Immediate reactions: Canisius 102, Niagara 97 (3OT) – MAAC Tournament

Niagara 36 35 15 7 9 – 102
Canisius 40 31 15 7 4 – 97

By Nick Veronica

ALBANY – If you can have an instant classic from the play-in round of a conference tournament, Thursday’s Canisius-Niagara game would be it. The seventh-seeded Griffs outlasted their rivals in triple overtime, 102-97, to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals.

What it means: Canisius lives another day and will face No. 2 Iona at 9:30 p.m. Friday. This will be the third time they’ve met in the MAAC Tournament in the last four years. Iona swept the season series from Canisius this year.

Niagara finishes the year at 7-25 but could bring back its entire roster since it has no seniors. Canisius is now 14-18. It was the first time Canisius and Niagara had gone to overtime in the MAAC Tournament in seven meetings.


How it happened: I gave up trying to make this nice prose. Here’s a period-by-period rundown:

End of regulation: Tied 71-71, Canisius has the ball with a chance to win, 18 seconds left … Kevin Bleeker’s potential game-winning three-pointer won’t fall. Headed for overtime.

OT: Canisius up four with 22 seconds left. Blackman gets a tip-in, McMillan hits one of two free throws when he could’ve made it a two-possession game. … Blackman is fouled on a desperation three-point attempt with 1.1 seconds left and calmly makes all three free throws to force a second overtime. Wow. Cool as can be.

Double OT: Malcolm McMillan hits long two-pointer with 1:28 left to make it Canisius 93, Niagara 91. Karonn Davis ties it with 45 seconds left. Phil Valenti misses two big free throws with 24 seconds left, giving Niagara a chance to win … Emile Blackman’s potential game-winner wouldn’t fall. Triple OT.

Triple OT: Emile Blackman steps in to take a charge with four fouls and gets the call in his favor. Gutty. Malcolm McMillan ties it at 97 from the line with 1:47 left. Phil Valenti puts Canisius up with 1:04 to go, 99-97. Blackman misses on Niagara’s possession. Big offensive rebound by Kassius Robertson after McMillian’s miss; McMillan hits both free throws to make it a four-point game with 20.5 left, 101-97. Niagara can’t get a bucket … Phil Valenti hits one of two free throws to seal the deal. What a game.

Stats & leaders: Valenti led all players with 33 points while Blackman led NU with 26. McMillan and Davis both scored 20. No player recorded double-digit rebounds because both teams shot so well/struggled on defense: Niagara hit 51 percent of field goals while Canisius made 43 percent. The Griffs were 34-44 from the line, while Niagara was only 10-17.

Records & notes: The 199 total points scored is the most ever for any MAAC Tournament game.

— Phil Valenti’s 33 points are the most for a Canisius player in a tournament game.

— 102 points is a tournament record for Canisius.

— It was the 19th time Canisius and Niagara have gone to OT; Canisius is now 10-9 in those games.

NU’s Matt Scott misses game: Niagara sophomore Matt Scott did not play Thursday due to a lingering foot injury. Scott (15.4 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game) was the only member of either team to be named to a MAAC all-star team earlier this week. He was the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer behind Emile Blackman (15.5 pgg).

Unsung hero: Niagara guard Chris Barton stepped up in Scott’s place. Barton, a freshman from Pontiac, Mich. making his fifth career start, entered the game shooting just 18.8% on 3-pointers but made 4 of 5 in the first half to spark Niagara. He easily surpassed his career high of 13 points before finishing with 17.

Three-point watch: An interesting matchup coming into the game was Niagara’s three-point shooting. The Purple Eagles rank 343rd out of 346 D-I teams in three-point percentage (27.6%) while Canisius ranks 315th in three-point defense (37.6%). … Niagara ended up shooting 9 for 21 (43%) in the game.

Canisius press conference:

Niagara press conference: 

Baron’s contract extended: Canisius coach Jim Baron received a three-year contract extension this week, announced Thursday afternoon, which locks him up through the 2019-20 season. Next year would’ve been the final year of his original contract.

Interestingly, there’s a strong possibility Baron becomes the NCAA’s career leader in losses over the life of his new extension. That speaks more to his longevity and the type of teams he’s taken over than being a bad coach, but it’s still an incredible factoid.

Baron ranks 79th on the all-time wins list. The next coach he will pass is legendary Niagara coach Taps Gallagher, whom NU’s basketball arena is named after.

Vegas line: Canisius -6.5, over/under 138.5. Niagara covered, total was well over.

Starters: Canisius Malcolm McMillan, Kassius Robertson, Jamal Reynolds, Phil Valenti, Kevin Bleeker. Niagara: Cameron Fowler, Chris Barton, Emile Blackman, Marvin Prochet, Dominic Robb.


Reid’s future at Niagara uncertain after felony charges

By Nick Veronica



The future of Niagara forward Dominique Reid remains uncertain in days after his felony charges were revealed.

An athletic spokesman said Friday that Reid’s status should be considered the same as Wednesday, when athletic director Simon Gray in a statement that Reid “is currently not participating in team activities.” The spokesman said he did not know if it is possible for Reid to rejoin the team at a later date.

Niagara’s student records office said Friday morning that Reid is still enrolled at the university. His name remains on the team roster.

Reid is reportedly facing two felony charges of fourth-degree grand larceny from incidents in December and April, and has a felony charge of second-degree identity theft added to the April incident. He also picked up a misdemeanor charge of second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in October.

