Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — The Niagara Purple Eagles’ winning streak died and came back to life Sunday.
Marvin Jordan made a 3-pointer with three seconds left and Billy Baron made a runner at the buzzer that left his fingertips a tick too late as Niagara left a capacity crowd at the Koessler Center shocked and awed by a 66-65 win over rival Canisius that was closer than the score suggests.
The Purple Eagles (13-8, 9-1 MAAC) have now won five straight over the Golden Griffins (13-8, 6-4) and five straight overall. The youngest team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, winners of nine straight league games for the first time ever, is alone atop the MAAC standings. In 24 years of MAAC affiliation, only one other Niagara team, the 1998-99 squad coach Joe Mihalich inherited, has ever had such a successful 10-game start.
Yet, few triumphs have been more exhilarating.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder,” Mihalich said afterward.
It was an “epic battle,” Mihalich said, that saw six ties and eight lead changes. Niagara dug out of a 10-point hole early in the second half and a four-point deficit late but still found itself trailing 65-63 after Baron made a driving layup with 11 seconds remaining.
But while Baron was tangled up underneath the basket and his father/coach Jim Baron couldn’t call the timeout he wanted, Niagara’s Juan’ya Green raced up the floor determined to score the tying basket or draw a foul. Falling off balance in his pursuit to the paint, Green took advantage of the Purple Eagles’ numbers, pivoting and passing across his body to Jordan all alone in the opposite corner.
With the Niagara bench at his back and 6-10 Canisius center Jordan Heath closing in on him, the 5-10 guard known to his teammates as “MJ” knocked down the game-winner that gave him a season-high 23 points, 19 of which came after a halftime that began with he and Heath needing to be separated at center court.