By Jonah Bronstein
Calvin Murphy sat in the front row Friday night, fidgeting with a Sharpie marker and grimacing while the new generation of Niagara Purple Eagles struggled to do what always came natural to him — put the ball in the basket.
For most of the game, he shouted encouragement. As the deficit swelled past 20 points and the minutes ticked off the clock, he sat back and recognized what the rest of the Niagara faithful did weeks ago. It’s a rebuilding year on Monteagle Ridge. And there are going to be nights when its not much fun to watch.
With Murphy being honored at halftime and ESPNU showing the game nationwide, the Purple Eagles missed more than twice as many shots as they made and lost 82-65 to visiting Metro Atlantic Athletic foe Rider before a crowd of 1,275.
The loss was the sixth in a row for Niagara (3-13, 0-4 MAAC), and 11th in 12 starts.
The Purple Eagles shot 29.4 percent from the field even though they hit a respectable 10 of 29 shots from 3-point range. Inside the arc, they went 10 for 39.
“It’s not like there’s a margin for error,” coach Joe Mihalich said. “There’s no room for error.”
Marvin Jordan sank six 3-pointers scored a career-high 18 points to lead Niagara. He also had five assists. Anthony Nelson had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Malcom Lemmons had 11 points and five rebounds. No other Purple Eagle made more than two field goals.
Novar Gadsen led Rider (11-5, 3-1) with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Mike Ringold, Justin Robinson and Jonathan Thompson each scored 16.
There were a few positive signs for Niagara. They grabbed 25 offensive rebounds, turned the ball over just seven times and assisted on 16 of their 20 field goals. After falling behind 47-27 at halftime, they outscored the Broncs 38-35 over the final 20 minutes.
“There were some stretches where I thought we played hard, but we don’t play hard all the time and I want these guys to understand they have to do that,” Mihalich said. “We’ve got to change. The change is coming just too slow.”
Jordan hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Rider’s lead to 18-17 with 12:07 left in the first half, but the Broncs reeled off a 17-4 run over the next six minutes and the outcome was never in doubt.
Niagara returns to the floor Sunday afternoon to face Siena, which lost at Canisius on Friday.