GAME NOTES: In a matchup that could decide the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season crown, the Canisius Golden Griffins will host the Rider Broncs at the Koessler Center to close out the 2012-13 schedule.
Rider beat first-place Niagara for the second time this season on Thursday night, 68-59. It marked the fourth consecutive victory for the Broncs, who need a win tonight and some help to win the MAAC regular-season crown. Niagara, Loyola-Maryland, Canisius and Rider all enter the weekend within a game of one another atop the conference standings.
In fact, Canisius and Rider share an identical 11-6 mark in MAAC play. The Golden Griffins are coming off a 77-65 overtime victory against Saint Peter's on Thursday night. The win improved their home record to 11-2 this season.
Canisius used a strong second half to cruise to a 67-50 road victory over the Broncs on Jan. 25. Still, Rider holds a commanding 28-8 lead in the all-time series.
The Broncs turned up the defensive pressure to win Thursday's game, as they held a potent Niagara squad to 35.7-percent shooting from the floor. It marked only the second time this season the Purple Eagles failed to score 60 points in a game. Rider used a 15-1 run to turn a two-point deficit into a 12-point lead with eight minutes remaining in regulation. Jonathon Thompson scored eight of his team-high 25 points during the run, and he would later sink 3- of-4 at the foul line in the final minute to seal the outcome. The Broncs also got a huge effort from Daniel Stewart, who recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 14 rebounds. On the season, Thompson paces the squad with 12.9 points per game. He is a 50.4-percent shooter from the floor and a 43-percent shooter from beyond the arc (45-of-106). Anthony Myles (12.3 ppg) can also hit from outside (52-of-149), while Stewart (11.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg) mans the paint.
The Golden Griffins' strength lies in their perimeter shooting. Billy Baron (16.7 ppg), Harold Washington (13.7 ppg) and Isaac Sosa (12.1 ppg) have combined to knock down nearly 200 3-pointers this season (196) at 41-percent accuracy. Jordan Heath (9.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Chris Manhertz (7.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg) are not primary scoring options down low, although both players are shooting better than 52 percent from the floor and can certainly score when called upon. Against Saint Peters a couple of nights ago, Baron scored eight of his game-high 23 points in overtime, as the Griffs won the extra session by a convincing 16-4 margin. Washington was right on Baron's heels with 22 points, while Manhertz (nine rebounds) and Sosa each scored 12. Canisius was an efficient 9-of-17 from beyond the arc (.529) in addition to forcing 17 turnovers.
Canisius won the first meeting with Rider fairly convincingly despite playing on the road. Coming off Thursday's well-rounded victory, look for the Golden Griffins to take care of business on their home floor.