Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Poor first halves have plagued the Niagara Purple Eagles almost all season.
Slow starts have put NU in holes it hasn’t been able to climb out of, wasting solid second-half performances in seven of its last eight games, all but one losses.
Wednesday night at the First Niagara Center, the Purple Eagles played well enough early to take advantage of one of their big second halves. Antoine Mason and Tahjere McCall combined for 35 points after the break to lead NU to an 83-72 win over the Davidson Wildcats and its first winning streak under new head coach Chris Casey.
“I’m very proud of our guys because we stayed strong,” Casey said. “We opened the game up in the first five minutes of the second half, and we were solid down the stretch and made free throws when we needed to.”
The Purple Eagles (3-8) trailed 34-31 after a first half in which neither team led by more than five. NU jumped out to a 10-5 lead with just 4:07 in thanks to Marvin Jordan and Rayvon Harris, who jumped out of the gates quick with five points apiece. The Wildcats (4-6) took a 34-29 lead with 1:09 left, but Ramone Snowden hit two free throws to cap off the half.
Jordan led the Purple Eagles in the opening half, scoring nine points. Snowden added eight, while Harris finished with seven.
Jordan hit a 3-pointer on the first possession of the second, and McCall added a 2-point jumper to give NU the lead for good.
McCall scored each of his 16 points in the second half and made perhaps the play of the night with 7:16 left. Davidson had trimmed the NU lead to 58-53 when Marcus Ware missed a mid-range jumper. McCall cut into the lane, elevated and managed to tip in the rebound despite being fouled. He nailed the free throw to give NU a bit of much-needed breathing room.