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Contingency plans in place for Canisius as HarborCenter works toward late October opening




609615 HarborCenter GEE8
HarborCenter President John Koelmel takes in the main hockey rink, which is taking shape, on June 25. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)


By Amy Moritz

Today was a big day for HarborCenter. Five months after construction began the final beam of structural steel was swung into place to top off the parking ramp and rinks. Officials said HarborCenter would be ready to go at the end of October.

There's only one problem. College hockey season begins in early October, including home games for the Canisius College Golden Griffins. The program is scheduled to move into HarborCenter this season.

Ah, but no worries. Canisius athletic director Bill Maher said the school and the Buffalo Sabres had already planned for the possiblity of construction delays. Canisius has worked in partnernship with the Sabres for a smooth transition and early season games will be played in First Niagara Center should the rinks at HarborCenter not be ready when the Griffs drop the puck on the 2014-15 season.

Canisius will be releasing its season schedule as early as next week.

The last time regular season college hockey was played at First Niagara Center was Oct. 24-25, 2003, when Canisius, Niagara, New Hampshire and UMass-Lowell played in the Punch Imlach College Hockey Showcase.

Canisius to CIT

By Bob DiCesare

Canisius has accepted a bid to the Tournament and will host a first-round game at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Koessler Athletic Center against an opponent to be determined.

It's the second straight postseason appearance for the Griffs (21-12), who last Sunday fell to Iona in the semifinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament.

Canisius played in the CIT last season, defeating Elon and Youngstown State before a third-round loss to Evansville.

The invitation extends the careers of Canisius seniors Billy Baron, Chris Manhertz, Chris Perez and Jordan Heath. Baron averages 24.2 points and needs eight points for reach 1,700 for his collegiate career.

Baron Named MAAC's POY

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Canisius guard Billy Baron, the rock-steady force behind the program's rise from the depths, this evening was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year during award festivities at the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Baron is the first Griff since Darrell Barley in 1996 to receive the honor and the third overall. Craig Wise was the MAAC's top player in 1995.

A two-time first-team all-MAAC selection, Baron is the nation's No. 3 scorer at 24.4 points per game and ranks among the national top 20 in 12 statistical categories, including No. 2 in minutes played. He has averaged 25.7 points, 6 assists and 5.1 rebounds against MAAC opponents while shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 87 perfect from the foul line.

Meanwhile, on the women's side, Niagara's Victoria Rampado, a 6-foot-2 forward from Niagara Falls, Ont., was named the conference's Rookie of the Year. She averaged 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Baron is also a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award that goes to the nation's premier point guard and is a nominee for the Lute Olsen Award given to the top guard at the mid-major level.

Canisius, the No. 4 seed in the MAAC Tournament, plays Siena in a MAAC Tournament quarterfinal at 2:30 Saturday afternoon.

Other MAAC individual awards went to:

Men: Coach: Tim Cluess, Iona. Sixth Man: Maurice Barrow, Fairfield. Defensive: Rhamel Brown, Manhattan (three-time winner). Top Rookie: Khallid Hart, Marist.

Women: Coach: Billi Godsey, Iona. Player: Damika Martinez, Iona. Sixth Man: Aaliyah Robinson, Iona. Defensive: Leanne Ockenden, Marist.

-- Jerry Sullivan and Bob DiCesare

Big 4 Hoops Scenarios

By Bob DiCesare

Here's where the Big 4 basketball teams stand as of 6 p.m. Saturday:



UB has clinched at least a tie for the East Division title and it becomes an outright championship if Bowling Green beats Akron tonight. More importantly, the Bulls have clinched a top-four finish within the MAC overall and have earned a bye into no less than the quarterfinals in Cleveland. They can finish top 2 by winning their final two games regardless what happens in tonight's Toledo-WMU game. The Bulls are at Akron Tuesday and home to Bowling Green next Saturday.


UB (9-7) has the tiebreaker advantage over Toledo (8-7) as they battle for the No. 4 seed and bye into the quarterfinals. WMU (8-8) lurks. UB has Akron (18-8, 12-3) and Kent (6-20, 3-12) at home. Toledo plays Central Michigan (18-9, 14-1) Sunday and finishes with Eastern Michigan and Ball State. If UB wins out it's in the quarters. If Toledo loses to CMU the Bulls can take probably still take the No. 4 seed with a 1-1 finish. That presumes CMU beating WMU, never a sure thing in a rivalry game.



