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Canisius fails to find last-second magic

There seemed no reason why Kevin Downey's performance wouldn't end with an encore. Just hit a three-pointer, a routine act for the Canisius College senior guard, and send the game into overtime.

But Downey didn't get the shot he wanted after a pass from Chuck Harris to John Popofski pushed the offense too far away for Downey to create any last-second drama. Downey heaved a 40-footer that ricocheted off the rim as time expired and the Golden Griffins fell to Marist, 74-71, in front of 728 on Monday at the Koessler Center.

Canisius had won six consecutive games over Marist, including a 76-67 victory in January in Poughkeepsie which came in the middle of a modest three-game win streak. The Griffs were hoping to build from the momentum of Saturday's 86-75 upset of Manhattan, their biggest victory in an otherwise disappointing season.

Canisius has now dropped 10 of its last 12 and stands 6-18 overall and 5-11 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, one game ahead of last-place Rider.

Sixteen of the 20 games in this series have been decided by seven or fewer points, and Monday featured more of the same.

The game came down to the last seconds after Marist's Jared Jordan made a free throw with 13 seconds left. Harris rushed down court looking to set up a play for Downey, who finished with a team-high 19 points, or junior Corey Herring.

But Harris threw a pass slightly behind Popofski, and the ball bounced away long enough to take precious time off the clock. By the time Popofski recovered the ball, he tossed it to Downey. With a defender charging at him, Downey's lone option was a double-pump, 40-footer.

"Chuck picked up his dribble too quickly and the ball got loose," Canisius coach Mike MacDonald said. "Then it's scramble city."

Downey did everything he could to prevent another defeat -- scoring 13 points in the second half -- and his layup with 1:40 remaining gave the Griffs a one-point lead. That was quickly erased by poor transition defense that left Will Whittington wide open for a three-pointer that gave Marist a 71-69 lead. After an empty possession ended with a turnover, Jordan, the national leader in assists, went to work.

Jordan was able to penetrate far enough in the lane to find Ryan Stilphen for a layup and a 73-69 lead. Harris answered quickly with a layup with 16 seconds left to trail by two. That's when Jordan made one of two from the line with 13 seconds left to set up the Griffs' final possession.

"I was just trying to get it up on the rim," Downey said. "I didn't even look at the clock, I just tried to give it my best shot."

Herring, the team's leading scorer at 14.8 a game, scored 28 at Marist but was held to five points Monday on 1 of 7 from the field.

Herring may have been stalled by an ankle injury that occurred just four minutes into the game, although he returned two minutes after being treated.


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