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Niagara hires Casey

Niagara named Chris Casey its new men’s basketball coach Monday, ending a 12-day search to replace Joe Mihalich, who departed for Hofstra after 15 seasons.

Casey spent the last three seasons at Long Island University Post, where he took the Pioneers to two Division II NCAA Tournaments in 2012 and 2013, finishing with a 62-25 record.  In 2011-12, Casey was named East Coast Conference coach of the year and the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Division II coach of the year.

This season, LIU Post finished with an 18-9 record and finished tied for second in the conference with a 13-5 ECC record, which was a determining factor Niagara, which returns its core group after claiming the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season championship.

All of Niagara’s players attended Monday’s press conference to announce Casey’s hiring and Casey has three scholarships to fill. The Purple Eagles last NCAA appearance was in 2007.

---Rodney McKissic

UB-Ball State Game Wrap

MAC Tournament
Second Round
At Quicken Loans Arena
UB 76, Ball State 61

How UB Won: By playing its most dominant 20 minutes of basketball this season. The Bulls had little going in the first half. They shot 28 percent and got killed on the boards. Only a 12 of 13 effort at the free throw line had them in reasonable contention. And then they went to the locker room and came out wearing capes, outscoring the Cardinals 46-25.

Player of the Game: Will Regan was one of the Bulls targetted in Ball State's defensive game plan. They didn't defend him quite like they intended. Regan went off for a career-high 36, 25 of those in the second half. He was 11 of 17 on FGs, 5 of 7 from three and 9 of 9 from the line. He has 51 points in two tourney games after playing just 20 minutes and going scoreless in the season finale at Bowling Green.

Top Supporting Role: Tony Watson scored just five points but went for eight assists, four of UB's 13 steals and played a major part in keeping Ball State's Jauwan Scaife in check while the game turned decidedly in UB's favor.

Best Performance (Losing Effort): Jauwan Scaife scored 28 points in his final college game but just 11 came in the second half and most of those late.

Double Trouble: Javon McCrea's 18 points and 11 boards made for his 11th double-double on the season. He needs two points to break the school single-season record of 592 set by Calvin Cage in 2006.

What It Means: UB advanced to the quarterfinals at 6:30 Thursday night where the Bulls will get a third shot at Kent State. The Golden Flashes used a late run to win at Alumni Arena and survived in OT at Kent.

Stat Check: Watson played 39 of 40 minutes, coming out of a game for the first time since the Feb. 23 BracketBuster against Manhattan.

Stat Check II: UB shot better than 60 percent in the second half for the second time this month. They also did it while snapping Akron's 19-game winning streak.

Stat Check III: Regan went 9 of 16 from three in two games against Ball State. He set his career high of 4 in the first meeting.

Select Company: Regan's 36 points are a UB MAC tourney record and the effort ranks eighth overall in tourney history.

Depth Charge: Raphell Thomas-Edwards played 31 minutes -- his career high by 12 -- as Auraum Nuiriankh hit early foul trouble. RTE responded with eight points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals. In two tourney games he's totaled 18 points and seven rebounds. He sat out the last three weeks of February with an upper body injury.

They Said It:

Tony Watson on the halftime turnaround: "What they were doing had nothing to do what what we were doing, We had to play Buffalo basketball. . . . It started on defense. We made them take tougher shots. We started rebounding the ball a lot better. And it translated to our offense and we were taking good shots.

Ball State Coach Billy Taylor: "The second half we didn't make all the plays we needed to make defensively. It seemed like every time we made a mistake defensively they capitalized. . . . It's hard to win when a team's clicking that well offensively."

-- Bob DiCesare

Niagara-Iona Game Wrap (MAAC semis)

MAAC Semifinals
Iona 79, Niagara 72

How Iona Won: The Gaels dominated the inside, making it imperative for Niagara to shoot it well from the outside. That didn't happen. The Purple Eagles launched 33 shots from behind the arc and made just seven. They were 21 of 36 on two-pointers. What's more, Niagara scored just 12 points off 14 Iona turnovers.

Player of the Game: David Laury, Iona's 6-8 sophomore forward, was sensational. He had 20 points and 17 rebounds, giving him 44 points and 33 rebounds in two games against the Purple Eagles.

Best Supporting Role: Taaj Ridley, Laury's front-court mate, is benefiting from the room that opens because of Laury's presence. His 16 points were two off his season high.

Best Player (Losing Effort): With Tahjere McCall out injured, Marvin Jordan played all but a few seconds, scored 11 points and handed out six assists. And no turnovers.