Canisius finishes with the No. 2 seed if it wins at Manhattan Sunday AND Quinnipiac loses to Marist. The Griffs get the No. 3 seed if they beat the Jaspers AND Quinnipiac beats Marist. A loss gives Canisius the No. 4 seed  and a MAAC Tournament quarterfinal game against Siena on Friday in Springfield.

Niagara will be the No. 11 seed and face the No. 6 (either Rider, Saint Peter's or Marist) at 9 p.m. Thursday in Springfield.


Canisius and Niagara are 8-11 and tied for the No. 6 seed heading into Sunday's finales. Canisius is home to fifth-pace Rider (9-10) and Niagara is home to Fairfield (14-5). If Canisius and Niagara both win there will be a three-way tie for seeds 5-7. Canisius would be 3-1 among the trio, Niagara 2-2 and Rider 1-3. If Canisius wins and Niagara loses the Griffs take the No. 5 seed based on a sweep of Rider and Niagara becomes either the No. 7 or 8 seed depending on the tiebreaker with Manhattan (8-12). If Canisius and Niagara both lose it's a three-way tie for Nos. 6-8 among Canisius, Niagara and Manhattan with Manhattan being 3-1 in the group, Niagara 2-2 and the Griffs 1-3.



Bona is 6-9 and No. 8 in the conference and can go no higher. They can drop no lower than No. 10. La Salle (5-8) and Duquesne (4-10) also factor in. Bona finishes at VCU. La Salle was playing Fordham Saturday and still has games with George Mason and Saint Joseph's. Duquesne has UMass and George Mason.


The Bonnies are done with the regular season and will be the No. 2 seed behind Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. They'll play the winner of the 7-10 game in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Friday in Richmond.

Canisius-Fairfield Game Wrap

Canisius 90, Fairfield 78

How Canisius Won: Recent opponents have been shredding the Canisius defense at the KAC. Manhattan did it. Iona. Quinnipiac. And Fairfield was on the same track after a 57 percent first-half shooting effort. So the number that stands out it what the Stags shot after intermission: 29 percent. Would it have been different if point guard KJ Rose hadn't been ejected? Maybe so. But you have to play the hand you're dealt.

Turning Point: The Griffs trailed by four when Jordan Heath was called for an offensive foul with 14:22 left. Bodies tangled. A skirmish ensued. Rose was ejected to his overzealous actions during during the scuffle. Billy Baron made 5 of 6 free throws to Fairfield's two and the Griffs took the lead for good soon after.

Player of the Game: Baron made just two field goals, both first-half threes. But he finished with a team-high 22 points with a 16-for-18 showing at the foul line. And he handed out nine assists, his second-highest total of the season. Funny how drastically he impacts a game when it seems like he's not impacting the game.

Best Supporting Role: Freshman guard Zach Lewis found his stroke, going 4 of 6 from three, 7 of 8 from the line and scoring 21 points. And he did it on an afternoon when Canisius needed him to do it.

Stat Check: The Griffs went 26 of 36 from the foul line in the second half alone. They were 29 of 40 for the game.

What It Means: Canisius is tied for third with Manhattan with two games left -- at Rider and at Manhattan. The Griffs can finish no worse than fourth.

In the House: Billy the Kid's among four seniors playing their final regular-season home game and it's not a sellout???? The attendance checked in at 1,909.

-- Bob DiCesare



Canisius-Iona Game Wrap

Iona 101, Canisius 91

How Iona Won: The Gaels made it seven straight victories and avenged an earlier loss to the Griffs by playing their fast-paced, free-wheeling style to near perfection. They had David Laury work the inside early and pounded the Griffs from long range in the second half. It's as good an inside-outside mix as there is in the league and when the ball movement's brisk, as it was Sunday, the defending MAAC champs are an awfully tough out.

Turning Point: The Griffs were up five with just under 13 minutes left but Iona burst for eight straight points, six of them on threes by Isaiah Williams. Two ties later the Gaels went ahead for good on a layup by Williams.

Player of the Game: The Gaels lost guard MoMo Jones, the MAAC Player of the Year, to graduation last season. But who notices when his replacement, sophomore guard A.J. English, goes off for a career-high 32. English was Iona's glue in the first half, scoring 18 points, before the offense really got rolling.

