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.


Gameday: Canisius at Niagara – 12/6/14

Griffs at Purple Eagles, Gallagher Center, 3 p.m.

By Nick Veronica

Canisius Golden Griffins: 3-3 overall, 1-0 MAAC, 2-2 road. RPI: 135. KenPom: 172. Streak: W1.

Niagara Purple Eagles: 1-4 overall, 1-0 MAAC, 0-2 home. RPI: 226. KenPom: 268. Streak: L3.

Vegas Line: Open: Canisius -2. Current: Canisius -1.5.

What’s at stake: Never thought we’d be saying this, but MAAC supremacy is on the line today … however short-lived it may be. Both Canisius and Niagara are 1-0 in the conference after opening wins against Saint Peter’s.

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Series history: This is the 175th meeting between the teams if you believe Canisius, or the 177th meeting if you believe Niagara (more on that here). What we know for sure is that Canisius has taken three straight from Niagara, meaning second-year NU coach Chris Casey has yet to beat his rival. In the most recent game between the schools on Feb. 25, Billy Baron took control in the second half and finished with 34 points to lead Canisius to a 71-65 victory.

What’s been working for the Griffs: Not a ton has been going right for Canisius on offense. The team averages under 60 points per game and makes just 35.4 percent of its shots, which ranks 342nd nationally. All-MAAC Rookie Team selection Zach Lewis hasn’t been able to find his groove yet and is shooting just .299 from the floor and .273 from three-point range. He leads the Griffs at 13.3 points per game by the volume of shots he has put up.

Forward Phil Valenti has been more productive, averaging 10.3 points a night on .490 shooting, including 7 of 14 from behind the arc. He also leads the team at 6.2 rebounds per game.

What’s been working for the Purple Eagles: See: Canisius. Niagara’s offense shoots a nearly identical 35.3 percent from the field and averages only 56.8 points per game. Offense has been hard to come by, though two of Niagara’s five games were against Pitt and St. John’s.

What Niagara can say is that it’s at least getting scoring from several sources, with four players averaging better than nine points per game — Emile Blackman (12.6), Ramone Snowden (10.8), Rayvon Harris (9.8) and Karonn Davis (9.2). Where they’ll get scoring from on a given night is anyone’s guess, but today I’d look for Snowden, who’s played in rivalry games before, and Blackman, who’s coming off a 21-point performance at St. John’s.

Bold prediction: Both teams will do something they haven’t done all season: score 65 points.

Court dedication: Niagara will rename its court for Frank and Barbara Layden prior to the game. Frank played for ‘Taps’ Gallahger (whom the Gallagher Center is named after) and later coached during the Calvin Murphy years before going on to the NBA. Murphy and Hubie Brown will be on hand for a panel discussion at the Castellani Art Museum across the street from the Gallagher Center at 11 a.m. and will more than likely attend the game.

Odd stats: Canisius is 3-1 this season when trailing at halftime. … Snowden has two double-doubles this season. Canisius’ entire roster has two double-doubles in all of their careers. … Niagara has made the fewest baskets in the country for any team that has played five or more games. … A loss would be the 400th of Jim Baron’s career.

How to follow the game: Go to it / Watch on ESPN3 / Follow along on Twitter. Remember, tip is at 3 p.m., not 7.