Ellis Island: The Gaels don't develop freshman. They scour the country for players looking to transfer. Momo Jones came from Arizona. Tavon Sledge from Iowa State. Ridley, Laury and Tre Bowman were juco players. The only Gaels who came straight from high school: freshman A.J. English and junior Sean Armand.

Stat Check: Iona shot just five second-half threes to Niagara's 15. They both made two.

What It Means: Iona, an NCAA at-large team last year, looks to secure a second straight trip to The Dance with a win in Monday night's MAAC title game against Manhattan. The Jaspers are only the second No. 6 seed to tourney history to make the final. Niagara will play in the NIT, its prize for winning the conference regular-season crown.

They Said It

Niagara's Antoine Mason picked up his third foul when Momo Jones drew a charge with 6:17 remaining. Here's Jones:

"I've known him since I was a young kid. He's a power player. I knew he wanted to go right and I kept telling coach, 'Coach, all he wants to do is go right. All he wants to do is go right.' That was just the mindset. Make him go right. Take a charge. I think he had maybe two or three at that time and I knew if I could get that charge he would slow down and not be as aggressive as he was. I think that charge really set him back and he wasn't as aggressive as he was early on."

Iona coach Tim Cluess: "When we have four of five guys giving us good contributions and other guys coming off our bench and helping us in different roles then we're a pretty good basketball team. And right now we're a pretty good team."

Niagara coach Joe Mihalich: "Our hearts our broken. At the same time, as I said to the guys, at the same time there's a lot of guys whose hearts are broken and they've turned their uniforms in. We're not doing that."

Mason on Niagara's second-half shooting woes: "We just didn't hit them in the second half. The first half everything was going in. We got to make sure if it's not going in we got to mix it up."

-- Bob DiCesare

Canisius-Iona Women's Game Wrap

Iona 76, Canisius 58

How Iona Won: When the conference Player of the Year goes off for a career-high 36 . . .

Damika Martinez, just a sophomore, made 14 of 23 shots from the field, including 6 of 9 from three-point land, in dismantling an injury-depleted Canisius defense. Toss in 15 points and a game-high (by 11) 18 rebounds from Rookie of the Year Joy Adams and the rout is on.

It Was Over When . . . : Martinez went wild early in the second half, scoring eight of Iona's first 10 points.

Player of the Game: Did we mention Martinez also had seven rebounds, a block and a steal?

Best Supporting Role: Adams was Sherwin-Williams, Behr and Benjamin Moore rolled into one She owned the paint.

Best Player (Losing Effort): Junior forward Jamie Ruttle got off to a hot start and finished with 13 points and five rebounds.

Stat Check: Canisius managed just 13 points off 18 Iona turnovers.

Hurting: Canisius had its upset bid undermined by ankle injuries to Kayla Hoohuli and Tiahana Mills. They played a combined 15 minutes.

In the House: There might have been a couple hundred on hand for a 9:30 start on a snowy New England morning.

They Said It

Griffs coach Terry Zeh on the ankle sprain suffered by Kayla Hoohuli: "She said to me, 'I can go straight and forward, I can't go sideways, which is a problem defensively."

Zeh on trying to defend Martinez with Hoohuli: "She had it going and we didn't have any answers to try and stop her."

-- Bob DiCesare

MAAC Matchups Set

Here's how the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament shapes up this week in Springfield, Mass.:

On the women's side, No. 7 Canisius plays No. 10 Saint Peter's at noon on Thursday. If the Griffs win they'll face No. 2 Iona in the quarters at 9:30 Friday morning. No. 5 Niagara faces No. 4 Rider in the quarters at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

On the men's side, No. 1 Niagara plays the winner of Friday's 8-9 game between Marist and Siena at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. No. 5 Canisius meet No. 4 Iona at 4:30 Saturday. If the Griffs and Purple Eagles both will they'll meet in Sunday 2 p.m. semifinal.

-- Bob DiCesare



UB-Akron Game Wrap

UB 81, Akron 67

How UB Won: The Bulls shot it up from three in the first half (7 of 14) and then worked inside for 18 points in the paint in the second half. They were unfazed by the Akron's switch to zone, unlike when they squandered a 20-point lead in the first meeting. They made it to the free throw line 23 times, compared to just 12 for the Zips. And they turned it over a scant 10 times -- just four in the second half. Plus UB's starting backcourt of Tony Watson and Jarryn Skeete outscored Akron's backcourt starters, 31-20.

