Canisius College couldn’t solve the riddle of Fairfield’s stout defense and now it’s Niagara University’s turn to crack the code.
The Purple Eagles (6-7, 2-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) face the Stags (10-5, 2-1) in an early-season matchup for first place at 3 p.m. today (Radio 1520 AM) at the Gallagher Center.
Niagara opened its conference home schedule with an impressive 94-72 rout of Marist on Thursday for its third win in the last four games. The Purple Eagles registered season-highs in points, first-half points and field-goal percentage en route to their first 20-point win in three seasons.
Ameen Tanksley scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half and grabbed 12 rebounds against Marist. Juan’ya Green added 21 points, five assists and four rebounds, Antoine Mason had 17 points and Malcolm Lemmons scored 11 for Niagara, which shot a season-best 52 percent.
If they can duplicate that effort against Fairfield, the Purple Eagles should be in good shape.
Fairfield enters today’s game with the conference’s longest win streak at six games. NU has dropped the last six meetings with the Stags, including two narrow defeats last season.
The Golden Griffins (9-5, 2-1), who host Marist (4-10, 1-2) tonight at 7 p.m. at the Koessler Center (Radio 1400 AM), struggled against the Stags’ multiple defenses in a 66-45 loss Thursday night as Canisius suffered a season low in points.
Canisius’ three-guard lineup of Billy Baron, Harold Washington and Issac Sosa combined to shoot 4 for 22 overall and 2 of 10 from three-point range against Fairfield, a humbling experience for a rising team that was off to its best start in years.
The Stags prepared as if they were facing the league’s top team.
“Canisius has been the class of the league and so we had to play one of our best games,” Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson said. “I thought our guys were tremendous in doing so. Obviously we feel like Canisius is going to be there in the hunt for the championship. ... We realize how good a team Canisius is and we were fortunate for the win.”
Meanwhile, St. Bonaventure (7-5) looks to halt a two-game losing streak with a 4:30 p.m. game at Colorado State (12-2). It’s the Bonnies’ last game before opening league play at George Washington Wednesday.
Only once in the six-season Mark Schmidt era has a St. Bonaventure team lost three consecutive non-league games, and that came during Schmidt’s first year. In the Bonnies’ last game, the sizzling perimeter shooting of Iona proved too much for St. Bonaventure as the Gaels raced to a 93-74 win at the Reilly Center Monday. Senior Demitrius Conger posted a season-high 26 points – one shy of tying his career high – and added eight rebounds.
St. Bonaventure was dealt its first home loss in six games this season and suffered back-to-back losses for the first time on the season.
UB, whose last game was a 63-57 loss at Tulsa Wednesday, is idle until this Wednesday when it opens Mid-American Conference play at Ohio (8-5).