Player of the Game, Losing Effort: Canisius got the norm from Billy Baron (23 points) and have seen Chris Perez (24 points) have games like this before. The unknown was freshman forward Phil Valenti filling in for the injured Chris Manhertz. Valenti exceled in his first start: 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists, no turnovers. Griffs could cause some matchup problems by giving him some minutes at the 3 spot. He has the athleticism.

Stat Check: Iona backup center David Laury defied the odds by going 9 of 11 at the foul line. He's a 53 percent free throw shooter.

What It Means: Iona's in the MAAC driver's seat, two games up with six to play. Canisius fell into a tie for second with Manhattan, which owns the tie-breaker advantage. It'll be a three-way tie for second if Quinnipiac beats visiting Marist Monday night.

In the House: They filled the KAC for the third time in the last four games. Apparently Jim Baron's pleas didn't fall on deaf ears.

Next Up: The Griffs head over the bridge for a Valentine's Night encounter with Niagara. The Griffs won the first meeting 87-74 but the Purple Eagles are sure to be focused and angry after suffering excrutiating one-point losses this weekend to Iona and Manhattan. It's a 9 p.m. start on ESPNU.

-- Bob DiCesare





Griffs Crack MM Top 25

By Bob DiCesare

It's no surprise Canisius has finally cracked the Mid-Major Top 25. The surprise is that they debut at No. 22, 12 spots behind Manhattan despite leading the Jaspers in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings and sitting three spots higher in the RPIs.

But the Griffs are satisfied that at least they're attracting some notice after winning 8 of their last 11 and maintaining a share of the conference lead with 8 games left on the MAAC schedule.

Wichita State tops the charts, of course, and owns all 31 first-place votes. Among the Big 4 conferences, Toledo is No. 3, Manhattan No. 10, Ohio No. 14 and Akron No. 16. The MAAC has two coaches on the poll, Jimmy Patsos of Siena and Tom Moore of conference  newcomer Quinnipiac. The Mid-American Conference also has a pair: Tod Kowalczyk of Toledo and Steve Hawkins of Western Michigan.

It's been a good week for the Griffs on the publicity front. Billy Baron was named the Lute Olson national mid-major player of the week after totaling 70 points in wins over Niagara and Marist.

The poll:


1. Wichita State (31) 21-0 775 1 Missouri Valley
2. Gonzaga 18-3 740 3 West Coast
3. Toledo 17-2 694 4 Mid-American
4. Green Bay 17-3 641 5 Horizon
5. Harvard 15-3 631 2 Ivy League
6. Indiana State 16-4 630 6 Missouri Valley
7. Stephen F. Austin 18-2 566 7 Southland
8. North Dakota State 15-5 523 10 Summit
9. Princeton 12-3 493 9 Ivy League
10. Manhattan 14-5 489 8 Metro Atlantic
11. Saint Mary's 16-5 466 11 West Coast
12. Mercer 17-5 439 12 Atlantic Sun
13. Northern Colorado 13-4 353 15 Big Sky
14. Ohio 14-5 344 13 Mid-American
15. New Mexico State 15-7 314 16 WAC
16. Akron 13-6 306 17 Mid-American
17. Belmont 16-7 232 23 Ohio Valley
18. UC Irvine 13-8 224 14 Big West
19. UC Santa Barbara 12-6 165 18 Big West
20. Georgia State 14-6 156 25 Sun Belt
21. IPFW 16-6 153 24 Summit
22. Canisius 14-7 71 NR Metro Atlantic
23. Delaware 14-7 67 NR Colonial
24. North Carolina Central 13-5 66 NR MEAC
25. Chattanooga 14-8 61 NR Southern

Notice that Chattanooga also slipped in at No. 25. Former UB player and assistant coach Turner Battle is an assistant with the Mocs.



Baron and Beyond

By Bob DiCesare

Sat next to a scout from the San Antonio Spurs Sunday but he didn't give up much when I asked about Billy Baron's NBA prospects. So postgame I turned to Marist first-year coach Jeff Bower, who spent 15 years with the Charlotte Hornets in such capacities as GM and coach. Here's what he had to say when I asked him about Baron:

"I think he's terrific as a player now. I think the way he plays the game are things that a lot of teams will really like. I never plot a guy at this time of year honestly because you don't know the draft and you don't know how many people are going to be involved in it.

