A first-half highlight-reel half-court pass from Frank Turner that Canisius teammate and forward Elton Frazier turned into an alley-oop reverse dunk shot did indeed become a nationally viewed highlight on ESPN’s SportsCenter, the worldwide leader's No. 1 play from games anywhere played on Friday night.
But that wasn’t the only reason for some positive feelings on the Golden Griffins’ Buffalo campus right now.
The Griffs knocked off Western New York neighbor Niagara, 73-70 in overtime before a sell-out crowd of 2,196 at their Koessler Athletic Center gym Friday night.
It certainly was a breakthrough victory for Canisius over their nearby opponents who had dominated this rivalry in recent years. The Griffs had only beaten Niagara once over the previous 13 tries over seven seasons.
Canisius is now 6-5 in MAAC play, and is ahead of Niagara (4-7 in conference play, 11-12 overall) for the first time this late in the season since 1998.
The victory also had a little Joe Namath bravado to it, too. After the Griffs’ last game, a loss to Saint Peter's, coach Tom Parrotta said his team would bounce back and beat Niagara.
Parrotta's exact words, made to Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan, about his team's failure to beat Saint Peter's in a game earlier in the week: "It's unfortunate that it didn't happen. "We'll regroup and we'll beat Niagara."
Well, not exactly in Namath's class of bravado, but definitely a "well-do-it" statement.
The Griffs backed up their coach's words and did it in Friday's meeting with the Purple Eagles, finally shedding the image of being the nail to Niagara's hammer in this particular series.
The Griffs backed up their coach’s words behind a game-high 20 points from Frazier, 18 from Turner and 16 from Juilus Coles.
Turner had five of his points in the overtime, including a 25-foot three-pointer with 40 seconds left that helped secure the victory and helped his candidacy as a conference Player of the Year possibility.
Turner currently averages 17.2 points, 5.1 assist and 5.0 rebounds, stats that rank with any individual's in the conference.
Niagara shot just 26-of-75 (34.7 percent) in the game, and its two big guns, forward Bilal Benn and guard Tyrone Lewis, were held in relative check, too. Benn finished with 15 points on 7-of-22 shooting and Lewis had 19 points on 7-of-21 shooting.
The loss was the third straight for Niagara, which was picked in the coaches’ preseason poll, to finish second in the conference standings this season. Instead, the Purple Eagles have lost six of their last seven games and if the season ended now would be involved in a post-season tournament play-in game.
The Purple Eagles' 4-7 conference record has them in seventh place, a full game behind 5-6 Rider, in the current standings. The top six finishers have a first-round bye in the MAAC tournament with the bottom four participating in a play-in round to advance to the event's quarterfinals.