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Dominic Robb sets Niagara blocks record in victory at Canisius

Dominic Robb gave Niagara the lead with a jumper in the paint with 18 seconds to play.

He helped secure the victory with a pair of free throws with 5 seconds remaining.

And the senior wasn’t finished.

Robb, who scored a team-high 20 points, capped his performance by swatting Malik Johnson’s 3-point attempt at the other end to set the school record with 221 career blocks as the Purple Eagles defeated rival Canisius, 86-84, on Wednesday night at the Koessler Athletic Center. Johnson still managed a jumper as time expired, but it didn’t prevent Niagara from sweeping the season series and torpedoing the Golden Griffins’ hopes of winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season title.

Niagara (13-17, 6-11) has won five of its last six games against Canisius.

“I love playing Canisius. Over my four years, I try to have the best game I can every time we play them, and it felt great to me,” Robb said, well aware he entered the game needing just one block to set the record. “I did know it. And I loved taking the last shot. I felt my team had confidence in me.”

Canisius (13-16, 10-7 MAAC) rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit, using a late 13-1 run to tie the score at 82-82 on a 3-point shot by Takal Molson with 44 seconds to play.

Molson finished with a game-high 28 points and nine rebounds.

But Robb answered with a contested jumper and on the Griffs’ ensuing possession, Scott Hitchon was called for an offensive foul, turning the ball over with 9 seconds to go.

Robb hit two free throws to extend Niagara’s advantage to four points before recording his only block of the game.

"We were up four at the time, so even if (Johnson) made the 3, I don't know, we tried to stay away from him,” Niagara coach Chris Casey said. “But I'm never going to tell Dom not to block a shot. He's pretty good at it."

Robb, who came off the bench, hit 6 of 7 shots from the field and was 8 of 8 on free throws.

“I think he just dominated the whole game,” Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon said.

Niagara freshman Marcus Hammond scored 18 points, including hitting a career-high five of six 3-pointers.

Canisius entered the night in a four-way tie for second place in the conference, along with Quinnipiac, Rider and Siena, but with the loss has dropped to fifth place, a game ahead of sixth-place Monmouth with one to play. The Griffs own the head-to-head tiebreaker, having won both games against Monmouth this season.

That’s important because the top five teams in the final regular season standings receive a bye into the conference quarterfinals. The top three seeds open against opponents who had to win a first-round game to advance.

The MAAC basketball tournament is March 7-11 in Albany.

Niagara entered the night on a two-game losing streak and had dropped six of its last seven since upending Canisius, 78-70, in Lewiston on Jan. 30.

That was the last time Canisius star guard Isaiah Reese appeared in a game. He has since been indefinitely suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Canisius has posted a 5-4 record without him.

Canisius, which last week briefly had sole possession of first place in the conference, has lost three of its last four games, including two in a row. They also lost 87-80 on Sunday at Iona, which has won six in a row to move atop the MAAC standings.

Robb entered the night tied for the Niagara career blocks record with Joe Arlauckas, whose 220 blocks from 1983-87 stood as the program’s high-water mark for more than three decades. Robb leads the MAAC with 65 blocks this season.

“I’m feeling more confident, and that’s also with my coach and team. They trust in me,” Robb said. “They know I can do more than maybe just set a screen or get a rebound or just score on a block. They know I have more to my game, and I’ve been working on it the whole entire year and I think it’s finally starting to come together for me at probably the perfect time going into the tournament here.”

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