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Big 4 Basketball: Canisius shoots for 2-0 start in MAAC

Reggie Witherspoon is off to a winning start in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in his first year as the Canisius men's basketball coach. The Golden Griffins, 77-76 winners at Manhattan on Friday, take on a tougher task Sunday afternoon at Monmouth in a 2 p.m. game.

Picked to finish ninth in the MAAC preseason coaches' poll, Witherspoon's Griffs hope to defy experts. A 2-0 start would help. Three times in recent years (2012-13, 13-14 and 14-15) the Griffs began conference play 2-0. They started 1-1 last year, opening with a home win over Monmouth. The Hawks, coached by former North Carolina star King Rice, are 5-2 overall and won their MAAC opener at Quinnipiac, 91-72, on Thursday night.  Their record includes wins over Drexel, Cornell and HolyCross. Losses were to South Carolina in overtime and at Syracuse.

Junior forward Jermaine Crumpton (Niagara Falls) led the Canisius victory over Manhattan with 26 points. Kassius Robertson had 20 including five three-pointers.
Monmouth has a pair of three-point shooters of its own.  Sophomore guard Micah Seaborn buried eight in nine attempts against in a win over South Carolina State and senior guard Je'lon Hornbeak had five against Quinnipiac. Monmouth has a 6-foot-10 center in Chris Brady who had 21 points against Holy Cross.

The Niagara men (1-6, 0-1 MAAC) lost at Marist on Friday (72-66) faces an even more  difficult task against conference favorite and defending champion Iona in New Rochelle (Radio 1400, 4 p.m.).  Iona defeated Saint Peter's in its MAAC opener on Friday, 79-65 in Jersey City. The Gaels' two losses were at Florida State and Nevada. They have won four straight since, avenging the Nevada loss in the Great Alaska Shootout which the Gaels won. Iona guard Sam Cassell Jr., a graduate-student transfer from Connecticut, was the MVP of the Great Alaska Shootout and is averaging 16.0 a game. Matt Scott is averaging 19.2 points a game for Niagara and transfer Kahlil Dukes is scoring at a 16.0 pace. Dukes has yet to miss a free throw in 20 attempts.

The University at Buffalo women will try to make it seven in a row to start the season when they face Hofstra at noon in Alumni Arena. Coach Felisha Legette-Jack's team has won two close ones so far, a two-point triumph on the road at Duquesne and Thursday night's 67-66 home win over Central Florida. Hofstra comes in at 4-2 with the losses at Navy and Sacramento state. Junior forward Ashunae Durant is averaging a double-double (17.3 ppg and 11.3 rpg) for the Pride.

Canisius and Niagara also will play Sunday home games, as they continue in the opening weekend of MAAC competition. Canisius  (1-5, 0-1 MAAC) will face Monmouth (2-4, 0-1 MAAC)  at 2 p.m. Monmouth lost at Niagara on Friday night (66-45) while Canisius was losing to Rider, 71-70.

Now Rider (4-2, 1-0 MAAC) moves on to face Niagara, which was impressive in its 66-45 win over Monmouth as Victoria Rampado led the way with 15 points and 10 rebouinds. It was her first double-double of the season but her sixth straight game scoring in double-digits. It was the first time Niagara won a MAAC game by 20 points or more since a 64-36 win over Manhattan two seasons ago.  Rider has four starters scoring in double figures, led by senior guard Robin Perkins (13.2).  Niagara and Rider split their two regular season games last season.




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