It was an eventful week in the MAAC, and one full of rivalry games. The Battle of the Bridge was renewed in Buffalo, the New Jersey trio squared off against one another in the Hourglass rivalry, Fairfield and Quinnipiac met for the first time this season, along with Iona and Manhattan, and I’m pretty sure Siena and Saint Peter’s don’t want to see each other again for a long time.The MAAC hosted its inaugural tripleheader at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday featuring the aforementioned Fairfield/Quinnipiac and Iona/Manhattan rivalries as well as an exciting meeting between Monmouth and Marist.
As always, a lot to dive into this week as we are seeing more separation between the top four and bottom four in the league with a nice race for the fifth spot and final MAAC tournament bye developing.
An (n) within a game listing denotes it was played on a neutral court, in this case the Nassau Coliseum. All rankings are mine and mine alone, so direct all criticism appropriately!
1) Rider (16-7, 9-2 MAAC) – 63-60 W vs. Saint Peter’s (1/26); 92-85 W vs. Monmouth (1/29)
The Broncs jump back into the top spot after a sweep of New Jersey rivals this week. Rider head coach Kevin Baggett picked up his 100th career win when the Broncs battled back from a 16-point deficit to take down the Peacocks. Rider whittled away at the Saint Peter’s lead throughout the second half, and took its first lead of the game on a pair of Dimencio Vaughn free throws with just 1:18 remaining.
Rider then won for the ninth time in 10 games when freshman Jordan Allen exploded for 26 points with a personal-best seven three-pointers against Monmouth. The Broncs led by just three with 3:33 remaining in the first half, but closed the frame on a 12-2 run to take a 46-33 advantage into the break. The Hawks got within five at multiple points in the second half, but could never get within striking distance.
Vaughn, Tyere Marshall, and Frederick Scott all reached double figures in both games this week and the Rider offense has risen to most every challenge this season. However, the cloud of free throws still hangs over this young squad. The Broncs went just 33-50 from the charity stripe this week and have converted just 54.4 of their attempts during league play.
2) Canisius (13-9, 7-2 MAAC) – 105-89 L vs. Niagara (1/27)
The Golden Griffins were flying high and in first place heading into Saturday’s rivalry meeting with the Purple Eagles, but nearby Niagara brought them down to earth. Canisius allowed the Purple Eagles to shoot 52.5% from the field with 15 made three-pointers.
Canisius’ own offense was in a solid gear as Jermaine Crumpton matched a career-high with 32 points while Isaiah Reese recorded a double-double on 14 points and 10 assists while freshman Takal Molson added 18 points. The Griffs lost the rebounding battle 47-29 as they played without 6-foot-11 center Selvedin Planincic, who sat out with an illness.
The Griffs’ offense won’t be an issue moving forward, but their defense must show up in order to carry their first-half success into the stretch run of MAAC play. Canisius will have opportunities to rebound at Marist and Saint Peter’s this week.
3) Niagara (14-9, 7-3 MAAC) – 72-63 W vs. Manhattan (1/24); 105-89 W @ Canisius (1/27)
Matt Scott led the way with 21 points in Niagara’s win over Manhattan. The senior guard has scored 20+ points against the Jaspers five times in his career and has now entered the top 10 of Niagara’s all-time scoring list.
The Purple Eagles then turned in their best offensive performance in the Chris Casey era against rival Canisius on Saturday. A 16-2 first-half run turned what was had been one of the season’s most-anticipated matchups into a one-sided show.
Niagara’s 105 points marked the program’s most in the history of the 50-year old Koessler Athletic Center and tied the high in under Chris Casey (previously accomplished in double-overtime). Sophomore guard James Towns lit up the scoreboard with a career-high 31 points on 9-11 shooting and has reached double-figures in six of his last seven games. Kahlil Dukes got in on the fun with 28 points on 6-11 shooting from three-point range while Scott turned in his seventh double-double of the season on 23 points and 11 rebounds.
The Purple Eagles have now scored 90+ points in four straight games against rival Canisius. After beginning MAAC play 0-2, Niagara has won seven of its last eight games heading into its trip to New Jersey this weekend to take on Saint Peter’s and Monmouth.
4) Iona (13-9, 7-3 MAAC) – 78-65 W (n) vs. Manhattan (1/27); 103-100 (OT) L @ Fairfield (1/29)
Iona got the better of local rival Manhattan at Nassau Coliseum behind 20 points from redshirt junior Schadrac Casimir, who finished 5-7 from three-point range. Five other Gaels finished in double-figures, including Roland Griffin (12), Rickey McGill (11), and the trio of T.K. Edogi, Deyshonee Much, and Zach Lewis who finished with 10 apiece. The Gaels ended up 54.5% from the field as they took out their rival for the fifth time in a row.
