The MAAC Tournament kicked off at the Times Union Center in Albany with three first round games, which saw all three higher seeds advance to the quarterfinals. Those that stuck around for the late game were treated to a thrilling finish between Manhattan and Rider.
#8 Niagara 88, #9 Quinnipiac 69
Niagara used a 16-3 second half run, which featured 10 points from James Towns, to pull away and dominate Quinnipiac after the two teams were separated by just two points at the half. The Purple Eagle backcourt of Matt Scott and Khalil Dukes combined for 37 points, and Maurice Taylor Jr grabbed 16 boards in a surprise start over Marvin Prochet. Niagara used another 10-0 run late to completely put the game out of reach for the shorthanded Bobcats, who were paced by freshman Peter Kiss’ strong all around game of 15 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds.
#7 Canisius 77, #10 Marist 73
Phil Valenti went 8-for-13 from the field for 21 points to lead Canisius to the quarterfinals, but the Griffs certainly suffered a scare in the second half when Marist rallied to take the lead with just under 7 minutes to play. Canisius and Marist went to the half fairly even, with the Griffs holding a four-point advantage. The lead ballooned to double digits early in the second half, but buoyed by the return of Brian Parker from suspension (22 points on 10-15 FG) and the will of senior leader Khallid Hart, the Red Foxes stormed all the way back before falling just short. Marist coach Mike Maker did a nice job mixing in different zone looks to stifle Canisius’ vaunted ball movement, but the Griffs ultimately had too much fire power from Valenti and senior guard Kiefer Douse, who finished with 17 points. A Kassius Robertson three with 2:09 left gave Canisius the lead back for good. It was a tough ending for Hart, who finished his four-year career at Marist as the school’s fourth all-time leading scorer.
#6 Rider 69, #11 Manhattan 68
The nightcap at Albany was the best game of the session, as Rider topped the Jaspers on a wild finish that ended on a controversial replay review. Jimmie Taylor hit an incredible hanging, twisting three from the top of the key that gave Rider a 69-68 lead with four seconds left. Zavier Turner then went “Tyus Edney” for the Jaspers, hitting a coast to coast layup for what would have been the game winning shot...but it came just after time expired. Rider wins, right? Not so fast. The officials suddenly made their way to the scorer’s table to check the replay. Taylor’s incredible game-winning three might actually have been a two depending on where his right foot was when he leapt, requiring overtime. After a lengthy, multiple stage review, the refs determined that the call on the court had to stand without a conclusive view to say otherwise. Taylor’s “maybe three” was his only triple of the game, and just Rider’s third as a team. It was certainly a game effort from Steve Masiello’s Jaspers, who were led in defeat by Aaron Walker Jr’s 18 points.
The quarterfinals in Albany start with No. 1 Monmouth facing No. 8 Niagara, No. 2 St. Peter’s facing No. 7 Canisius (a team the Peacocks had some issues with in the regular season), No. 3 Iona facing No. 6 Rider (the Broncs put 103 on the Gaels on Feb. 18), and No. 4 Siena hosting No. 5 Fairfield.