shoulders.

Rider coach Kevin Baggett

The MAAC has an interesting schedule with 11 teams. It seems like every team gets rolled at least once when it’s their turn to play a lot of games in a row. Sunday was Rider’s turn. Baggett talked about that and more.

Immediate reactions: Canisius 67, Rider 61

Rider 30 31 – 61
Canisius 34 33 – 67

By Nick Veronica

What it means: Canisius ended its four-game losing streak and beat a hot Rider team to pick up a valuable win in the logjammed lower half of the MAAC standings, where seeds four through nine are separated by only a game and a half.

Rider had won six of its last eight games before Sunday while Canisius had dropped four in a row and eight of 11.

Canisius also ended its home losing streak, which had reached five straight conference games. Six in a row would’ve matched the longest home conference losing streak from the 2011-12 season, when the Griffs went 5-25 and 1-17 in the MAAC.

How it happened: Canisius got good production from both the usual suspects and key reserves and played good enough defense to win, despite a late scare.

Canisius led by as many as 14 points midway through the second half before Rider trimmed the deficit to three in the final minute. Malcolm McMillan banked in a nice scoop shot with 19.5 seconds left and drew a foul to help seal the victory.

Junior transfer Keifer Douse, making his fourth start, scored a career-high 12 points while Cassidy Ryan had a career-best 11. Kassius Robertson led Canisius with 19 points after dropping 24 on the Broncs a week ago. Khalil Thomas led Rider with 19 points.

Canisius goes to 11-14, 5-8 MAAC while Rider is now 10-15, 6-8.

Under pressure: Canisius pressed most of the first half and some of the second half against a Rider team playing its fifth game in 11 days. Rider was able to break free on offense early but the pressure finally started to pay off with about eight minutes left in the first half, producing an 11-0 run that put Canisius ahead 30-23. Rider finished with 17 turnovers to Canisius’ seven.

Defense steps up: Canisius entered the game 335th nationally in field-goal percentage defense and 323rd in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 48.4 percent on the season and 38.0 percent on 3s. The Griffs, aided by their pressure, were much better on D Sunday, holding Rider to 39 percent shooting and just 5 of 26 (19.2%) on 3-pointers.

T’d up: Phil Valenti received a technical foul from Jeff Anderson for yelling about a non-call while walking to the locker room before halftime. … Teddy Okereafor hit both free throws before the second half. Rider started with the ball but didn’t score on its first possession.

Bye, Felicia: It was a small crowd at the Koessler Athletic Center Sunday, so taunts from the stands were easily heard. Anderson threatened to eject a fan at halftime and ref Andrew Maira followed through shortly after. Later, Jim Baron’s brother, Ed, was sent home early.

Good news for the other Broncs? Sunday’s game marked the 14th time the Griffs have played on Super Bowl Sunday. The AFC champion won the Super Bowl all three times Canisius and Rider met on the day of the game. Canisius is now 5-9 on Super Bowl Sunday.

Vegas line: Canisius -1.5, over/under 143. Canisius covered, total was 128.

Starters: Canisius – Malcolm McMillan, Keifer Douse, Kassius Robertson, Phil Valenti, Kevin Bleeker. Rider – Thomas Kahlil, Zedric Sadler, Jimmie Taylor, Teddy Okereafor, Anthony Durham.

Refs: Jeffrey Anderson, Ron Tyburski, Andrew Maira.

Next: Canisius visits Siena on Thursday, tip at 7 p.m.