Niagara Gazette

Sports

November 13, 2012

Strong interior play propels Purple Eagles to 86-69 win over St. Francis

On a day dedicated to 24 hours of college basketball, the Niagara men's basketball team dedicated itself to playing 20 minutes of good defense, and that was enough to score a runaway win.

Niagara's scoring prowess is such that the points leader on one night can go 0-fer the next and the team tally will be barely affected.
The Purple Eagles' ability to win comes down to their ability to defend and rebound, a serious deficiency from the past few seasons that manifested itself in the season-opening loss at Oregon State.
In the first half of Tuesday night's home opener, the Purple Eagles were good enough in those areas to beat any team visiting the Gallagher Center. And though the second half was a different story, the early effort was good enough to propel the Purple Eagles to an 86-69 win over St. Francis in front of a crowd of 1,714.
In the first 20 minutes, Niagara didn't allow an offensive rebound and grabbed almost as many of their own misses (nine) as St. Francis did (11). They also held the Red Flash under 35 percent shooting and built a 45-24 lead at the break.
"We were locked in defensively," coach Joe Mihalich said. "To a man, everybody did a really good job."
The two standouts were sophomore center Joe Thomas and freshman forward T.J. Cline. Thomas had six points on 3 of 3 shooting and seven rebounds in the first half, while Cline, the son of Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, had 12 points on 5 of 5 shooting, four rebounds, and several hustle plays that quickly made him a crowd favorite.
"They gave us great energy in the first half, a lot of rebounds and a lot of intensity on defense," point guard Juan'ya Green said.
"Our fans were great," Cline said. "It was an electric environment. The starters got us on a good note and I just came in and tried to do what the game plan said."

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