Immediate reactions: St. Bonaventure 74, Niagara 59 — Big 4 Doubleheader 11/29/14

By Nick Veronica

Niagara 25 34 – 59
St. Bona 35 39 – 74 

How it happened: Niagara just couldn’t hang with St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies’ lead was 10 at halftime and surged to 20 points with 9 minutes to go. Youssou Ndoye led all players with 23 points, Andell Cumberbatch had 16 and Dion Wright added 14. Bonaventure shot 46.4 percent from the field (26-56). Rebounds were 37-35 Bona.

What it means: St. Bonaventure goes to 4-1 and has a chance to sweep Big 4 opponents on Wednesday when it hosts UB. The Bonnies last swept Canisius, UB and Niagara in 2011-12.

St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt has now beaten Niagara four times in a row after losing to them in his first four tries. Second-year Niagara coach Chris Casey is 1-3 against Big 4 opponents. Niagara goes to 1-3 overall.

[Postgame video: St. Bonaventure 74, Niagara 59]

It was over when: Niagara’s three-pointer at the end of the first half was waved off. St. Bonaventure led most of the first half and was up by 10 as the final seconds ticked down. Karonn Davis came down and hit a three that would’ve given Niagara some much-needed momentum into the locker room, but after looking at replays, refs waved off the basket.

Game ball: Youssou Ndoye. The Big 4 Preseason Player of the Year was the best player on the court – by a lot – and didn’t even look like he struggled to drop 23 points and 11 rebounds on the Purple Eagles. He also had five emphatic blocked shots.

Niagara player of the game: Ramone Snowden led the team with 13 points and seven rebounds. Davis also had 13.

Bad stat of the day: Niagara guard Matt Scott had seven turnovers in 17 minutes off the bench. It’s almost impressive how bad that is. Emile Blackman had six turnovers in 24 minutes.

Wild card: Niagara’s poor dance team. Only four members showed up to the game on Thanksgiving break. Then, when they got out on the floor for their routine in the first half, First Niagara Center played the wrong song, so the dance team just stood on the middle of the court.

Next game: Niagara goes to St. John’s on Tuesday, Dec. 2. Bonaventure host UB at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3.


Bona’s Youssou Ndoye named Big 4 Preseason Player of the Year

By Nick Veronica

St. Bonaventure senior forward Youssou Ndoye was named the Big 4 men’s Preseason Player of the Year Wednesday at Big 4 Media Day.

BigFourBasketballLogowebThe Bonnies’ Katie Healy was named women’s Preseason Player of the Year.

Full preseason teams, as selected by media members:

Men’s First Team
Youssou Ndoye, Bona
Shannon Evans, UB
Jordan Gathers, Bona
Zach Lewis, Canisius
Will Regan, UB

Men’s Second Team
Wesley Myers, Niagara
Ramone Snowden, Niagara
Jarryn Skeete, UB
Phil Valenti, Canisius
Dion Wright, Bona

Women’s First Team
Katie Healy, Bona
Kayla Hoohuli, Canisius
Mackenzie Loesing, UB
Meghan McGuinness, Niagara
Nyla Rueter, Bona

Women’s Second Team
Hannah Little, Bona
Emily Michael, Bona
Tiahana Mills, Canisius
Kristen Sharkey, UB
Kelly Van Leeuwen, Niagara

The Big 4 basketball doubleheader returns to the First Niagara Center


The Big 4 logo for the event, used with permission.

By Nick Veronica

Niagara and St. Bonaventure will play at the First Niagara Center on Nov. 29 before the Canisius-UB basketball game, setting up the first true Big 4 doubleheader since 1998.

The event, confirmed today in an official release, is being branded as the Big 4 Basketball Classic.

“We are excited to be able to bring a true Big 4 doubleheader to First Niagara Center,” Canisius athletic director Bill Maher said in the release. “We believe this will be a must-see event for sports fans across Western New York.”

Niagara-Bonaventure is at 2 p.m., followed by Canisius-UB at (roughly) 4:15. The event is the Saturday following Thanksgiving, which should help ticket sales since many fans will already be back in town.

Tickets start at $20 and are good for both games; floor seats will be $30.

Canisius, UB and Niagara played downtown last December in a doubleheader that also served as the First Niagara Center’s mandatory dress rehearsal for hosting the NCAA Tournament. St. Bonaventure was not at the event, as Niagara hosted Davidson instead (Canisius beat UB 69-55, Niagara beat Davidson 83-72).

The first Big 4 doubleheader played downtown was in 1996. The event continued in 1997 and 1998 but has not been recreated with all four teams in the last 16 years.

Canisius only Big 4 basketball program meeting NCAA regulation

The NCAA released its Academic Progress Rate public report earlier this week, which listed the men’s basketball teams at Niagara, Buffalo and St. Bonaventure all to have APR levels below what it considers acceptable, as well as UB football.

Tom Parrotta and his group of seniors received national recognition for graduating with their Master's degrees in four years.

Instituted in 2005, the APR is a coarse measure of how many student-athletes are on track to graduate. As an attempt to hold institutions accountable as well as individuals, the NCAA punishes schools it grades below an acceptable score of 925. Repeat offenders can lose scholarships, practice time, playoff eligibility or, in a worst-case scenario, recognition as a Division I program.