Monday night was a different story. Despite a career-high 26 points from sophomore E.J. Crawford and other 20-point games from McGill (22) and Griffin (21), Iona allowed Fairfield to hit 14 three-pointers and shoot 53.4% from the field. The Gaels knocked down over half of their own attempts and Edogi added his sixth double-double of the season, but Iona fell in Bridgeport for the third consecutive year.
KenPom.com favors the Gaels in seven of their last eight games to finish the season as Tim Cluess attempts to extend his streak of 20+ wins. He has achieved the mark in all seven seasons at Iona. The Gaels will look to get back on track against Quinnipiac on Friday before heading to Marist on Sunday.
5) Quinnipiac (9-13, 6-4 MAAC) – 85-77 W @ Marist (1/25); 75-70 W (n) vs. Fairfield (1/27)
Quinnipiac is riding its first three-game winning streak under Baker Dunleavy after taking down in-state rival Fairfield at Nassau Coliseum. Five Bobcats finished in double-figures, led by 15 from Cam Young, who also added eight rebounds and a career-high eight assists. Abdulai Bundu turned in his first double-double of the season on 12 points and 10 rebounds while the Bobcats’ backcourt held Tyler Nelson to 13 points on 4-18 shooting.
Marist led the Bobcats by nine with 1:21 remaining in the first half, but an 18-2 Quinnipiac run sparked by Rich Kelly’s three-point play to end the frame jettisoned the Bobcats out in front. The Red Foxes used a 7-0 run to knot the game at 48 with 13:23 left to play, but never regained the lead.
Kelly shot 5-10 from three-point range to lead the team with 20 points, while Young added 18. Freshman Jacob Rigoni added 14 against the Red Foxes and has shot 61.1% from three-point range over his last three games. Rigoni ranks 13th in the nation with a 50.6% average from behind the arc this season.
6) Fairfield (8-13, 3-7 MAAC) – 75-70 L (n) vs. Quinnipiac (1/27); 103-100 (OT) W vs. Iona (1/29)
The Stags had been aching for a win, and finally got it Monday night against Iona. Fairfield trailed by nine midway through the second half and it appeared the Gaels would start to draw away, but Sydney Johnson’s squad responded with consecutive three-pointers from Jesus Cruz, Tyler Nelson, and Aidas Kavaliauskas to pull even at 70 with 8:03 remaining.
Tyler Nelson turned in his fourth 30+ point game of the season to lead all scorers with 32. In the process, he moved in third on Fairfield’s all-time scoring list with 1,888 career points. Kavaliauskas, who was in just his eighth game since becoming eligible at mid-season, turned in his third double-double of the season with 10 points and a career-high 12 assists. Omar El-Sheikh added a personal-best 15 points.
Earlier in the week against Quinnipiac at Nassau Coliseum, Cruz paced all scorers and set career highs with 21 points and added 10 rebounds for his first career double-double. Cruz is averaging 14.6 ppg over his last five contests and has increased his season average to 9.6 ppg, officially joining the crowded field vying for All-Rookie honors.
7) Manhattan (10-13, 5-6 MAAC) – 72-63 L @ Niagara (1/24); 78-65 L (n) vs. Iona (1/27); 62-59 L vs. Marist (1/30)
The Jaspers hit their first slide of the MAAC season as they hit all corners of New York this week. Pauly Paulicap’s 18 point, nine rebound performance was not enough in Western New York as the Jaspers fell to Niagara. Manhattan’s .356 field goal percentage marked its worst performance this season.
Manhattan then made the trek to Long Island, where it fell to crosstown rival Iona in the finale of the MAAC tripleheader event. The Jaspers closed within four with 5:40 remaining, but the Gaels closed on a 15-6 run to fend off their rival. Zane Waterman and Zavier Turner led the Jaspers with 18 points apiece, while Waterman added 12 rebounds for his sixth career double-double.
The Jaspers finally returned home for the first time in four games and held Marist in check for most of Tuesday night, but faltered in the waning seconds. After falling behind by seven in the opening minutes, Manhattan rattled off a 19-3 run to take a firm hold midway through the first half. However, Marist battled back and the teams exchanged multiple leads in the final minutes before Ryan Funk’s corner three with 0.7 seconds remaining proved to be the death knell.
Rich Williams led all scorers with 19 points in the loss. The Jaspers will look to get back on track in the coming weeks, but must do so on the road. They travel to Siena on Friday before heading to Rider next Thursday.
