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Big 4 Hoops: Tourney losses end season for Canisius, Niagara

All four of Western New York's Big 4 men's division I basketball teams were alive in the postseason going into Wednesday night. Now there are two left. Canisius and Niagara are gone.

Isaiah Reese of Canisius beat the buzzer with a three-pointer to send the game to overtime but the Golden Griffins' failure in rebounding and three-point shooting led to an 80-78 loss to Jacksonville State before 870 at the Koessler Center. The defeat in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational ended a surprisingly successful season for Canisius.

In Ypsilanti, Mich., Niagara was fell from contention halfway through the first half and was eliminated by Eastern Michigan, 83-65, in the first round of the Tournament. The Purple EAgles fell short of a 20-win season, their best under coach Chris Casey. Niagara closed at 19-14.

Marlon Hunter scored with an offensive rebound - what else - to put Jacksonville State in the lead with 34 seconds to play. That made it 79-78. The Griffs had two more possessions, but two missed three-point tries that didn't fall after that and saw their season finish with a final 21-12 record.

Canisius was outrebounded by a whopping 50-26 margin. It was particularly telling on the offensive board where the Gamecocks had a 20-9 advantage, especially down the stretch when the visitors wire firing up errant three-pointers but kept getting second chances.

Jacksonville State led 37-33 at the half after Hunter scored on a layup with 2 seconds left. The lead swung back and forth in the second half. The Gamecocks led 67-62 with 2:18 left in a tip-in basket by Malcolm Drumwright.

Jax seemingly put it away when Norbertas Giga made two free throws for a 71-68 lead with 7 seconds left, but Reese hit at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Canisius scored the first four points in overtime on baskets by Reese and Jermaine Crumpton, but did not make a field goal the rest of the way, 3 minutes and 56 seconds.
Reese led Canisius with 24 points. Crumpton had 16 in his final collegiate game, but struggled with a 4 for 15 shooting performance. Takal Molson had 15 points and Malik Johnson 13.

Drumwright led the Gamecocks with 20 and 10 rebounds. Giga had 17 points and 11 boards, six on the offensive end. Jason Burnell had 16.

In the Niagara loss, Eastern Michigan ran off eight straight points for a20-8 lead with 11:03 left in the first half. Soon it was 31-14 in favor of the Eagles from the Mid-American Conference. Niagara was never in it after that. It was 42-27 at the half and the margin was around 20 points the rest of the way.

Elijah Minnie of the Eagles killed Niagara with his shooting. He finished with 29 points including 5 of 12 from three-point range. James Thompson III had 20.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Year Kahlil Dukes had 16 points for Niagara. Matt Scott returned to action from a late-season injury and scored seven points in 17 minutes. Niagara made onoly 3 of 22 shots from beyond the ard for 13.6 percent.


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