As the conference takes a break for BracketBusters weekend everything is starting to settle down. Niagara is holding steady at the top and the Purple Eagles look to be in a great position to have the number one seed heading into the Springfield.
Do they really want to be the hunted instead of the hunter? It’s going to be a crazy few days in Massachusetts. Here’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from this week in MAAC basketball.
Juan’ya states his case: Niagara went on the road twice this week without leading scorer Antoine Mason. The Purple Eagles pulled out to close victories thanks to the heroics of Juan’ya Green. He buzzer-beating three-pointer helped Niagara defeat Marist and then he scored 11 of the Purple Eagles’ final 15 points in the win over Manhattan. He’s scored at least 18 points in each of his past three games. The game against the Red Foxes was the only time in the past eight games he’d had fewer than four assists.
Loyola (MD) is going out in style: The only team preventing Niagara from claiming the conference title now is the team leaving after this season for the Patriot League. Loyola snuck by Canisius and then crushed Siena on the way to another two-win week. The dynamic duo of Robert Olson and Dylon Cormier is rolling. The two guards combined for 35 against the Griffs and 44 against the Saints. Olson had five steals against Canisius and then Cormier had five against Siena. With both of them healthy and playing well Patsos’ team looks tough to beat.
Rider takes care of business: The situation was simple. All Rider had to do to avoid playing during the first day of the MAAC tournament was take care of business against two teams from the MAAC’s lower division. After a wins over St. Peter’s and Marist that’s all done and Kevin Baggett can focus on a tough final weekend in Buffalo. Daniel Stewart grabbed 24 rebounds in the two games. He had his fifth double-double of the season against Marist with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Fairfield bounces back: Whether it was Nemo, the postponement, or playing in Alumni Hall instead of in Bridgeport something went wrong for the Stags last Tuesday against Manhattan. The 22-point defeat was one of the most stunning losses of the entire MAAC season. Sydney Johnson’s team rebounded though, defeating Siena by 22 and then holding on to take down Iona on Derek Needham’s buzzer beater. The Stags have won seven of their last eight games and have two difficult, but winnable road games during the final weekend. After a brutal five-game losing streak Johnson has his team right where they need to be down the stretch.
Manhattan’s turnovers (Pt. 2): The Jaspers committed 22 turnovers against Niagara. It was their highest turnover rate since Nov. 29 against Fordham. The Jaspers had been doing a better job of taking care of the ball, though interestingly enough they lost to Siena and Rider in two of their three lowest turnover rates of the season. Emmy Andujar had a particularly rough time with six turnovers against the Purple Eagles. Two Iona players have a turnover rate below 20%, Rhamel Brown and Shane Richards.
Energy is there, but the results aren’t for Marist: Now 7-20 on the season the Red Foxes could’ve given up on the season long ago, but Chuck Martin has his team battling still. Marist lost two close ones this week, by three to Niagara on Green’s final shot and by four at Rider. Jay Bowie is back and he’s helping open things up for his teammates. Adam Kemp had 17 points against Niagara and Chavaughn Lewis scored 18 against Rider. Even with Bowie’s return Martin is playing a really short rotation. Only six players played more than five minutes in both games this week.
Tempers flaring at Siena: It’s bad enough that the Saints got blasted in their past two games with a 22-point loss to Fairfield and then a 23-point loss at home to Loyola (MD). According to Twitter, during the Loyola game star player O.D. Anosike and head coach Mitch Buonaguro got into an argument on the bench. Both of them downplayed it in the post-game press conference, but it probably has to do with the fact that O.D. only played 26 minutes in the game. It was by far the fewest minutes that the senior from Staten Island had played all season.
Iona’s performance problem: Something happens to Iona when that final media timeout goes by. Whether it’s the shots stop falling, the defense stops making plays or guys just don’t want it enough the Gaels can’t win the close ones. Iona lost two more close ones to Manhattan – on an offensive rebound in double-overtime – and Fairfield – on Derek Needham’s three with 5.5 seconds remaining. Tim Cluess’ team has now lost five of its last six games and has dropped into a tie for fifth place. Close losses are killing the Gaels.