Niagara Gazette

Niagara U.

January 28, 2010

MEN'S BASKETBALL: Niagara heads to Canisius in unfamiliar underdog role

The phrase “throw the records out the window” has been used before a lot of Niagara-Canisius men’s basketball games over the last dozen years.

That won’t be necessary tonight, when the Little Three rivals meet in a pivotal Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game at the Koessler Center.

Not since 1998 has Canisius (10-11, 5-5) been ahead of Niagara (11-11, 4-6) in the MAAC standings after 10 games. That was the season before Joe Mihalich took over the Purple Eagles.

Of late, the series has been as one-sided as at any point in its history. Niagara has won 13 of the last 14 meetings, and even Canisius coach Tom Parrotta regards his team’s home win two years ago as a “fluke.”

“When we were at the top of the standings the last couple of years, we had to match their intensity because we knew how big it would be for them to beat us,” said Niagara’s Tyrone Lewis, who is expected to return tonight after missing the last two games with a shoulder injury.

Last February, the Purple Eagles put on a dominant defensive performance, winning 57-41. The last time Niagara held Canisius to so few points was 1941.

Lewis said the Purple Eagles need to rediscover that defensive mindset in order to revive an offense that has struggled mightily this month. In losing six of eight MAAC games for the first time under Mihalich, Niagara has averaged less than 63 points in regulation.

“When you get a lot of fast break points, those layups, it makes the 3-point shot a lot easier,” Lewis said.

Lewis said another reason the Purple Eagles have struggled late is that fellow seniors Bilal Benn, Rob Garrison and Demetrius Williamson have had to learn how to respond to losing after having been on winning teams for their entire careers.

“I remember talking to ’Meech and he said, ‘I’m not used to this, Ty.’ He was emotionally stressed. He didn’t know what to do,” said Lewis, who didn’t come from a powerhouse high school program and lost eight of his first 10 games as a freshman in 2007.

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