8) Monmouth (7-14, 3-6 MAAC) – 67-56 W vs. Siena (1/25); 91-78 W (n) vs. Marist (1/27); 92-85 L @ Rider (1/29)
The Hawks picked up a pair of wins this week before falling in a tough contest at first-place Rider. Senior Austin Tilghman has been on a roll of late, averaging 20.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, and 6.7 apg over his last three contests. Tilghman led all scorers with a 20-point effort against Siena, then tied for the team lead with 24 against Marist.
Likewise, freshman Deion Hammond has been exceptional during the time Micah Seaborn has missed with ongoing injuries. Hammond poured in 17 against the Saints before matching Tilghman’s 24 points with a 9-14 shooting effort against Marist.
Speaking of Seaborn, the redshirt junior has now missed eight games this season due to various ailments, the latest a hamstring issue that leaves his immediate future in doubt. Seaborn appeared in two of the last four games and was able to pour in 10 points against Marist, but it appears the secondary options will continue to see opportunities moving forward.
Another of those options is redshirt freshman Ray Salnave, who has reached double-figures in three of his last four games. Salnave may be ready to break through, as he poured in a career-high 19 points at Rider while hitting 8-10 from the free throw line.
9) Marist (5-17, 3-7 MAAC) – 85-77 L vs. Quinnipiac (1/25); 91-78 L (n) vs. Monmouth (1/27); 62-59 W @ Manhattan (1/30)
Ryan Funk played the hero Tuesday night as the junior delivered a corner three-pointer with just 0.7 seconds on the clock to put Marist ahead 60-59. After trailing for much of the game, Connor McClenaghan’s three-pointer put the Red Foxes up by two with 7:00 remaining. The teams exchanged leads multiple times down the stretch before Funk’s clincher. David Knudsen added a pair of free throws in the waning moments for the final margin.
— Marist Basketball (@MaristMBB) January 31, 2018
The victory put a halt to the Red Foxes’ four game losing streak. Earlier this week, Marist fell at home to Quinnipiac before coming up short against Monmouth in the middle game of the MAAC tripleheader at Nassau Coliseum.
Funk, who sat out the first meeting with the Bobcats due to an illness, paced all scorers with 23 points on 6-11 three-point shooting this time around. The points and made triples each matched his career high, but it was not enough to overcome a 15-2 Quinnipiac run early in the second half. Brian Parker led the way against Monmouth with 24 points while Aleksandar Dozic added 18 and Austin Williams 13, but the Red Foxes allowed the Hawks to shoot 53.3% from the field.
Marist faces a tough road ahead with meetings against Canisius and Iona on tap for this weekend.
10) Siena (7-16, 3-7 MAAC) – 67-56 L @ Monmouth (1/25); 59-57 (3OT) W vs. Saint Peter’s (1/29)
Okay, now for the fun part. I feel like Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather. This one time I’ll let you ask me about Monday’s game between Siena and Saint Peter’s. We will talk about it here, and then erase it from memory forever. Deal?
The Saints survived what could easily be characterized as the ugliest college basketball game ever (and yes, I’m well aware Manhattan and Fairfield played a 34-31 game a few years ago). In doing so, they avoid the bottom spot in this week’s rankings. The teams ended regulation tied at 40, and averaged a little over a point a minute from then on.
Freshman Roman Penn managed 18 points to lead all scorers while Ahsante Shivers picked up his second career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
11) Saint Peter’s (8-13, 2-8 MAAC) – 63-60 L @ Rider (1/26); 59-57 (3OT) L @ Siena (1/29)
What a week for the Peacocks. John Dunne’s squad led in-state rival Rider by 16 midway through the first half and took a nine point lead into halftime, but faltered late. Saint Peter’s led throughout, but the Broncs closed the game on a 12-2 run, grabbing their first lead of the night on a pair of Dimencio Vaughn free throws with 1:18 remaining.
Sam Idowu led the Peacocks with 16 points while freshman Elijah Gonzales added 14. Although Saint Peter’s came up short, it appeared the squad would build off a solid showing against the league’s top squad.
As you know, that was not the case. Idowu again led the Peacocks with 17 points, and picked up his second double-double in three games with a career-high 13 rebounds. Over his last three games, Idowu is averaging 16.7 ppg and 9.3 rpg.
Now in the midst of a six-game losing streak, it’s difficult to discern what has gone wrong for the Peacocks. Saint Peter’s obviously plays a guarded style that ends up in reduced possession totals and closer margins. That has been evident this season as five of their losses have come by four points or fewer.
In recent losses though, free throw shooting has been an unexpected burden. The Peacocks rank first in the MAAC with a 75.8% mark from the charity stripe during league play, but have made just 36-56 (.643) from the line over their last three games.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.