Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — A raucous crowd and a terrible first half were too much for the Niagara Purple Eagles and their struggling defense to overcome in an 87-74 loss to the Little 3 rival Canisius Golden Griffins in the 173rd meeting between the two schools Wednesday night at a sold out Koessler Athletic Center.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference duo are in the middle of very different seasons, and it showed early as the Golden Griffins (13-7, 7-2) jumped out to a double digit lead just 7:01 into the first half.
Niagara (5-15, 2-7) played without arguably its best defender in guard Tahjere McCall, who bit into his tongue and required stitches after getting inadvertently hit at practice Tuesday. Starting in his place was freshman Wesley Myers, who landed the unenviable task of guarding Canisius guard Billy Baron — the nation’s third-leading scorer.
With NU keying on Baron, senior Jordan Heath made an impact early. The 6-foot-10 center had four points and two blocks in the first six minutes, guarded largely by undersized NU forwards Rayvon Harris and Ramone Snowden, who are both listed at 6-foot-5.
The Purple Eagles, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going offensively. NU went 0 for 4 early, all on jump shots. Senior Marvin Jordan finally broke through with a mid-range jumper with 17:08 left.
Canisius made a flurry of small runs and led by as much as 19 in the first half. Snowden capped the scoring with a 3-pointer from the left corner to cut the Canisius lead to 45-31 heading into the break.
Niagara out-fouled Canisius 12-8 in the half and committed four more turnovers (7-3) while shooting just 45.5 percent (5 for 11) from the free-throw line. The Griffs were 7 for 8 from the stripe.
“We really needed to make a couple shots early,” said NU coach Chris Casey. “We had some open looks.
“We did some good things at times, but the biggest difference was that we’ve got to guard without fouling.”