Niagara Gazette — For three straight games, all in the comfortable confines of the Gallagher Center, the Niagara Purple Eagles managed to hang tough with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s best.
A fourth tough opponent and a shift to a hostile road environment proved too much Sunday, and NU fell big to the Manhattan Jaspers, 90-72.
“Manhattan is a very good team and a well-coached team,” NU head coach Chris Casey said. “I thought we had some opportunities early in the game to make open shots and finish around the basket. I thought early in the second half, we had the same opportunities. They did a good job around the basket; points in the paint speak for themselves.”
Three Purple Eagles (19-6, 12-4 MAAC) were in double figures scoring, led by Marcus Ware who had 19 points and four rebounds. Antoine Mason, the nation’s leading scorer, netted 17 points and Tahjere McCall added 16 points and a game-high three steals.
A slow offensive start by the Purple Eagles saw them fall behind early. Niagara, which only shot 25 percent in the half, trailed 31-15 with six minutes left. Niagara cut the lead to under double-digits, 37-29, with a minute on the clock after scoring five straight points, but went into the half down 41-30.
In the second half, Niagara was more efficient on the offensive end. NU shot 62 percent from the field and went 14 for 19 (27 for 34 in the game) at the free-throw line, but was unable to stop the Jaspers (19-6, 12-4 MAAC), who shot 58 percent from the field in both halves. The Purple Eagles cut the lead to nine points twice early in the second half before Manhattan pulled away for the win.
The Jaspers went on a 7-0 run with under 5 minutes to play to push their lead to 25 points, 85-60. Niagara closed with a 12-5 spurt of its own to create the final margin.
George Beamon pumped in 27 points to lead Manhattan. Rich Williams and Shane Richards scored 14 and 11 points, respectively, off the bench while starters Ashton Pankey and Rhamel Brown added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The win was the sixth straight for Manhattan, which remains in second place, two games behind conference-leading Iona.
Niagara will wrap up its home schedule with a two-game homestand beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday against Fairfield. The game will air live on ESPN 1520 AM and on Purple Eagles All-Access.