"But I know this: He's a winner. He's got skills. He's got size. He's got deep shooting ability. He's got play-making ability. And he is a competitor. And I know those are all qualities that every NBA team would value and will do their research and see. When it's all said and done I would expect him to be rated or ranked ahead of a lot of guys. I think he's the type of kid that helps your team and is going to have the poise to compete and help a team.

"It's too early, honestly. The people that are talking now are usually guys that aren't involved in decision-making that are saying where people are going. But he would be a guy that a lot of people are excited about and would want to dig very deep to find out about in my opinion."

Canisius-Marist Game Wrap

Canisius 78, Marist 65

How Canisius Won: Griffs had trouble with the Marist press early on, committing five turnovers in a flash. And they stumbled against it a bit in the second half as well. But both times they stablized and in the end shot 47 percent from the floor once they were able to run some offense.

Player of the Game: If Billy Baron cared only about Billy Baron there's no telling how many ponts he could have scored in this one. He had 25 at the half. But he finish with "just" 38 because he's all about trying to win this conference and he knows that isn't happening unless Canisius continues to develop into a well-rounded team. So he scored "only" 13 after intermission to tie his career high of 38. He was 12 of 23 from the field, 5 of 11 from three and 9 of 10 from the line.

What It Means: The Griffs improved to 14-7 overall, 8-2 in the MAAC and retained a share of the conference lead. Marist is 6-14, 3-7.

Stat Check: Canisius went 24 of 28 from the line and has made over 80 percent of its foul shots each of the last three games.

Stat Check II: Chris Perez has scored in double figures four straight games after a 4 for 18 slump that saw him total 16 points in three games.

In the House: I've heard the stories of how they had overflow crowds at ECC for Calvin Murhpy's freshman games. Baron's playing close to that level but times have changed. There were 1,742 at the KAC Sunday, about 400 under capacity. 

What's Next: The Griffs visit conference newcomer Quinnipiac at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The Bobcats (7-3 MAAC) finished off a season-sweep of preseason favorite Manhattan with Sunday's OT win and lead the country in rebounding.


Canisius-Niagara Game Wrap

Canisius 87, Niagara 74

How Canisius Won: Depth. Precision offense. And by building a big lead and making it hold up for a change. Niagara's chances were basicallly shot when point guard Tajhere McCall was held out after suffering a severe tongue laceration in practice Tuesday. That meant freshman guards Wesley Myers played seconds shy of 40 minutes, while guards Antoine Mason and Marvin Jordan did play all 40 minutes. That's a grind in a rivalry game on the road, especially when Canisius players are filling their roles as well as they did in this one. Very solid game for the Griffs, who held Niagara at bay after seeing double-digit leads evaporate the last two times out.

Player of the Game: As I've said before, Billy Baron would dominate this category for the Griffs (and Mason for Niagara). Outside of those two, it's hard not to love what Chris Manhertz brought in this one. He had 14 points and 11 boards in 30 minutes, was perfect on eight free throws and tied his career high with four assists. But get this: Zero fouls. Manhertz managed that once before in his career, against Niagara, in a game in which he played just three minutes.

Best Supporting Roles: Have to go with Chris Perez (17 points) on the Canisius end and Marvin Jordan (19) on the Niagara side. Jordan went 4 of 10 from three and ended his career averaging better than 20 points in games at the KAC.

Elite Matchup: Baron had it going early for Canisius while Mason seemed to bide his time before exploding late. But what's with that 3-for-7 performance at the foul line? But from the field: Mason was 11 of 19, Baron 10 of 17. Quality stuff.

Security Check: Given the rivalry stakes and the oft-times frenetic tempo the turnover numbers astounded. Niagara committed nine, Canisius a season-low five.

What It Means: Canisius (13-7, 7-2) moved into sole possession of first in the MAAC by a half-game and owns back-to-back victories over Niagara for the first time since 2000-01. The Purple Eagles (5-15, 2-7) have lost six of their last seven.

In the House: The game sold out Monday (2,196) and tickets were going $10 over face value outside the doors.

Home Cooking: Canisus remained unbeaten at home, where it's averaging better than 85 points a game.

What's Next: Marist. The Red Foxes visit Niagara Friday night and Canisius Sunday afternoon. McCall is listed as day-to-day for Niagara.


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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |