How wide open is the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball race with half the season yet to be played?
Just the fact that Iona, which has won five of the last seven MAAC tournaments and was a losing finalist in two others, is sitting in last place with a 3-7 conference record. The Gaels also have finished first in four of the last eight conference regular seasons.
Both Canisius and Niagara helped themselves in the conference picture with home victories on Sunday afternoon.
Canisius (9-13, 4-7 MAAC) edged Marist, 66-65, at the Koessler Athletic Center on a 3-pointer by Majesty Brandon with 5 seconds to go. The Griffs pulled even with Marist in a tie for ninth place but only two games out of a top-five position in the standings with nine conference games left to play.
Niagara (7-14, 5-5 MAAC) forced 20 Quinnipiac turnovers and committed only three in a surprising 75-59 victory over the Bobcats (11-9, 6-4 MAAC) at the Gallagher Center.
Brandon, a junior college transfer from Monroe County Community in Rochester, scored the last eight Canisius points. His jump shot with 1:36 to play made it 65-60. Then he scored a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left to make it 65-63. The Griffs got the chance to win it when Michael Cubbage of the Foxes missed a free throw with 15 seconds left and Armon Harried grabbed the defensive rebound.
Marist’s largest lead was nine points, 55-46, with 7:45 left after a three by Braden Bell.
Canisius trailed by eight several times in the first half but went into the halftime with a 32-31 lead after a Jordan Henderson layup with 11 seconds left.
Henderson had 17 points, Brandon 16 and Scott Hitchon had 13 for Canisius. Cubbage led Marist with 16.
Niagara, which lost to Marist by 19 points on Friday, turned things around on Sunday, playing nearly flawless basketball against Quinnipiac, which is tied for second on the MAAC.
The Purple Eagles shot 53.2% overall, and made six of 13 3-pointers. Niagara had one turnover in the first half and just one in the second until a shot-clock violation cost them possession with 13 seconds to go. Niagara scored 32 points off Quinnipiac turnovers.
Quinnipiac gained only two points off Niagara turnovers. That more than offset the visitors’ 38-26 rebounding advantage.
Marcus Hammond, who scored a career high 37 points in a 67-56 loss at Quinnipiac last month, led Niagara with 23, making 10 of 16 field goal attempts. James Towns made eight of nine shots and scored 19 points. Greg Kuakumensah had 10 points and three of Niagara’s 13 steals. Hammond also had three steals.
After a 4-4 tie, Niagara led the rest of the way. The Purple Eagles were in front by 17 (33-16) with 22 seconds left in the first half. Their largest lead was 22 points, 61-39, with 7:25 to go.
Rich Kelly had 15 points for Quinnipiac.
Bona women lose in OT
Down 10 in the fourth quarter, the St. Bonaventure women’s team rallied to force overtime before losing to Richmond, 63-59, in their Atlantic 10 Conference game on Sunday afternoon at the Robins Center in Richmond, Va.
Dajah Logan led the Bonnies with 14 points while Asianae Johnson registered her second double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Bonnies (5-17, 2-7 A-10) rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
Jaide Hinds-Clarke’s layup with 11 seconds left in overtime put Richmond in front, 61-59. The Spiders controlled the rebound after Hinds-Clarke missed her free throw on the play and iced the game with two more foul shots.
Logan’s clutch 3-pointer with 16.5 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game at 53-all. Her 3-pointer as time ran out fell short. Richmond scored the first six points in overtime and never trailed after that.