There’s a lot to love about the MAAC as we hit the final two weeks of the regular season. Rider and Canisius have separated themselves as the top two teams in the league, and because sports are so great, we get to see the two of them square off in New Jersey on Sunday!
Niagara got back on track with a pair of wins to stretch its streak to three, while Iona suffered a pair of surprising setbacks. Oh, and what’s that you say? Monmouth could be ready to make a run in next month’s conference tournament? There are certainly signs that say so!
As always, plenty to dive into this week, so let’s see how it all shook out:
1) Rider (19-7, 12-2 MAAC) – 77-73 W vs. Manhattan (2/8); 89-79 W @ Marist (2/10)
The Broncs engineered one of this season’s great comebacks Saturday evening to retain their claim to first place in the league. Rider trailed Marist by 21 points with just 10:35 remaining, but a 28-4 run capped by a three-point play from Dimencio Vaughn with 2:04 left to play pushed the Broncs into the lead. Rider closed the game on a 16-1 run and held Marist without a field goal for the final 7:17.
It was Rider’s second comeback of the week, as they previously erased a seven point halftime deficit to get past Manhattan. The Broncs held the Jaspers to just 35.7% shooting in the second half before Stevie Jordan came through with a layup and pair of free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.
Vaughn was named MAAC Player of the Week after leading all scorers in each game with 23 against Manhattan and 28 at Marist. The redshirt freshman is shooting 50% from the field over his last three games and has been the catalyst for Rider’s 12-2 record in league play, the program’s best 14-game start since joining the MAAC in 1997.
2) Canisius (18-9, 12-2 MAAC) – 89-65 W vs. Siena (2/8); 71-64 W vs. Quinnipiac (2/10); 81-63 W vs. Fairfield (2/12)
The Golden Griffins reclaimed a share of first place thanks to a terrific three game homestand during which they outscored opponents by an average of 16.3 points. The Griffs have now won five in a row for the second time this season, and have not allowed an opponent to crack the 70-point threshold during their most recent streak.
Redshirt senior Jermaine Crumpton has been terrific of late, and led the Griffs in scoring each game this week. Crumpton turned in a 24-point performance on 9-15 shooting against Siena before adding 14 against Quinnipiac and notching the second double-double of his season on 21 points and 10 rebounds against Fairfield.
Earlier this season, Isaiah Reese became the first Canisius player to notch a triple-double, and he nearly repeated the feat against Quinnipiac. The sophomore guard finished the afternoon with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists.
Canisius will head to Monmouth this Friday before traveling to Rider on Sunday afternoon for a monumental matchup which will likely decide the regular season champion.
3) Niagara (17-10, 10-4 MAAC) – 95-76 W vs. Quinnipiac (2/8); 95-83 W vs. Fairfield (2/10)
The Purple Eagles earned a sweep over the league’s Connecticut delegation this week, in the process completing the season sweep of Quinnipiac for the first time since the Bobcats joined the MAAC in 2013 and avenging an earlier 104-85 to Fairfield.
Matt Scott and Kahlil Dukes were held to just a combined 23 points against Quinnipiac, but the Purple Eagles got a big boost off the bench with career efforts from James Towns and Keleaf Tate. The duo combined to shoot 72.2% from the field and a perfect 8-8 from beyond the arc as Towns led all scorers with 26 points while Tate turned in a career-high 15 points.
Dukes and Scott returned to their normal rhythm against Fairfield, posting 22 and 19 points respectively. Scott added 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season while Marvin Prochet matched Scott’s 19-point, 11-rebound line for his sixth double-double of the season.
Niagara remains in the hunt for the regular season league title just two games behind leaders Rider and Canisius with four to play, but will face a difficult path. The Purple Eagles lost their lone meeting with Rider earlier in the season, and will head south to take on Iona and Manhattan this week before the rematch against Canisius, which Niagara already got the better of a few weeks ago.
4) Iona (16-11, 10-5 MAAC) – 72-50 L vs. Monmouth (2/8); 86-77 W @ Saint Peter’s (2/10); 82-78 (OT) L @ Siena (2/12)
This is far from your typical Iona team, yet for all their trouble, the Gaels still find themselves entrenched in the top half of the league. This week dealt a major blow to Iona’s hopes of a regular season title as the Gaels dropped contests to two of the league’s lower-ranked squads.
