BUFFALO, NY – For 35 minutes, it appeared that Niagara was poised to cruise over Canisius.
The Purple Eagles jumped out to a quick start, taking an 11-point lead into halftime before increasing their lead to 81-69 with 4:12 remaining.
They had an answer for each Golden Griffins basket, repeatedly taking the life out of the Koessler Center crowd.
But it wouldn’t be a rivalry matchup without one last gasp by either team.
Down to their final life, Canisius started pressuring the Purple Eagles, forcing them into quick shots, poor decisions and a few ugly offensive possessions.
The Griffs went on a 13-1 run, trying the game at 82 following a Takal Molson three with 44 seconds remaining.
The Koessler Center was jumping but little did they know that they’d be on fire for another reason moments later.
Niagara called an immediate timeout following Molson’s three, drawing a play up for their big man, Dominic Robb, and he did not disappoint.
Robb received a post entry on the Purple Eagles ensuing possession, hitting a floater to give Niagara an 84-82 lead with 18 seconds remaining.
Malik Johnson took the ball down the court on the Griffs next possession but Canisius was unable to put up a shot.
Scott Hitchon was called for an illegal screen, lowering his shoulder into Niagara guard Marcus Hammond while setting the pick.
When asked for his thoughts on the call, Reggie Witherspoon didn’t offer much of an answer, simply stating, “I just looked at it.”
Robb salted the game away for Niagara, hitting a pair of free throws to give the Purple Eagles a four-point lead with five seconds remaining but he still had one big moment left in him.
The senior forward blocked Malik Johnson’s three-point attempt with a few seconds remaining, setting the Niagara record for career blocks with the 221st of his career.
When asked following the game if he knew that he set the record, Robb responded with a simple answer.
“Yea, I did (laughs)” said Robb.
It was an amazing final chapter for the Purple Eagles senior leader, finishing with 20 points, a record-setting block and a win over the rival Griffs.
“I love playing Canisius. Over my four years, I try to have the best game I can every time we play them,” said Robb, “I love taking the last shot. I felt my team had confidence in me.”
His teammate Marcus Hammond also shined, showing why Niagara has a bright future with him at the helm.
Hammond was lights out from deep, finishing 5-6 from behind the arc, scoring 18 points and pulling down seven rebounds.
“My team and coaches have a lot of confidence in me, keep telling me to shoot the ball, if it’s open, take the shot,” said Hammond.
Despite the win, Chris Casey thought his team should’ve finished stronger, admitting that the Purple Eagles made some mistakes down the stretch.
“We need to respond better in the last three or four minutes of that game,” said Casey, “We’ve been on the short end a couple of time but we responded well today and thought we were composed.”
Takal Molson had a tremendous night for Canisius, finishing with 28 points and nine rebounds, hitting a game-tying three with 44 seconds remaining.
“I was just trying to give them an energy boost out there on the court,” said Molson.
With the win, Niagara finished off the season sweep of Canisius, improving to 13-17 (6-11) while the Griffs fell to 13-16 (10-7).