Canisius junior forward Malek Green was inadvertently hit in the mouth after blocking a shot by Rider guard Dontrell McQuarter and took a seat with about seven minutes to play and the Golden Griffins leading by six points.
He returned moments later, but was unable to help finish the job.
“We didn’t expect to lose,” Green said. “But we did face adversity pretty well this season and I’m proud of everybody in the locker room.”
No. 6-seeded Canisius succumbed to a late run by No. 11 Rider, which erased an 11-point second-half deficit to defeat the Griffs, 78-76, in the opening round of the 2021 Hercules Tires Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship tournament Monday night at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
Rider guard Dwight Murray Jr. drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 76-76 with 1:03 to play, and McQuarter’s layup, assisted by Murray, gave Rider the lead with 29 seconds to go. The Broncs had last led 9-6 with 15:18 remaining in the first half. They scored the final seven points of the game.
The Bulls dispatched short-handed Kent State 81-67 on Friday for their season-high fifth consecutive victory and eighth in the last nine games.
Rider advanced to play No. 3 Saint Peter's (13-10, 10-8 MAAC) in a quarterfinal game at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“I didn’t necessarily think it was a huge momentum shift,” Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “I just think that they kept coming the entire game.”
Canisius senior Majesty Brandon missed a shot on the Griffs’ second-to-last possession, and after Jordan Henderson corralled the offensive rebound, a bad pass by Brandon bounced out of bounds. It was one of only six turnovers committed by the Griffs. On the final possession, Canisius sophomore Jacco Fritz missed a 3-point shot and Green missed a desperation layup attempt to end the season.
“We ran a play, Jacco got an open look and I was trying to get in position to rebound,” Green said. “I didn’t know exactly where it was coming off at, but we didn’t come up with a basket and we needed one.”
Henderson led Canisius with 16 points and six rebounds. Armon Harried had 15 points and eight boards.
Bona, the top seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament, will face either No. 2 VCU or No. 3 Davidson in the tournament championship game on March 14.
Green added 13 points and six rebounds. The Cincinnati native, who sat out last season after transferring to Canisius from Morehead State, led the Golden Griffins with 13.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game during the regular season and was named to the All-MAAC third team Monday.
Brandon and Fritz each had nine points.
Murray scored a game-high 22 points for Rider. Allen Powell added 19 points and McQuarter had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Canisius (7-6, 7-6 MAAC) did not play Rider (6-16, 6-13) during the regular season after their scheduled games Feb. 5-6 were canceled while the Griffs’ season was paused because of Covid-19.
But Canisius, which opened the regular season with a 1-3 record, finished strong, winning six of its final eight games entering the tournament, including a 76-75 victory in the finale against regular-season champion Siena. The Griffs played the final two months of the season on the road.
Much will be different from last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the MAAC to cancel its tournament after two days.
“We came up short, but we fought the whole season,” Harried said. “Forty-four days quarantined, off, like, we fought. We just fought. We kept battling. We didn’t have time in the gym together sometimes, but we kept fighting, kept fighting. We came up short, but we gave a team effort, just didn’t get the results that we wanted.”
Canisius led 42-36 at halftime and by as many as nine points early in the second half, but Rider used an 11-2 run to cut its deficit to 52-50 with about 15 1/2 minutes to play.
Canisius responded again, using a 12-3 run to build a 66-55 lead with about 12 minutes to go.
Green and Harried each made a pair of layups during the run, with an unforced turnover by Rider giving the ball back to Canisius and allowing Harried to convert a three-point play to push the Griffs’ advantage to double digits.
Rider responded with a 14-5 run to cut the deficit to 71-69 with about five minutes to play.
Henderson hit a pullup jumper and a 3 to keep Canisius on top, but the Broncs continued to push and finished the game on a seven-point run.
“I’m really appreciative of the effort that our guys gave throughout the entire year of going through this whole ordeal and trying to play games, just going through everything,” Witherspoon said. “We came up a little bit short tonight, and you’ve got to give Rider credit.”
Four local athletes named All-MAAC
Niagara junior Marcus Hammond and redshirt senior Kobi Nwandu were named to the men's All-MAAC second team, while Canisius' Green was named to the third team, the conference announced.
Niagara sophomore Angel Parker was named to the women's All-MAAC second team.
First Team: Manny Camper*, Sr., Siena; Deion Hammond*, Sr., Monmouth; KC Ndefo*, Jr., Saint Peter’s; Jalen Pickett, Jr., Siena; Isaiah Ross*, Sr., Iona.
Second Team: Marcus Hammond, Jr., Niagara; Dwight Murray Jr., Jr., Rider; Kobi Nwandu, R. Sr., Niagara; George Papas, Sr., Monmouth; Jacob Rigoni, Sr., Quinnipiac.
Third Team: Daryl Banks III, So., Saint Peter’s; Malek Green, Jr., Canisius; Jordan King, So., Siena; Melik Martin, Sr., Monmouth; Ant Nelson, Jr., Manhattan; Warren Williams, Jr., Manhattan.
First Team: Mackenzie DeWees, Jr., Quinnipiac; Willow Duffell, Sr., Marist; Mikala Morris, So., Quinnipiac; Lou Lopez-Senechal*, Jr., Fairfield; Taiah Thornton, R. Sr., Saint Peter’s.
Second Team: Katie Armstrong, Gr., Fairfield; Dee Dee Davis, Jr., Manhattan; Angel Parker, So., Niagara; Courtney Warley, Sr., Manhattan; Isis Young, Gr., Siena.
Third Team: Sarah Barcello, Jr., Marist; Juana Camilion, Jr., Iona; Rose Caverly, Jr., Quinnipiac; Trinasia Kennedy, So., Marist; Kendrea Williams, R. Sr., Saint Peter’s.