Picked to finish ninth among the 11 teams in the preseason Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coaches' Poll, Canisius is off to a 2-0 start in conference play.
The Golden Griffins completed a perfect opening weekend in the MAAC by defeating defending champion and preseason favorite Iona, 85-78 before 969 Sunday afternoon at the Koessler Center.
Meanwhile at the Taps Gallagher Center in Lewiston, Niagara was routed by Rider, 99-76, and fell to 0-2 in conference play. The Purple Eagles had lost their conference opener to Iona in overtime on Friday.
Canisius senior Jermaine Crumpton matched his season high with 24 points and took in eight rebounds to lead coach Reggie Witherspoon's team its fourth straight win.
Freshman Takal Molson scored 21 points with nine boards and sophomore Isaiah Reese scored 12 of his 18 in the second half when the Griffs were holding off a rally by the Gaels.
"The challenge with a team like Iona is that they're so good in transition, and they throw so many line-ups at you, it is hard to keep up," Witherspoon said. "You can't have bad moments against Iona, because not only are the back in the game quickly, they'll get ahead of you just as fast. That was a real big mental challenge for us today."
"I think being 2-0 in the league is big for us ... A lot of times, particularly with a younger team like we have, the guys need some validation to see rewards for working hard. It's obviously very early, we're only two games in, but these wins are certainly welcome because the schedule doesn't get any easier."
An 18-0 Canisius run erased a 24-12 Iona lead and helped the Griffs build a 43-29 halftime lead.
Iona came back to take a 55-53 lead but that turned out to be the Gaels' last of the game. Four points by Reese and a layup by Molson put Canisius in front, 61-57. Twice Iona got as close as two after that but the Griffs did not fold. The Griffs hit three straight free throws and Reese took a feed from Malik Johnson to make it 83-76 in the final minute.
Rider (8-6, 1-1 MAAC) shut down Niagara's backcourt duo of Matt Scott and Kahlil Dukes in rolling to victory over the Purple Eagles (7-8, 0-2).
Scott was 0 for 9 on his field-goal attempts (0-4 from three-point range) and finished with eight points, the first time this season he failed to reach double figures. Dukes made 4 of his 13 attempts (3 for 9 from beyond the arc) and finished with 13 points.
Junior forward Marvin Prochet led Niagara with with a season-high 21 points.
Niagara, which shot only 35.5 percent from the floor, never led in the game. Rider led 42-34 at halftime and built the lead to as many as 27 with 2:14 to go.
The Broncs got 56 of their points in the paint while Niagara could fashion only 24.
Rider shot 52 percent (39 of 75) and had a 50-36 rebounding advantage. Allen Jordan had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead the Broncs.
Playing without three starters including team scoring leader Mckenna Maycock, St. Bonaventure lost to Saint Louis, 78-55, in its Atlantic 10 Conference women's basketball opener before, 1,709 at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis.
Six players handled most of the playing time for the Bonnies (5-9, 0-1 A-10). Saint Louis is 7-0 and 1-0 in the conference.
Sophomore Danielle Migliore led the Bonnies with 21 points. her fourth straight game of double-figure scoring and second consecutive contest with more than 20 points.
Senior Mariah Ruff added 10 points, six rebounds and four assists while junior Arielle Harvey posted nine points.