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Bonnies likely to raise Griffs’ learning curve

Canisius College coach Jim Baron is not making any proclamations about his team just because it has opened the season with two victories.

Baron knows his young Golden Griffins, with just one starter back from last season, have a difficult task today when they face St. Bonaventure (4 p.m., Radio 1230 AM & 95.7 FM) at the Reilly Center.

Canisius was beaten by 20 points at Bona last year and has lost five straight at the Reilly Center, dating to 2003.

“They’re a good team, and they’ve got good veterans, two juniors and two seniors that are very good,” Baron said Friday. “It’s going to be a challenge for us this early in the season. The place is going to be packed. It’s always packed every time I come back there. I spent 14 years there.”

The Golden Griffins, picked to finish 10th out of 11 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, have started better than expected by beating Vermont and Lehigh in their first two games.

Canisius sophomore forward Phil Valenti scored 24 points against Vermont and three against Lehigh. Sophomore guard Zach Lewis scored seven against Vermont and 24 against Lehigh.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys,” Baron said. “We don’t have one guy. It’s a committee team. We’re using everybody. That’s how it’s going to be. There’s no single guy. Valenti had a good game the first game. Then the second game Zach had a good game. It’s a team by committee.”

Bona (1-1) routed a lightly regarded Dartmouth team in its opener then lost on Wednesday to a well-regarded Siena team, 73-70. Siena is picked to finish second in the MAAC.

Bona’s 7-foot center, Youssou Ndoye, figures to be a challenge for the Griffs. Canisius’ top three big men, 6-9 senior Josiah Heath, 6-10 junior Kevin Bleeker and the 6-7 Valenti all got in early foul trouble at Lehigh.

Neither Canisius nor Bona has been impacted much by this week’s winter storm.

Canisius saw just 5 inches of snow on its campus. The Griffs had a longer than normal bus ride home from Lehigh on Tuesday but held their normal practices Thursday and Friday. Bona got only 6 inches of snow on its campus, and its schedule has not been impacted, either.

In other Big Four men’s action, Niagara plays host to Hartford (7 p.m., Radio 1400 AM) at the Gallagher Center. It’s a tough matchup for the Purple Eagles (1-1), who scored an upset at St. Peter’s on Thursday.

Hartford is picked to finish second in the America East Conference, behind Stony Brook and ahead of the likes of Vermont, Binghamton and Albany. Hartford has nine players back from last year’s 17-16 team, including preseason all-conference forward Mark Nwakamma, a 6-6 forward who averaged 15.3 ppg last year. The Hawks are 2-0, with a one-point win over St. Peter’s at home and a five-point win over Dartmouth at home.

Women’s basketball: Niagara will end its wild week with a 2 p.m. game at the University at Buffalo (Radio 1520 AM). Niagara’s women spent nearly 30 hours stranded on a bus on the New York State Thruway before being rescued about 4 a.m. Wednesday. Niagara is 0-2. Buffalo is 1-1. The Bulls defeated St. Francis of Pa., 88-80, on Tuesday.

St. Bonaventure’s women visit Detroit at 12:30 p.m. The Bonnies lost at Toledo, 64-58, on Thursday to fall to 1-2. This is the third of four straight road games for Bona, which visits Penn State on Tuesday. Detroit (1-2) lost at Ohio on Thursday. Detroit went 6-24 last year and is picked to finish last in the nine-team Horizon League this season.