Niagara Gazette — John Gallagher met Joe Mihalich 25 years ago, when he was a 10-year-old ball boy along for the ride with the LaSalle men's basketball team on a trip to Notre Dame.
He's been a fan ever since.
"Amazing guy," the Hartford coach said Wednesday night in the basement of the Gallagher Center. "Always been the same. An energy-giver, not an energy-taker.
Earlier in the evening, Gallagher had the bittersweet experience of watching his friend earn his 250th coaching victory at his own expense.
Pressure defense fueled Niagara's 75-59 win over Hartford and pushed Mihalich past his latest milestone.
Antoine Mason, who wrote "250" on the board in the locker room before the game, had 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals to lead the Purple Eagles (4-6) in their first home game since Nov. 18.
"We knew about it, we kept talking about it," Mason said. "We had to get it for him. He's a great coach."
Trailing 11-7 eight minutes into the game, Niagara used an aggressive, three-quarter court trap to storm back and build a big lead, forcing 10 turnovers that all lead to baskets while finishing the half on a 30-9 run.
"We took it personal this game and wanted to show that we can play defense," Mason said.
"That was our main goal, to run them off the line because they are a great 3-point shooting team, rebound and get out and run," said Ameen Tanksley, who filled the stat sheet with 16 points, 12 rebounds and three assists.
Hartford (5-5) came in shooting 37 percent from 3-point range and taking 41 percent of its field goals from beyond the arc. Struggling to get the ball across halfcourt on several possessions, the Hawks managed to shoot just 7 of 24 from long range against Niagara.
"Joe does a great job with his zone," Gallagher said. "We didn't do a good job, conceptually, attacking the zone."