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Pregame Prep: Canisius, Niagara face tough defenses


Manhattan at Canisius

2 p.m. Saturday at Koessler Athletic Center

Radio 1230 AM

Rider at Niagara

3 p.m. Saturday at Taps Gallagher Center

Radio 1440 AM

Records: Canisius 12-9, 5-5; Manhattan 8-14, 3-8.

Niagara 7-15, 4-7; Rider 12-9, 5-5.

Canisius Set-Up: This is an interesting match-up for the Griffs because Manhattan is good at defending what Canisius does so well (shoot the three). Manhattan ranks No. 1 in the MAAC in limiting three-point attempts (16 a game). Canisius averages 24.3 trey attempts a game and makes 9.1 (second most in the MAAC). Canisius made 7 of 14 threes in beating Manhattan, 77-76, on Dec. 2. The Griffs rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to win, with Jermaine Crumpton scoring 26 points.

Niagara Set-Up: Niagara has a tough matchup. It lost at Rider, 89-78, on Jan. 8. Rider was in first place in the MAAC at 4-1 after that game but has lost four of its last five. The Broncs beat mighty Monmouth in OT, so they are a legitimate threat in the MAAC. Despite their big scoring game vs. Niagara, the Broncs are better on defense than offense. They're No. 1 in effective field-goal percentage (factoring threes and twos), No. 1 in defensive rebounding and No. 2 in defending the three. Turnovers killed Niagara in the first meeting; it made 20, negating the fact the Eagles shot the three well (10 of 19). Rider is balanced. Jimmie Taylor (14.2) and Kahlil Thomas (14.0) are the leading scorers.

Canisius Matchup: Canisius is more potent on offense than Manhattan, led by PG Zavier Turner (16.5 ppg) and F Zane Waterman (16.0). The Griffs need to limit turnovers, which they're good at. Canisius makes the second fewest in the MAAC. But Manhattan has a habit of speeding teams up and making them play sloppier than usual. Manhattan has size, but its small lineup seems to be most effective, which is fine with Canisius. Big 7-2 C Ahmed Ismail (4.2 pts/5.2 rebs) isn't as impactful as he looks. Backup big man Ak Ojo got hurt against Niagara and it'll be a surprise if he plays. He's a depth guy.

Jasper Press? Manhattan coach Steve Masiello is a Rick Pitnio disciple and has unleashed a menacing full-court press throughout his tenure. But the Jaspers have been pressuring more only in the half-court lately. They pressed full-court only one time at Niagara Thursday. A lot of newcomers makes it harder for the Jaspers to execute the full-court press as well as in past years.

Masiello on his full-court press: "We pressed one possession tonight. I said to myself tonight I don’t want to give them easy points at the foul line. They were 17 for 17 against Canisius and I didn’t want to get in the bonus early. With the way the rules are, and I’m not knocking refs, they do a phenomenal job. But for some reason contact 65 feet away from the basket they’re emphasizing, but the contact 18 feet from the basket maybe not as much. Maybe because youre a little more exposed, there’s not as many bodies around. But for whatever reason, it’s just the flow of the game. So I’ve tried to pick our spots with our pressure as of late. We’ll always be a full-court pressure team. We’ll always come back to zone. We’ll always go man out of it. We’ll always give you different looks to keep you on your toes. This year we’ve had a problem. Eight new guys, yes absolutely. But it’s February. They know now. But sometimes when you get teams in the bonus early it psychologically takes away some of your aggressiveness."

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