Thursday’s upset loss to Monmouth was far and away the Gaels’ poorest effort since Tim Cluess took over the head coaching duties in 2010. Iona shot just 32.8% from the field and 7-32 from beyond the arc while posting the lowest point total in Cluess’ tenure.
Postgame frustration boiled over after the game as senior guard Deyshonee Much was seen confronting Cluess as the team headed back to the locker room. Despite the head coach’s insistence the matter was settled behind closed doors, Much did not travel with the team to Saint Peter’s or Siena and remains locked on 971 career points.
Roland Griffin helped the Gaels get back on track with a 22-point effort at Saint Peter’s and followed that up with a 21-point outing against Siena, but the latter performance was not enough as the Saints outscored Iona 16-12 in overtime to claim the victory.
5) Manhattan (12-14, 7-7 MAAC) – 77-73 L @ Rider (2/8); 93-76 W vs. Monmouth (2/10)
The Jaspers put a scare into league-leader Rider, but came up just short in one of the league’s most difficult environments. Manhattan shot 58.3% from the field in the first half and took a 37-30 lead into the break, but Rider clamped down in the second half. Zane Waterman’s layup tied the score at 71 entering the final minute, but the Broncs closed out on a 6-2 run while sinking clutch free throws to hold on late.
It didn’t take long for Manhattan to get back on track however, as the Jaspers turned in one of their best performances of the season in a lopsided victory over Monmouth. Zane Waterman and Zavier Turner each scored career highs with 28 and 25 points respectively while Pauly Paulicap logged his second double-double in three games with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The Jaspers trailed 56-55 with 10:09 remaining, but a quick 9-0 run put the team up for good. Turner then carried the squad home by scoring 16 consecutive Jasper points to put Manhattan up 80-64 with 4:23 remaining.
It has been an up and down season for the Jaspers, who were picked to finish second in the preseason coaches’ poll. However, Manhattan currently occupies the fifth spot in the standings and is in line for a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Two of the Jaspers’ final four games will come against sixth-place Quinnipiac, and those meetings will likely decide the league’s final bye.
6) Quinnipiac (9-17, 6-8 MAAC) – 95-76 L @ Niagara (2/8); 71-64 L @ Canisius (2/10)
The Bobcats have come through the toughest portion of their schedule battered and bruised. Unable to pick up a win through the gauntlet formed by the league’s top four teams, Quinnipiac must now fight down the stretch to pick up the final conference tournament bye.
Quinnipiac trailed by just two at halftime and pulled even at 56 on Isaiah Washington’s three-pointer with 11:38 remaining, but similarly to the teams’ first meeting, Niagara’s offense went into overdrive in the game’s latter stages. Cameron Young led the Bobcats with 22 points, his tenth 20-plus point effort of the season.
With his layup late in the second half at Canisius, senior forward Chaise Daniels became the 39th player in program history and 13th at the Division I level to reach the 1,000-point milestone. Daniels finished the game with 12 points while Young again led the squad with 16.
The Bobcats trail Manhattan by one game for fifth place in the league, but two of the Bobcats’ final four games will come against the Jaspers. Quinnipiac also plays one more against in-state rival Fairfield, which trails the Bobcats by one game.
7) Monmouth (9-17, 5-9 MAAC) – 72-50 W @ Iona (2/8); 93-76 L @ Manhattan (2/10); 73-57 W vs. Saint Peter’s (2/13)
The Hawks put the skids on a three game losing streak and earned a pair of victories this week to vault into striking position of the final conference tournament bye. Louie Pillari led all scorers with 21 points in Monmouth’s victory at Iona in which the Hawks clamped down on the defensive end and held the Gaels to just 32.8% shooting.
Redshirt freshman Ray Salnave has impressed over the last few weeks. The Elmont, NY native has reached double-figures in six of his last seven games, capped by a 16-point, five steal performance at Manhattan and a career-high 21-point effort against Saint Peter’s. Over his last two games, Salnave has done much of his damage from the free throw line, making 20 of 22 attempts.
Monmouth gets a home date with Canisius this Friday before heading to Albany to take on Siena. With the new pieces finally starting to fit together for King Rice’s club and Micah Seaborn’s return on the horizon, the Hawks could be dangerous in their return to the Times Union Center next month.
