Niagara Gazette — COLLEGE PARK, MD – As the young core of his team develops, Niagara coach Joe Mihalich wants them to remember what happened during Tuesday night’s National Invitational Tournament opener at Maryland.
The seventh-seeded Purple Eagles played even with the Atlantic Coast Conference Terrapins for 20 minutes before a disastrous second half stretch led to a 21-3 Maryland run and an 86-70 Niagara loss at the Comcast Center.
“I said to them in the locker room, ‘I want you to regret tonight, I really do. I want you to be disappointed. I think you will wake up and think, 'Doggone it we had a chance to beat Maryland,' whether it’s tomorrow or ten years from now,' " Mihalich said.
“But that being said, I also told them how proud we are of them, what a great, great year we had,” he added. “This team wasn’t supposed to win the (MAAC regular season) championship and we did. This team wasn’t supposed to be in the NIT and we’re in the NIT, so I’m really, really proud of this team.”
Niagara finishes 19-14 while second-seeded Maryland (23-12) will play either No. 3 Denver or No. 6 Ohio on Thursday night at Comcast.
Antoine Mason led Niagara (19-14) with 24 points and fellow sophomore Ameen Tanksley added 18.
“We can’t just wash this away. We’ve got to remember the feeling, that it hurts,” Mason said.
Playing Maryland for only the second time ever and first since losing to them in the 1972 NIT title game (100-69), Niagara led by as many as six points in the first half.
The teams were tied at 35 at halftime, but Niagara missed its first nine shots of the second half as Maryland scored 12 straight to take a 47-36 lead. After Mason scored, Logan Aronhalt’s 3-pointer started a 9-0 run as the Terrapins pushed the lead to 56-38.