Niagara Gazette — Antoine Mason's importance to the Niagara Purple Eagles can no longer be questioned.
Since the sophomore guard sprained his ankle in a Feb. 2 game against Loyola, the Purple Eagles (14-11, 10-4) are mired in their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Though they still lead the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings by one game, it's clear the Purple Eagles won't finish in that spot without Mason returning to play a key role.
"Doggone it, he's our leading scorer," coach Joe Mihalich said after Sunday's home loss to Canisius. "He's physical and tough and when you need a basket, he finds a way to put it in the hole. You might even think, doggone it, he's in trouble, and then someway he makes that shot in the paint with people on him."
"They're pretty different," said Canisius guard Billy Baron, who is dealing with a sore ankle himself. "They don't have his slashing ability, which is big. "They obviously lean a lot on him with his point production and when they don't have that they look for other guys to step up."
Marvin Jordan has started in Mason's place. On Sunday, Jordan shot 0 for 7 from the field and 0 for 2 from the free throw line.
Mason, who has scored in double figures every game this season and is the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's second-leading scorer (18.9 ppg) is expected to return to the floor tonight when Niagara visits Marist. He has been practicing since Saturday and was last-minute scratch before the Canisius game.
"We thought he was going to give it a go but at the end of the day he felt like he'd be hurting the team if he played," Mihalich said. "We don't ever want a guy to play if he's hurt. We don't ever want a guy to play if he doesn't feel good about himself."