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Canisius and Niagara men, women to face off in MAAC Tournament

Thursday will be Canisius versus Niagara Day when the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments get under way at Times Union Center in Albany.

The long-time Western New York rivals will meet in first-round games of both the men’s and women’s tournaments. The women’s teams will clash at 9:30 a.m. and the men at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

In addition the Canisius and Niagara men’s hockey teams will face each other in a best-of-three Atlantic Hockey Association series starting on Friday at HarborCenter.

The final men’s seedings were determined when Canisius (13-18, 8-12 MAAC) and Niagara (7-24, 5-15 MAAC) both lost on the road Sunday in their final MAAC regular-season games.

Canisius fell, 86-78, at Iona (19-10, 16-4 MAAC) despite leading the entire first half and making 15 of 35 three-point attempts, just two fewer than the Griffs record of 17 in a game.

Niagara fell, 77-68, at Monmouth (25-6, 17-3 MAAC), the outcome giving the Hawks sole possession of the regular season MAAC championship for the first time.

Canisius owned the lead for 28 minutes and 13 seconds against Iona in New Rochelle, with the largest margin of 11 points (31-20) in the first half. Iona took charge with an 15-0 run over 4:55 of the second for a 70-60 advantage and never gave it up.

A.J. English of Iona, who didn’t score until he hit a three for his only points of the first half with 3:57 left in the period, finished as the Gaels’ leading scorer with 25 points, Deyshonee Much had 22 points off the bench while Jordan Washington had 15.

Sophomore Kassius Roberts led Canisius with 24 points, including 6 of 10 from three-point range. Phil Valenti had 15 points and Malcolm McMillan 11.

Monmouth fired off 39 three-pointers, a high number considering the Hawks led Niagara most of the way, and connected on only nine. Niagara was 6 from 26 from beyond the arc. Combined, it was not a pretty shooting performance by the MAAC’s No. 1 and No. 10 teams. They combined to shoot only 31 percent (40 of 129) and it was just 23.1 percent on a combined 15 of 65 on three-pointers.

Niagara’s last lead was 22-20 after a three by Chris Barton with 8:20 left in the first half. Monmouth grabbed a 38-31 advantage at the half and led by as many as 12 in the second half.

Emile Blackman had 22 points for Niagara, one of four Purple Eagles in double-figures. Marvin Prochet had 13 rebounds in addition to his 10 points, but Niagara was outrebounded 51-42.

Justin Robinson, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, had 25 points for the Hawks including 13 of 15 free throws. Je’lon Hornbeak and Collin Stewart had 12 points each while 6-9 freshman Diago Quinn had 16 rebounds in just 16 minutes for the winners.

The winner of Thursday’s Canisius-Niagara women’s game in Albany will face No. 1 seed Quinnipiac (22-7, 17-3 MAAC).

The men’s winner will go against No. 2 Iona.