Canisius 102, Niagara 97 (3OT): Griffins Survive In Thriller

ALBANY, N.Y. – Canisius probably was extremely fortunate in the end, playing sporadic defense and failing to put away an undermanned Niagara team on numerous occasions, but deserve’s got nothing to do with it in March, and it will be the No. 7 Griffins that advance to play second-seeded Iona Friday night, as they survived No. 10 Niagara 102-97 in triple overtime.

Phil Valenti scored 33 points and added nine rebounds, including going 14-18 at the line, but he missed two free throws that might have given the Griffins (14-18) the win in the second overtime.

“We showed great resiliency and we never said quit. It’s a great win for us,” Canisius coach Jim Baron said.

Niagara, playing without second-leading scorer Matt Scott, was down 19-6 early as Canisius opened hot, but the Purple Eagles battled back the rest of the way with some good shooting (10-26 from three), holding a 71-66 lead with 1:35 left before Malcolm McMillan scored and Kassius Robertson hit a tough three to tie the game with 55 seconds left. Both teams missed three-pointers and the game headed to overtime.


“If you were a college basketball fan, you loved that game. I’m extremely proud of the way my guys fought in that game. Extremely proud,” Niagara coach Chris Casey said.

Canisius led throughout the entire first overtime, but Emile Blackman was fouled on a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left and drained all three (even though Niagara was 10-17 from the line) to tie the game 86-86.


Karonn Davis tied the game with a jumper with 48 seconds left in the second overtime and again both teams missed chances to win it.

Finally, the Griffins took over in the third overtime and survived.

“They stepped up and they did what they needed to do,” Baron said. “It’s a rivalry game, and they always play us tough.”

The Griffins allowed 1.15 points per possession to Niagara, who barely beat out Quinnipiac for 10th in MAAC offensive efficiency, so needless to say will need to be a lot sharper to beat Iona Friday.

Blackman finished with 26, Davis added 20, and Chris Barton a career-high 17 for Niagara.

McMillan had 20 and Robertson 15 for Canisius, who turned the ball over just eight times and finished at 1.19 ppp.


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