Playing without conference scoring leader Demond Stewart, Niagara still managed to keep its hopes alive for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men's basketball championship Saturday.
Stewart sat out the game with a foot injury, but Niagara defeated Siena, 69-65, before a crowd of 10,284 at the Pepsi Arena in Albany to close out its regular season with a 15-12 overall record, 12-6 in the MAAC.
Canisius closed out its MAAC campaign, too, but the news was not nearly so good for coach Mike MacDonald's Golden Griffins.
A 69-52 loss to Marist in Poughkeepsie assured the Griffs of having to play in the pre-quarterfinal round in next weekend's MAAC tournament at HSBC Arena.
Canisius, 17-10 overall but only 9-9 in the MAAC, can not crack the top six and avoid the play-in game.
While the regular season is over for Niagara and Canisius, there are three games on the MAAC schedule today. Two will affect Niagara's place in the standings and tournament seeding. First place Iona will visit Manhattan. If the Gaels win, they will take the regular season title and Niagara will be No. 2 on the basis of its regular season sweep of Siena.
However, an Iona loss will create a three-way tie for first with Niagara and Siena at 12-6 and bring the MAAC's tiebreaker rules into play. Iona, Niagara and Siena played to a standoff in head-to-head competition. The next tiebreaker would be a team's record against the fourth-place finisher. That won't be determined until the completion of today's schedule.
By winning, Manhattan could join Marist at 11-7. Rider could make it a three-way tie for fourth by winning its game at St. Peter's.
X-rays taken Thursday on Stewart's foot showed no fracture, but he sat out Saturday's game so he will be ready for the MAAC tournament. Michael Schmidt, Daryl Greene and Tremmell Darden picked up the scoring slack. Schmidt had 20 points. Greene played 39 minutes and had 18 points, 15 coming in the second half. Darden, a freshman, had a career-high 18 points, 15 in the first half.
"I don't know if I've ever been more proud of a group of people," said Niagara coach Joe Mihalich. "To come in here with Siena playing so well and win speaks of the great character that you need to be a champion."
Niagara went from a 43-43 tie to a 61-48 lead with 8:10 left. A trey by Greene capped the spurt. A 12-0 Siena run made it 61-60 with 5:16 left. After a Niagara turnover, Siena's Isaiah Stewart was driving for a layup, but it was blocked by Niagara's Luis Villapane. A jumper by Schmidt jumper, two free throws by James Reaves and four straight free throws in the last 35 seconds by Greene put it away.
In Poughkeepsie, Canisius was playing to finish as high as fourth in the MAAC but fell apart in the second half and saw its three-game winning streak end.
The Griffs shot only 31.5 percent (17 of 54) and were 4 of 15 from three-point range.
Darren Fenn led Canisius with 14 points, Toby Foster had 11 and Andrew Bush 10. Marist got 38 points off the bench. Nick Eppeheimier had 12, Rick Smith 12 and Sean Kennedy 11. One starter, Drew Samuels was in double figures. He had 10.
A 20-2 Marist run for a 57-39 lead blew it open.
"The bottom fell out," MacDonald said. "We had poor shot selection and ran out of gas. I thought we showed something tying it up in the second half (37-37), but we couldn't seem to get over the hump."