Niagara Gazette

January 25, 2014

Niagara men's basketball beats Marist

By Mike Meiler mike.meiler@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — Any team that boasts the nation's leading scorer will get labeled as a one-man show, but the Niagara Purple Eagles showed there's a bit more to them Friday night.

Hosting the Marist Red Foxes in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men's basketball game at the Gallagher Center, seven Purple Eagles scored at least seven points in an 80-74 win that snapped Niagara's two-game losing streak.

Junior Antoine Mason, who entered Friday leading the country with 27.7 points per game, led the way with 22 points and moved into eighth on Niagara's all-time scoring list, passing Alex Ellis (54-58) with 1,663 points.

The total tied his fourth-lowest output of the season. He finished only 6 for 18 from the field, but went 7 for 12 at the free throw line and 3 for 6 on 3-pointers — all coming after an 11-3 run that gave the Red Foxes a 51-50 lead with 9:47 remaining.

"When you're used to scoring at that rate, eventually you're going to hit a couple," said Marist coach Jeff Bower. "(That was) just a good player making a good play at the right time."

Guard Marvin Jordan came out of a mid-season slump with 19 points in Wednesday's loss to Canisius and carried that into Friday's game. The senior led NU 13 points in the first half, including three 3-pointers, and finished with 18 as he moved into 32nd place on Niagara's all-time list with 1,184 career points.

Niagara (6-15, 3-7) also got much-needed contributions from its forward group. Senior Marcus Ware followed up a 10-rebound performance against Canisius with 12 points Friday, 10 coming from from the charity stripe.

Rayvon Harris, Joe Thomas and Ramone Snowden each chipped seven points. Harris and Thomas who combined for 12 points in the first half. Harris drained a 3 and made a pair of nice layups on end-to-end drives, while Thomas followed a two-handed dunk in transition with an emphatic block on the next Marist possession. Snowden scored six straight points in a stretch in the second half.

Freshman point guard Wesley Myers also scored seven, starting in place of injured Tahjere McCall.

"We want to get everybody involved and that's what we attempt to do," NU coach Chris Casey said. "... We talked about attacking the basketball and driving, and we did a good job with that. We did a terrific job of getting to the offensive glass. Some of the things we say at halftime we need to do to win the game, they did them."

The teams put on an entertaining show in the first half, both shooting over 50 percent. The Red Foxes pressed Niagara the entire length of the floor, but the Purple Eagles moved the ball well and had eight assists to just four turnovers. Marist committed nine turnovers, leading to 14 fast-break points for the Purple Eagles.

The teams went into the locker rooms tied at 34, thanks in part to Marist grabbing 21 rebounds to Niagara's nine. Casey said getting on the glass was emphasized in the second half.

The first half gave way to a sloppy second. After calling a total of 13 fouls before halftime, the referees called 16 in the first eight minutes out of the break and 29 overall. Both teams struggled from the stripe, with Niagara shooting 69.7 percent (23 for 33) and Marist hitting only 50 percent (11 for 22).

Marist tied the game at 56 with 7:36 remaining, but Mason's 3-point barrage helped push Niagara back out front. NU led by 10 with 1:12 remaining before a pair of turnovers let the Red Foxes cut it the lead to six with 20 seconds to go. Casey ripped into the team during a Marist timeout, and Mason — who committed one of the turnovers — drained four free throws to ice the game.

"We stayed tough," Casey said. "We had a lead, they fought back to their credit, but we stayed tough in the end to extend the lead and had enough at the end to win the game."

Niagara takes the court next at 7 p.m. Thursday at Siena. Casey wouldn't commit to McCall playing, once again calling his injury "day-to-day" and saying he hoped to have the sophomore back at practice early next week.

Follow Niagara Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.