By Mike Meiler firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — Two games in Kent, Ohio, and two very similar results for the Niagara Purple Eagles.
After trailing by 19 at halftime before pulling within four in the second half of Thursday’s 83-74 loss to USC Upstate, the Purps followed the same script Friday, trailing by 16 and half and rallying within three in the second before eventually falling 98-90 to the Western Carolina Catamounts in NU’s second straight Coaches vs. Cancer subregional loss.
“We have to get off to better starts,” said NU coach Chris Casey. “The difference is that in the second halves, we’ve been able to make stops. You have to be able to establish yourself early defensively.”
The Purple Eagles (1-3) saw the Catamounts (4-3) out-do USC Upstate in the first half, shooting over 64 percent after the Spartans cleared 55 percent on Thursday. In the two first halves combined, NU has given up a combined 106 points. In the second halves, its opponents only totaled 78.
NU opened the second half with a 10-2 run before Western Carolina regained its 16-point lead with 12:22 left. The Purps went on a 15-2 run to cut the lead to three, but the Catamounts used another 11-3 run to take control of the game.
Junior Antoine Mason led NU with a career-best 35 points, his third 30-point game of the season. Mason entered the game second in the nation in scoring and bumped his per-game average from 30 to 31.3. Forwards Ramone Snowden and Marcus Ware each chipped in 16 points and five rebounds, with Snowden — a freshman — setting a career-high in points. Sophomore swingman Rayvon Harris added a career-high 11 points off the bench.
“The more guys that score, the easier it is offensively,” Casey said. “We shot the ball well from the floor and from three. We handled the ball well and made free throws. We just have to get better defensively and rebounding.”
NU was out-rebounded for the second straight game, 36-29. Harris led the team with six boards.
Western Carolina guard Trey Sumler matched Mason in points, 23 of which came in the first half. He also went 14 of 16 from the free throw line.
“We have to guard without fouling,” Casey said. “We did a better job in the second half, but it’s a learning process, especially for some of the young guys.”
The Purple Eagles play host Kent State at 7:30 p.m. tonight (WGR 550) in the subregional finale. The Golden Flashes (4-1) beat USC Upstate 52-50 on Friday and Western Carolina 72-59 Thursday.
Casey said the Golden Flashes have a plethora of talented guards as well as some talented size in the frontcourt.
“They’re big up front, very well coached, run a lot of sets and can score inside and out,” he said. “... I expect the guys to come out, play hard, play together and compete. It shouldn’t be in response to a win or a loss. We want to play hard every time out, and we’ve done that for the most part.”
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