National Alert: Akron's national-best 19-game winning streak comes to and end. The Zips hadn't lost since Dec. 15 at Detroit.

Player of the Game: Akron's impressive season and its 19-game winning streak that ended Saturday are bound to give Zips like Zeke Marshall and Demetrius Treadwell support in the Player of the Year vote. But how can it really be anyone but Javon McCrea? He had 26 points, six rebounds, four blocks and two assists against the conference's most imposing front line. He went 13 of 18 from the field. He carried UB with 18 second-half points. And he's at or near the top in all the big statistical categories. Look at the numbers and it's a no-brainer.

Best Supporting Role: It would be criminal not to wrap UB's other starters into one package. Watson and Skeete both played 40 minutes. Will Regan went for 36 and Auraum Nuiriankh 32. The starting five went 27 of 47 from the field and only turned it over eight times.

Best Player (Losing Team): Zips 7-foot senior Zeke Marshall has come such a long way since those early days. He had 17 points on 8 of 13 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and blocked five shots. He should be the MAC's Defensive Player of the Year. And he's a class act.

Major Bit Player: UB siwngman Raphell Thomas-Edwards, who's been out with back problems, played the final 4-plus minutes after Nuiriankh was ejected along with Akron's Deji Ibitayo. He came up big in that short time, making 3 of 4 free throws and snaring two rebounds.

Stat Check I: Akron went just 4 of 21 from three. They came in tied for second in the MAC in shooting percentage from behind the arc.

Stat Check II: The Bulls shot 60 percent in the second half (15 of 25) and outscored Akron by nine despite managing 12 fewer field goal attempts.

What It Means: Akron (23-5, 13-1) maintains a firm grasp on the MAC lead despite the defeat. UB (12-17, 7-7) remains tied for fourth with Kent State and Eastern Michigan but loses the tiebreaker to both. The top five teams avoid a first-round campus game in the MAC Tournament. Two games remain.

In the House: The crowd of 4,204 included former UB great Sam Pellom, who was honored in a pregame ceremony.

Next Up: UB entertains Ohio and star guard D.J. Cooper on Tuesday night. Akron's home to Miami.

They Said It

UB Coach Reggie Witherspoon: "Obviously our guys had to play well to beat this team. They're a great team. I said this before the game and I'll say it now, that we shouldn't be in the position where we're talking about whether they get an at=large. We should discontinue that talk and talk about their seeding, like we do some other teams around the country,

"Having said that, I think our guys have pesevered all year and made a great effort to just take it a day at a time in an attempt to just get better every single day and block out all the rest of the things. And I think today we put together a pretty good 40 minutes."

Akron center Zeke Marshall: "Their whole team was energized. . . . That number right beside our name (24th ranked), everyone wants to come and beat you. Everyone's going to come in energized against us because we've been on that huge winning streak. Sure enough they did tonight."

Akron Coach Keith Dambrot on 19 straight wins in an age of great parity: "It's incredible. The only time I've ever been involved in that is one time at Ashland College we won our first 15 games. And then obviously when I had LeBron (at St. Vincent-St. Mary's). Your margin of error's pretty good when you got LeBron. When you got better guys and you're noticably better than most of the teams you play you're going to win 53 out of 54 games.

"I felt like we might have felt it a little bit. We just didn't play relaxed, just never relaxed."

Dambrot on McCrea: "He was 11 points at our place. He was really good tonight. He kicked out guys asses really. But that's tonight. We'll see the next time. He's good. I mean he's one of the best players in the league obviously. He's been good as a freshman."

-- Bob DiCesare

Audio from Tallahassee: Moritz previews Bona-Marist matchup

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The News' Amy Moritz previews the NCAA Tournament second-round matchup between St. Bonaventure and Marist. The game tips off at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday. Moritz will also be live blogging during the game and providing postgame audio analysis.

Download audio 

Audio from Tallahassee: Moritz previews Bona's NCAA opener

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The News' Amy Moritz previews the NCAA Tournament opener for the St. Bonaventure women's team. The Bonnies, a No. 5 seed, face Florida Gulf Coast in a game expected to tip off around 2:30 p.m. Moritz will also be live blogging during the game and providing postgame audio analysis.

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Audio from Nashville: McKissic, DiCesare postgame analysis

NASHVILLE -- Rodney McKissic and Bob DiCesare break down St. Bonaventure's 66-63 loss to Florida State in the NCAA Tournament:

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Bona-Florida State pregame/postgame chat, in-game blog

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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 |