Niagara 67, Canisius 65
How Niagara Won: The Purple Eagles surely caught the Griffs totally offguard with their determination to establish a presence in the paint. Forward Kashief Edwards struck for 21 points. Fellow big men Erik Williams and Scooter Gillette added 10 and 4. That means the Purple Eagles got more than 50 percent of their points on the interior. And that happens about once a Joe Mihalich coaching tenure (well, maybe during the Juan Mendez years). Niagara also shot 53.2 percent. They were shooting 36.7 percent from the field coming in.
Turning Point: The goaltending call against Marial Dahl on Edwards' catch-and-shoot at the buzzer. Would the shot have gone? If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one around does it still make a sound?
Player of the Game: Edwards was super. A beast. Relentless in scoring 21 for the second straight game. But he shares the honor with Nelson (nine assists). The first three Niagara baskets of the second half were scoring by Edwards on assists by Nelson. And then the two teamed up on the play that won it.
Unsung Hero: Freshman guard Malcolm Lemmons scored 13 points for Niagara on 4 of 5 shooting (2 of 2 from three) and handed out three assists.
Stat of the Game: Niagara went to the foul line 23 times, Canisius 6. Lopsided officiating? Nope. Assertiveness has its rewards. The Griffs have a love affair with the perimeter that's going to break their hearts. They've shot 150 fewer free throws than the opposition this year. It's unfortunate that an injury earlier this season arrested the developed of freshman Chris Manhertz. Now there's a Griff who cherishes contact.
Stat of the Game II: This was the fifth game in a row Niagara's shot worse than 60 percent from the line. They were 12 of 23 and missed the front end of three one and ones in the final 1:13.
National Stat Watch: Nelson, the country's steal leader at 3.47 per game, managed just two, one of which resulted in his own breakaway dunk.
They Said It: "I say it kiddingly but I mean it, I think about Dayton all the time. That's what I think about. We win this (MAAC) Tournament in Fairfield, we can find a way to do that, we'll be in Dayton. Nothing wrong with Dayton in March." -- Niagara coach Joe Mihalich.
They Said It II: "I don't think the game was lost on that .4 seconds or in the last couple of minutes. It was lost early on when we didn't establish tempo and do the things we needed to do to win this basketball game. -- Canisius coach Tom Parrotta.
What It Means: Niagara improved to 7-21, 4-12 in the Metro Atlantic. Canisius fell to 13-13, 7-9. The Griffs remain tied with Siena for sixth place. The one that finishes seventh will play an an extra game in the MAAC Tourney. Niagara already knows it's play-in bound.
In the House: 2,293 jammed the Taps and made the noise of 22,930. Just a great, great basketball venue. Like being in a tornado.
Next Up: Both step out of conference for the BracketBuster. Niagara hosts Central Michigan Saturday afternoon. Canisius visits Boston University.
-- Bob DiCesare