8) Fairfield (10-15, 5-9 MAAC) – 95-83 L @ Niagara (2/10); 81-63 L @ Canisius (2/12)
The Stags suffered a setback in their bid to reel in the fifth and final MAAC tournament bye when unable to make up any ground in western New York. Fairfield trailed Niagara by just three with 15 minutes remaining, but an 11-2 Purple Eagle run kept the host team on top for good.
Tyler Nelson led the Stags with 17 points at Niagara and now sits just 35 points shy of Tony George for the program’s all-time scoring lead. The senior did accomplish one feat this week, taking over the program record for made three-pointers with the 282nd of his career late in the first half against the Purple Eagles.
Fairfield had an opportunity to earn a landscape-altering win over Canisius, but fell flat in the second half. The teams entered intermission knotted at 43, but Fairfield could manage just 20 points after the break as the Golden Griffins soared to victory. Wassef Methnani led the way with 18 points for the Stags while Nelson added 13 and Jonathan Kasibabu put through 12.
Despite the lost week, the future looks bright for the Stags. Fairfield will play three of its final four games at home, and its remaining opponents (Marist, Quinnipiac, Siena, and Monmouth) own a combined .474 winning percentage.
9) Siena (8-19, 4-10 MAAC) – 89-65 L @ Canisius (2/8); 82-78 (OT) W vs. Iona (2/12)
The Saints have certainly struggled this season, but nonetheless have earned some victories to hang their hats on. Earlier this season, Siena handed Canisius its first loss of league play. The Golden Griffins paid Siena back for that performance this week, but the Saints turned right around to earn another signature victory over Iona in overtime.
Khalil Richard turned in a career performance with a personal-best 22 points against the Gaels while Evan Fisher scored 10 of his 21 points in overtime, including back-to-back three-pointers on Siena’s first two possessions of the extra period.
The victory marks the third year in a row Siena has earned a win over Iona. Although there is room to improve in the standings before next month’s MAAC tournament at the Times Union Center, the road won’t be easy for Jimmy Patsos’ squad. The Saints next head to Rider on Thursday before finishing the season against Monmouth, Fairfield, and Saint Peter’s, which all flank Siena in the standings.
10) Saint Peter’s (10-16, 4-11 MAAC) – 70-66 W vs. Marist (2/8); 86-77 L vs. Iona (2/10); 73-57 L @ Monmouth (2/13)
The Peacocks’ victory over Marist last Thursday gave the indication the team could be turning a corner and prepared to make a late run, but setbacks against Iona and Monmouth have once again dropped John Dunne’s group to the rear of the field.
Davauhnte Turner exploded against Marist, putting up his second 30-point game of the season. The junior finished 10-20 from the field and 4-7 from downtown for a game-high 30 points. It was Turner’s first double-digit scoring effort since pouring in 34 against Rider on Jan. 18, but he proved it was no fluke by dropping 21 on Iona next time out.
Saint Peter’s faces the easiest schedule in the MAAC down the stretch of league play, with contests against Marist, Quinnipiac, and Siena remaining. No matter their record however, the Peacocks are still capable of shutting down any opponent in the league come tournament time.
11) Marist (5-21, 3-11 MAAC) – 70-66 L @ Saint Peter’s (2/8); 89-79 L vs. Rider (2/10)
The Red Foxes let a golden opportunity slip through their paws Saturday night when they let a 21-point second half lead over league-leader Rider disappear. Marist shot 46.3% from the field, but went cold in the latter portion of the game, held without a field goal for over seven minutes to end the game.
Ryan Funk led four Marist players in double-figures with 18 points while Tobias Sjoberg notched his third double-double of the year with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Marist put together another balanced attack earlier in the week at Saint Peter’s, but coughed up the lead in the final minute. Brian Parker dished out a career-best nine assists along with his team-leading 12 points, and again matched that assist high against the Broncs.
The Red Foxes have been able to surprise a few teams this season, but remain unable to get over the hump. Five of the team’s league losses have come by four points or fewer, and although individual players such as David Knudsen and Aleksandar Dozic have taken steps forward, the team itself has yet to follow suit.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.