LEWISTON, N.Y. – Host Niagara shot 53.2 percent from the field as a team and junior Matt Scott posted a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds as the host Purple Eagles scored a 91-84 win over Canisius Monday night in the Gallagher Center. The win, Niagara’s second straight, improved the team to 7-14 overall and 4-6 in MAAC play, while the Golden Griffins fell to 12-9 overall and 5-5 in conference action after their third-straight defeat.
Canisius trailed by as many as 18 points with 11:12 left on the clock, but senior Phil Valenti and junior Jermaine Crumpton led the comeback charge for the Blue and Gold, which was able to whittle the deficit to down to five points with 2:03 left to play, with 22 and 20 points, respectively. Senior Kiefer Douse was good for 15 points and six boards, while junior Kassius Robertson added 14 points and four assists to Canisius’ effort, as the team shot 44.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from 3-point land.
Niagara used a 14-6 run midway through the opening half en route to a 51-34 lead at the intermission. In the game’s first 20 minutes, Niagara shot 54.5 percent from the field and went a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line. In the second half, Canisius came out and cut Niagara’s lead to seven at 58-51 with 14:47 left to play, but the Purple eagles answered with eight-straight points over the next 1:33 to make the score 66-51 with 12:36 showing on the game clock.
Niagara led by as many as 18 points at 71-53 after Scott drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner with 11:12 left in regulation time. From there, the Griffs rallied back, led by Valenti and Crumpton, who combined to score 20 of the Griffs’ next 22 points over the next 6:45 to get Canisius within nine at 84-75 with 4:07 left on the clock. Niagara’s Kahlil Dukes pushed the Purple Eagles’ cushion back to a dozen with a traditional three-point play moments later before the Blue and Gold took one more swing at Niagara with a 7-0 run over the next 1:35 that had Canisius trailing by five points at 87-82 with 2:03 left to play. Canisius forced a shot-clock violation on Niagara’s next possession, but the Griffs’ chance to cut into the lead late slipped away when the Blue and Gold came up empty with 39 seconds left, forcing the Griffs to foul to stop the clock. Niagara ended the night shooting 17-for-17 from the charity stripe.
Crumpton ended the night with a team-high seven rebounds in the loss for the Griffs, while Valenti grabbed five boards, dished out two assists and was credited with a career-high five steals. Freshman Isaiah Reese came off the bench and scored six points for Canisius, as Niagara's bench out scored Canisius' reserves 20-11 for the game. Dukes had 17 points and nine assists for Niagara, while Kevin Larkin added 16 points to the winning effort powered by a 3-for-3 night from behind the 3-point arc.
Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon’s Postgame Comments
“Niagara came out and played a great game. Give them all the credit in the world. We started in a hole and fought back, but we missed too many lay-ups. Frankly, we didn’t play hard enough.”
“We need a great level of focus from top to bottom. That’s the way it is this time of year. It has to happen at both ends of the floor. Our guys need to embrace playing hard, and being really locked in, from the jump.
• Niagara outrebounded Canisius 36-32, and the Purple Eagles held a 13-9 advantage in second chance points.
• The Griffs turned 14 Niagara turnovers into 21 points, while the Griffs were charged with eight turnovers, which Niagara converted to eight points.
• Niagara led for 39:12. The game was tied for just 47 seconds. Canisius did not hold a lead in the game, the second-straight outing where the Blue and Gold failed to hold a lead at any point in the contest.
• This was the 180th meeting all-time between the two long-time rivals, with Niagara holding the series 98-82.
• The win for Niagara snapped the Purple Eagles’ three-game losing streak in the series.
• Canisius lost in the Gallagher Center for the first time since 2011-12 season.
• The 22-point game for Crumpton was his seventh game of 20-plus points this season.
• Valenti’s 20 points gives him 1,151 career points, which ranks 23rd in school history.
• Robertson’s two makes from 3-point land in the loss gives him 186 for his career, which ranks third-best in school history.
• The win on Monday gives Niagara two points in the annual Battle of the Bridge series, which Canisius leads 9-5.
Canisius will return home Saturday, Jan. 28, when the team hosts Manhattan in the Koessler Athletic Center. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3, and the audio call will be on Timeless WECK 1230-AM and 102.9-FM in Buffalo and the Golden Griffin Broadcast Network.