ALBANY, N.Y.- On paper, the matchup between conference co-champion Rider and last-place Canisius looked like an absolute snoozer. The Broncs, in sweeping the Golden Griffins, won the two games in blowout fashion. The second of which was a 102-51 whipping that underscored just how bad Canisius has been all year. But a not so funny thing happened: Canisius didn't fold.
Thanks to eighteen points and eleven rebounds from MAAC Player of the Year Jason Thompson, Rider fought off Canisius by the final score of 75-71 Saturday night. The Golden Griffins had three players in double figures, led by Greg Logins with twenty. However, the victory may have been a Pyrrhic one for Rider as both Ryan Thompson (concussion) and Justin Robinson (leg) went down with injuries that could keep them out of tomorrow's semifinal against Marist.
All of a sudden, a team that was able to capitalize off of its depth due to their healthy season has to juggle the possible absence of two key starters. "If it could've gone wrong it did go wrong tonight," said head coach Tommy Dempsey.
Thanks to 56% shooting in the second half, the Golden Griffins were tied at 71 with 1:14 remaining. But a Patrick Mansell three-pointer put the Broncs up for good. The differences in the game were free throw shooting and rebounding. Rider, although they shot a sub-standard 57.7% from the charity stripe, made 15 of 26 while Canisius was 4-7. The Broncs also enjoyed a 38-30 rebounding edge.
Canisius finishes the season with a record of 6-25.
Marist 66, Niagara 62
In a ragged game more suited to the Red Foxes tempo, three players reached double figures as Marist defeated the defending tournament champions 66-62 in the fourth quarterfinal of the day in Albany. Charron Fisher, who played all forty minutes, went for 23 and 16 in a losing effort.
Niagara, even though they're ranked third in the MAAC in points per game, is ninth in field goal percentage. But the tempo that normally allows the Purple Eagles to make up for it wasn't to be found on this night as the MAAC's premier defensive team held NU to 36% from the field and won the battle on the boards 43-38. A team with six seniors is using last season's disappointing MAAC Tournament as motivation, and now faces a possibly shorthanded Rider team on Sunday night.
Loyola (MD) 64, Fairfield 59
Gerald Brown converted an inbounds pass into a layup, moving the Loyola lead to five with seventeen seconds left to seal the victory for the Greyhounds. Brown led the Greyhounds with eighteen, but they also received help from Brett Harvey (16 pts) and Michael Tuck (14 and 8 boards).
Loyola won the rebound battle 37-28, and the Stags helped them out by not taking advantage of numerous opportunities (including the foul line) to overtake the Greyhounds. Fairfield, who was led by Jonathan Han's 14 points and eight assists, finishes their season at 14-16. Loyola will take on top seed Siena Sunday night.
Siena 66, Manhattan 58
Alex Franklin was unstoppable for the Saints, dropping 26 and 9 rebounds on the Jaspers in Siena's eight-point win. Devon Austin led the young Jaspers with seventeen. Kenny Hasbrouck, who only scored nine points, suffered a shoulder injury but was able to return later in the second half.
Even with the substitution of Laurence Jolicoeur for Andrew Gabriel, who did well on Friday against Todd Sowell of St. Peter's, Manhattan had no answer for Franklin. Manhattan also didn' help their cause by shooting a frigid 5-12 from the charity stripe and 3-14 from behind the arc. The Jaspers end their season with a record of 12-19.
While Marist, led by David Devezin with fourteen, had scoring balance while no player other than Fisher or Tyrone Lewis (21) scored more than seven.