By JONAH BRONSTEIN
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Purple Eagles have been a "salty" bunch these past couple days, ruing an overtime loss Tuesday night at Brown while staying on the road to play at Saint Peter's tonight (7 p.m., WBEN 930).
"We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory," coach Joe Mihalich said. "And we have no one to blame but ourselves."
Niagara led by as many as 19 points in the first half but gave the lead back after halftime. The 75-74 loss knocked the Purple Eagles (7-8) back under .500 at the midway point.
"The only good thing about it," Mihalich said, "is it's not a league game."
League games have gone much better for the Purple Eagles, who have won three straight in the Metro Atlantic Conference and are tied atop the standings with Canisius and defending champion Loyola, one of the teams Niagara has already beaten.
Brilliant scoring from Juan'ya Green, the MAAC player of the week, and an ever-improving defense led Niagara to a blowout victory over Marist and a grind-it-out defeat of Fairfield last week at the Gallagher Center.
"We've gotten what we deserve," Mihalich said. "We earned a couple of hard-fought wins over the weekend, but we earned that loss too.
"We always talk about respecting your opponent, respecting the game and respecting yourselves, and we probably failed on three levels (Tuesday) night."
Mihalich will make sure his players respect the challenge facing them each night in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play, where he has jokingly predicted all 10 teams will finish 9-9.
Saint Peter's (6-8, 1-3) was picked to finish last in the preseason coaches poll, then opened up MAAC play with a home win over Iona. Since then, however, the Peacocks have lost to Manhattan and Loyola (twice).
"Our specific goal this year was to get a whole lot more competitive than what we put forth on the floor last year," coach John Dunne said. "We've achieved that. We're a little disappointed that we are under .500, both overall and in the conference, but we are pleased with our competitive spirit."
Two years ago, the Peacocks were MAAC champions, and Dunne said the parity in the league this year is similar to that season.
"Every night," he said, "is going to be a war."