Each player on a team can score two possible points, one for staying academically eligible and another for returning to school the following year (not transferring) — two key stats the NCAA sees as crucial to graduation rates. The scores for every member on the team are added up, and then divided by the number of possible points the team could have earned, yielding a percentage. The percentage is multiplied by 1,000 (lose the decimal point) to give the score. The 925 level means a team has earned 92.5 percent of the points it could possibly earn.

Joe Mihalich’s Purple Eagles, which scored a perfect 1,000 in 2008-09, dropped below the cutoff to 917 last year. NU will not be punished because the perfect score inflates its multi-year average to 929, just above the limit.

Reggie Witherspoon’s UB basketball team scored a deplorable 885 in 2009-10, the academic year this report was released for. The Bulls will not face penalty because their multi-year average is 943, still above the 925 level.

Down in Olean, the Bonnies came up short at 902, but will not be punished. They are still feeling the effects of the coaching change that brought in Mark Schmidt, when several players transferred out and brought Bona’s APR down to 826 in 2006-07. The school’s multi-year average is still below the limit at 894, but they have already been penalized for the 826 year and, according to a report, St. Bonaventure is within the parameters of a waiver it filed with the NCAA two years ago.

On Main Street, Tom Parrotta’s bunch made the grade with a 936 score, bringing the multi-year APR to 953. The Griffs have never missed the cut and, in fact, no Canisius team in any sport has ever fallen below the 925 limit.

UB football is in a similar situation to St. Bonaventure. Several players left following the departure of Turner Gill in 2010, but the large roster size in football allows the Bulls to absorb several losses. The 2009-10 APR was 918 but Jeff Quinn’s team will not be punished because its multi-year score is 930.

The ice hockey programs at Canisius and Niagara were both well above the limit (1,000 and 977, respectively), and all four women’s basketball programs scored very highly (UB, Canisius, Niagara: 1,000; St. Bonaventure: 981).

It should be noted that these scores say nothing about how well student-athletes are doing in the classroom, just that they remained eligible.

For more, check out the NCAA’s APR page yourself, here for the penalty breakdown, or here for more details on how the APR is calculated.

Career day for Bryon Mulkey powers UB past Canisius

UB's Byron Mulkey

Eighteen hundred strong packed into the Koessler Athletic Center Tuesday night, expecting to see the top college basketball programs in Western New York duke it out.

Instead, they got the Byron Mulkey show.

Mulkey had a near-perfect game for the Bulls, dropping a career-high 23 points while propelling UB past Canisius, 81-64.

Mulkey finished the day 7-of-9 from the field and converted all eight of his free throw attempts. He didn’t miss a shot for almost the first 35 minutes of the game, going 7-for-7 until Tomas Vazquez-Simmons blocked his shot with 5:08 to play.

Buffalo’s Zach Filzen hit a 3-point shot 21 seconds into the game to open the scoring, and the Bulls never lost the lead the rest of the game. The closest Canisius came was tying it at 6-6, and never got closer than seven points in the second half.

“We didn’t play up to our standards,” Canisius head coach Tom Parrotta said. “They out-did us in every facet of the game.”

Did they ever. The 17-point winning margin was the most for UB over Canisius in nearly a century. The game tied the record the Bulls set in 1915—before the shot clock and 3-point line—when they beat Canisius 40-23.

The Bulls shot a blazing 64 percent from the field in the first half to take a commanding 42-29 lead into the locker room. Canisius had the ball stolen from them seven times in the first half, and while both teams committed 10 turnovers, UB cashed them in for 14 points, while the Griffs were only able to muster six.

Reggie Groves led Canisius at halftime with double-digit points for the second consecutive game, however, for second consecutive game, he also was shut out in the second half.

The Griffs went on a 6-0 run to start the second half and cut the deficit to 42-35, but UB answered with an 8-0 run to extend the lead even further.

UB (3-1) led by as many as 20 before closing out the game up by 17 points on Canisius (2-2). The Bulls finished the game shooting 56.9 percent, including 46.2 percent from behind the arc.

The Griffs shot over 42 percent in the game, but settled for too many bad shots and didn’t rebound nearly well enough to stay with Mulkey and the Bulls.

Elton Frazier led Canisius with 14 points (6-for-7), Julius Coles had 12, Groves had 10 and Greg Logins added eight. No Griff had more than five rebounds.

UB coach Reggie Witherspoon made it a priority to take Canisius point guard Gaby Belardo out of the game, and they had success with eliminating him. Belardo was held to just eight points (went 0-for-4 from 3-point range) and committed five turnovers.

Filzen added 13 points for UB, while Mitchell Watt had 12 and Jawaan Alston had nine. Javon McCrea had seven points and added nine rebounds and four steals on the night.

Parrotta was looking for size to put in to the game when Frazier got into foul trouble early, and opted for Chris Manhertz (6-6, 235) instead of Marial Dhal (7-3, 230). Manhertz played five minutes in the first half while Dhal did not get into the game.

UB players made it clear in the press conference that they wanted to get back at Canisius for what they called “disrespectful” actions after the Griffs’ 73-71 win at Alumni Arena last season. They were upset when several Canisius players made derogatory actions toward the UB logo on the court after the game.

Even McCrea, a freshman, said he was briefed on the incident. With the decisive win, Bulls players believe they got revenge on Canisius.

“We beat them pretty bad on their home court,” McCrea said.

Canisius is now 1-1 versus Big 4 opponents, with two MAAC games against Niagara remaining.

“Our plan was to sweep the series, go 4-0,” Parrotta said.

The Griffs have a week off until its next game, which will take place next Tuesday, Nov. 30 in Binghamton.