Back in the mid-1950s when Canisius was on a three-year run of NCAA tournament teams, taking on the best in the East and nationally, a fledgling four-year college in Hamden, Conn., was playing the likes of Westfield Teachers, Albany School of Pharmacy and Durfee Tech. The former New Haven Junior College of Commerce has come along way since then.
Tonight, at TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, Quinnipiac and Canisius will meet on the basketball court for the first time ever (TV SNY; Radio 1400AM, 7:30 p.m.).
The host Bobcats have won 13 of their last 14 home games and have proved to be brash newcomers to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Canisius (14-7, 8-2 MAAC) is tied with Iona for first place in the MAAC but Quinnipiac (12-7, 7-3 MAAC) is one game back, tied for third and has shown it’s a team to be reckoned with.
Under former Connecticut assistant Tom Moore, the Bobcats own a victory over Iona and have swept Manhattan and handled Niagara, outrebounding the Purple Eagles by 29, in their first conference season. Canisius has won five of its last six games including the last two, with the loss a one-pointer at Monmouth on a last-second shot.
Rebounding is Quinnipiac’s strength. The Bobcats’ Ike Azotam (6-feet-7, 239 pounds) and Ousmane Drame (6-9, 225) rank 1-2 in the MAAC in rebounding and teammate Zaid Hearst (6-4, 215) is fourth. They will be a stern test for the Canisius bigs — Chris Manhertz (6-6, 235) and Jordan Heath (6-10, 240). .
Canisius, of course, is led by senior guard Billy Baron, who ranks third in the nation in scoring at 24.2
National scoring leader Antoine Mason (27.4) and Niagara (6-15, 3-7 MAAC) will face Siena (9-12, 5-5) at Times Union Center in Albany (Radio 1520, 8:30 p.m.).
The University at Buffalo women (11-7, 4-3 MAC) will shoot for their fifth straight Mid-American Conference win when they face Miami (Ohio) at Alumni Arena (Radio 1270 AM, 7 p.m.)