Canisius will become the fourth Big 4 team in the last 15 years to face the defending national champion when it opens play in the AdvoCare Invitational against Villanova on Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Game time is 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
The Golden Griffins were involved in one of those previous meetings – an 87-70 loss at Syracuse on Dec. 30, 2003. Earlier that season, Syracuse beat St. Bonaventure, 87-78, in a game played in Rochester. The other two involved the University at Buffalo – a 90-68 loss at UConn in the 2004-05 season opener and an 82-59 loss at Duke on Dec., 5, 2015.
The Golden Griffins come in off a 93-61 loss at No. 14 Florida State on Monday and are 1-2 on the season.
Canisius cut the lead to six at one point but could not get closer.
“Their pressure on the ball allowed us to drive and kick for open shots in rhythm, and we made some, but not enough," coach Reggie Witherspoon told reporters afterward. "We had to work so hard to get their lead down to where it was manageable, but then we got real uncomfortable again and we got sloppy and turned it over. I hope we can take something from tonight and start to work towards where we want to go as a team. When you’re battling like we were, and a team gives you chances, there’s no room for error. It doesn’t matter who you are playing.”
Villanova enters the game having fallen out of the national rankings for the first time in nearly five years – a string of 78 consecutive polls. The Wildcats were No. 8 in the Associated Press poll before getting blown out by Michigan, 73-48, in a rematch of the national title game and then losing to Furman, 76-68, in overtime.
According to the Associated Press, this is the first time a defending national champion has started at 2-2 since UCLA in 1995.
Canisius will play either Memphis or Oklahoma State on Friday in the tournament and then plays Sunday.