It’s the "Battle of the Bridge Part II" as Tom Parrotta takes his Canisius Golden Griffins (11-12/ 6-6) north on I-290 for a tilt with Joe Mihalich and his Niagara Purple Eagles (12-12/ 5-7).
The meeting is the second in seven days for the Metro-Atlantic Conference rivals, divided by just 21 miles.
Canisius is tied for fourth in the MAAC. Siena leads the charge with a 12-0 ledger. Niagara beat Loyola on Sunday, but the Purple Eagles have dropped three of their last four. Canisius fell to Iona on Monday. The Griffs have split their last six games.
School records are on the line. Tomas Vazquez-Simmons needs just one block to pass Michael Meeks at the top (183) of the Canisius list. Frank Turner brings 550 career assists into the contest. Javone "Bam" Moore heads the Griff list with 551.
Tyrone Lewis is sixth on Niagara’s all-time scoring list with 1,689 points. Cal Murphy leads the way with 2,548 points.
With 20 points, Elton Frazier led three Griffs in double figures as Canisius beat Niagara in overtime, 73-70. Frank Turner added 18 and Julius Coles chipped in 16 for the win.
Niagara leads the series 94-72 and has taken 12 of the last 14.
Eleven Purple Eagles have graduated to the National Basketball Association, including Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy. Eleven Golden Griffins have laced them up in the Association. Most recently, Mike Smrek played seven seasons in the NBA.
Niagara has made three NCAA Tournament appearances (‘70, ‘05, ‘07). The Purple Eagles reached the Sweet Sixteen in 1970. Canisius has "danced" four times (‘55, ‘56, ‘57, ‘96). Under Joe Curran, Canisius reached back-to-back Elite Eights in ‘55 and ‘56.
A week ago, Niagara made just nine of 38 attempts from behind the three-point arc. The Purple Eagles average 31 percent from long range. Will Niagara be more disciplined in their shot selection this time around?
Canisius made nine of 17 free throws last Friday, and that does not include misses on the front end of one-and-ones. Can the Griffs improve?
Turner leads the Griffs with 16.9 points per game. His assist to turnover ratio (1.5:1) is deceiving. The turnovers he commits are usually sins of aggression. Turner sees the floor well and creates open spaces with passes up the floor. Some of these passes end up out of bounds, but do not create lay ups for opponents. Turner’s miscues allow his teammates to reset the defense.
Elton Frazier is a tireless worker who runs the floor both ways. Frazier averages nine points and 5.5 rebounds. His contributions should not be limited to the stat sheet. It is Frazier that defenses must account for in transition. His commitment to running the floor creates gaps in the defense that the 5′10″ Turner can exploit.
Julius Coles averages 15 points and fewer than five rebounds. At 6′4″ and 183 pounds, Coles is a slender player. He possesses a quick and accurate shot from behind the three-point arc. He can present matchup problems because smaller guards find it difficult to get a hand in his face. Coles is an active rebounder who grabs shot or two that goes long.
Vazquez-Simmons and Robert Goldsberry round out the starting five. Vazquez chips in nearly six points and five-and-a-half rebounds. Goldsberry has an assist to turnover ratio of 1.9:1. The junior has only hit 13 three-pointers for the year, but many of those are timely. Defenses cannot lose track of Goldsberry. He is capable of hitting the open shot.
Greg Logins provides valuable minutes off the bench. The junior scores 9.6 points and grabs 6.1 rebounds.
Lewis leads a starting five with nearly everyone scoring in doubles figures. The senior has hit 50 threes this year and averages 16.7 points per game.
Rob Garrison and Anthony Nelson create a two-headed playmaking monster that gives opponents fits. The duo combines for almost 10 assists per game while limiting turnovers to five.
Bilal Benn leads the Purple Eagle way with 9.6 rebounds. The Villanova transfer pours in 14 points a game.
Demetrius Williamson chips in 9.6 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Kashief Edwards and Austin Cooley come off the bench and combine for 12 points and nearly six rebounds.
Niagara enters play tonight with a negative rebound margin of 3.2. Last week, the Purple Eagles out-rebounded the Griffs 43-36, including 18-12 on the offensive boards. Canisius will need to keep Niagara off the glass and finish at the line.
The Purple Eagles will need to use their size advantage in the lane. Last week, the Purple Eagles took more than half (38-of-75) of their shots from behind the arc.
Expect Niagara to pound the ball inside, but Canisius will answer with Vazquez-Simmons, Frazier, and Bogins. The last time Canisius swept the season series was '94-'95. The Griffs are ready to end that streak tonight.
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