CANISIUS 72, FAIRFIELD 65
How Canisius won: The Griffs used their size edge to dominate the backboards, outrebounding Fairfield by 41-24. Canisius outscored the Stags on second-chance points, 22-9. Canisius outscored Fairfield, 26-14, over the last 10 minutes.
Player of the game: Senior center Josiah Heath, playing his last game at the Koessler Athletic Center, scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Heath is averaging 13.55 points and 10.6 rebounds over the last nine games.
Stat check: Junior center Kevin Bleeker had 15 points and 13 rebounds, and junior swingman Jamal Reynolds had 15 points and 11 rebounds. It was the first time since December 2004 Canisius had three players with double-doubles.
What it means: Canisius already locked up fifth place and a first-round bye in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference quarterfinals. If Canisius’ two centers – Heath and Bleeker – keep playing like this, the Griffs have a legitimate shot to win a game in the MAAC tournament . . . and threaten the top seeds. That was unthinkable at the beginning of the year, when the Griffs were picked for 10th out of 11 in the MAAC.
Quotable: “This was one of the most unbelievable years for me as a coach. I told the kids no one in my opinion believed we could be in this position that we’re in but us, but that team in that room.” – Jim Baron.
What’s next: Canisius plays either Manhattan or Monmouth, whichever claims the No. 4 seed, in seven days in Albany. Manhattan (12-7) closes the regular season Sunday against Quinnipiac (9-10). Monmouth (12-7) closes at home against Siena (7-12). If they finish tied, Manhattan is No. 3 and Monmouth is No. 4. The feeling here is Manhattan would be a slightly tougher matchup for the Griffs. Canisius lost by 3 and 9 to Manhattan, and by 5 and 4 to Monmouth.
Niagara: The Purple Eagles close the regular season at home Sunday against Fairfield. Niagara (6-13) currently is ninth and would face the eighth seed in the pre-quarterfinal Thursday. If Niagara beats Fairfield, it could rise to eight. If Niagara loses and Marist wins Sunday, the Purple Eagles could fall to 10th.