[Reid on leave from NU | Buffalo News | Niagara Gazette]

Reid did not miss any game time as result of the mid-season arrest. He played in all 30 games last season and appeared in the first half of every game. The school confirmed Friday that Reid was not put under any other type of non-game related suspension during the season.

niagara_logo_bigReid was Niagara’s third-leading scorer at 9.8 points per game and earned promotion to the starting lineup in the final 13 games of the season. He was named to the conference’s all-rookie team.

Niagara has not had tolerance for legal missteps in the past. Basketball coach Chris Casey parted ways with forward Aaron Bodie after a shoplifting incident in January 2014. Niagara’s hockey team was prompt to suspend a former leading scorer for half a season after a DWI in October 2013. Hockey coach Dave Burkholder said star forward Ryan Murphy was welcome to rejoin the team in mid-January, but Murphy ended up leaving the school.

But for now, as long as Reid remains on the team, Niagara has filled all 13 scholarships for 2015-16. The 15-man roster includes 13 scholarship players and two walk-ons, David Varoli and Thomas Fleming. Casey has brought in eight recruits this offseason to replace the seven departures from a team that had no seniors. (Niagara only used 12 scholarships last season.)

Niagara’s current roster
*new addition for 2015-16

Emile Blackman
Karonn Davis
Cameron Fowler
Matt Scott
Chris Barton*
Romero Collier*
Kevin Larkin*
Kahlil Dukes*
David Varoli
Thomas Fleming

Dominique Reid
Maurice Taylor Jr.*
Alioune Tew*
Dominic Robb*
Marvin Prochet*

Departures: Ramone Snowden, Wesley Myers, Rayvon Harris, James Suber, Julian Richardson, DayJar Dickson, Anders Skou Hansen.

Niagara loses 7th player from last season’s team

By Nick Veronica

niagara_logo_bigNiagara forward James Suber tweeted Friday that he has been granted his release from the team, making him the seventh player from last year’s Purple Eagles to leave the school.

Chris Casey now has only five returning scholarship players to a team that didn’t have any seniors.

Suber, a Philadelphia native, played in 21 games last season, averaging 2.2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

Here’s what Niagara has left from last year’s team, arranged by points per game:

Emile Blackman – Still on scholarship (1)
Ramone Snowden – Transfer
Dominique Reid – Still on scholarship (2)
Wesley Myers – Transfer
Karonn Davis – Still on scholarship (3)
Rayvon Harris – Transfer
Matt Scott – Still on scholarship (4)
James Suber – Transfer
Julian Richardson – Transfer
Cameron Fowler – Still on scholarship (5)
DayJar Dickson – Transfer
Anders Skou Hansen – Left mid-season
Thomas Fleming – Still on team, walk-on
David Varoli – Still on team, walk-on
(If I missed anyone, drop me a note on Twitter.)

Casey has signed only one player for next season, 6-foot-7 forward Dominic Robb.

UPDATE: There was one bit of positive news for Niagara Friday night, landing a commitment from Romero Collier, a guard from Syracuse-area Henninger High School. Collier, who also played quarterback on the football team, was named Central New York’s “Mr. Football” by the Syracuse Post-Standard in December. Casey still has six scholarships open for next year.

Exodus from Niagara continues with Snowden, Richardson

By Nick Veronica

niagara_logo_bigTwo more players are leaving the Niagara basketball team, bringing Chris Casey’s transfer count to five just since the end of the season.

Second-leading scorer Ramone Snowden (10.7 points per game) told the Niagara Gazette on Tuesday that he wants to play closer to his hometown in Virginia.

And Tuesday night, Julian Richardson, a reserve guard who played in 11 games, tweeted he is seeking a transfer.

Snowden and Richardson join Wesley Myers, Rayvon Harris and DayJar Dickson in fleeing from Lewiston.

Snowden’s loss may be the biggest of the bunch. He led the team in minutes and steals per game as a sophomore and was second in points, rebounds, assists and blocks. Only Emile Blackman scored more points per game (13.7).

With five players transferring out, plus the mid-season loss of Anders Skou Hansen, that gives Casey six remaining scholarships. Dominic Robb committed earlier this week, but Niagara only used 12 scholarships last season.

Here’s a look at who’s still left from Niagara’s roster last season, arranged by points per game:

Emile Blackman – Still on scholarship (1)
Ramone Snowden – Transfer
Dominique Reid – Still on scholarship (2)
Wesley Myers – Transfer
Karonn Davis – Still on scholarship (3)
Rayvon Harris – Transfer
Matt Scott – Still on scholarship (4)
James Suber – Still on scholarship (5)
Julian Richardson – Transfer
Cameron Fowler – Still on scholarship (6)
DayJar Dickson – Transfer
Anders Skou Hansen – Left mid-season
Thomas Fleming – Still on team, walk-on
David Varoli – Still on team, walk-on

If I missed anyone, drop me a note a Twitter.

Myers third player to leave Niagara; Robb signs

By Nick Veronica

niagara_logo_bigNiagara forward Wesley Myers became the third Purple Eagle to leave the program this offseason, joining transfer candidates Rayvon Harris and DayJar Dickson.

Meanwhile, 6-foot-7 forward Dominic Robb has signed with Niagara, becoming the second-tallest player on the team behind 6-8 Dominique Reid.

Niagara coach Chris Casey still has four scholarships to use for the 2015-16 season.

IN: Dominic Robb.

OUT: Rayvon Harris, DayJar Dickson, Wesley Myers to transfer. Anders Skou Hansen left during the season to return to his native Denmark. Niagara had no seniors. David Varoli and Thomas Fleming are believed to be walk-ons, although that would seem to mean NU only used 12 scholarships last season.