Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Purple Eagles are licking their wounds, literally and figuratively.
Coming off a double overtime loss to Loyola on Saturday, their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference defeat since November, the Purple Eagles may also be without leading scorer Antoine Mason for tonight's game at Rider (7:30 p.m., 1520 AM).
Mason, who has the nation's second-longest double-digit scoring streak, has been limited in practice this week by an ankle injury he sustained late in the Loyola loss. He affirmed after the game that he wouldn't miss any time, and coach Joe Mihalich said trainers are expecting him to be healthy enough to give it a go tonight, but his status will ultimately be a game-time decision.
Niagara (14-9, 10-2) is off to its best MAAC start ever and holds a two-game lead in the conference standings, but isn't satisfied with its recent play.
"We deserved to lose," Mihalich said. "We watched 15 plays from that game, and we weren't looking at mistakes. We were looking at lack of hustle, lack of intensity, things that aren't us. That was our battle cry. That's not who we are. It almost would've been wrong for us to win that game."
Niagara had a similar performance in a non-conference loss last month at Brown, which also came in overtime, and responsed by playing its best basketball of the season and reeling off seven straight wins.
"Morgan Wooten used to always say that the really good teams, you don't want to play them after a loss," Mihalich said. "I'm hoping for that with us."
Even the strongest Niagara teams have had trouble winning at Rider. Under Mihalich, only the 2007 NCAA tournament was able to pull out a victory out of the Bronc Zoo, and that one came by a single point.
"It's a tough place to play," Mihalich said. "It's a really small gym and they are really good in there."
Niagara lost last year at Rider after building a 17-point lead. In the rematch at the Gallagher Center, Niagara came back from 17 points down to win. The two teams have yet to play this season.
Rider (12-12, 7-5) broke its three-game skid with a win over Marist in its last game. The Broncs are in fifth place in the conference standings. Rider has three players in double figures: Anthony Myles (11.8), Jonathon Thompson (11.5) and Daniel Stewart (11.3).
"They are a bunch of underrated guys," Mihalich said. "One through eight, they might be one of the more athletic teams in the league."
Niagara women’s basketball takes on the Loyola Greyhounds for the second time in a week, this time in the Gallagher Center at 11 a.m. for a Kid’s Day matchup. These two teams met last Thursday in a contest that saw the Purple Eagles (10-11, 5-5 MAAC) lead throughout most of the game but the Greyhounds (9-12, 4-6 MAAC) were able to send the game into overtime tied at 61-61. The Greyhounds were able to get the upper hand in the extra period and come away with a 71-68 win. Niagara comes into the game winners in two of its last three games after defeating Canisius (62-49) and Rider (64-59).