By Kevin Smith, Staff Writer, @KevSmith88
The Little Three.
Those three words need no explanation to western New Yorkers.
This rivalry goes back 60 years, involving St. Bonaventure University, Canisius College and Niagara University.
The three schools have 101 miles separating one another, but on the court, it has been nothing but fierce.
“Many former athletes and alumni here at Bona’s can tell you what they experience from this rivalry and how important it is for them to win every time out,” Senior guard Michael Davenport said. “It is as rich a tradition like anything I’ve witnessed in my college basketball career.”
St. Bonaventure won easily over Canisius (2-9) on Dec. 10, 81-62, but face Niagara (4-8) Friday night at The Gallagher Center.
The Bonnies (6-5) have not defeated the Purple Eagles since 2001, a 10-year drought too much for the Bona faithful and players to endure.
Senior forward Andrew Nicholson said after the 69-61 loss at home last season that he has “no respect” for Canisius’ program after the coach and players took unsportsmanship to another level.
“(Niagara’s) coach was harping on us during the game — you don’t really see that — but, I mean, I just think as a program, that was disrespectful. I have no respect for what they did that time,” said Nicholson, who had 17 points, 12 rebounds, five turnovers and a technical foul on that Dec. 11 game.
Davenport said the players remember their losing record against their rivals.
“We were 1-2 going into this season against our rival teams,” he said. “We don’t want to leave Bona’s with a losing record against them. If we win our game against Niagara, it would give us bragging rights for the rest of the season.”
Coach Mark Schmidt said it’s important to win each game, regardless of a rivalry.
“There’s a lot that comes out of this rivalry even though it’s not as popular as it used to be back in the day,” he said. “But we still have to make a difference and show we’re the better team come game time.”
Matthew Wright said he is determined to change the outcome from previous seasons.
“I hope for a better outcome when we play these guys every season, especially after last season,” the sophomore said. “The atmosphere is crazy, and I have another couple seasons in which to leave Bona’s with a winning record.”