Niagara Gazette

Sports

January 31, 2013

Purple Eagles win thriller over Iona

The Cardiac Kids of the Cataract City pulled out another improbable win and are now pulling away in the conference title race.

Juan'ya Green hit the tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation and the winning one at the end of overtime to lift Niagara to a 93-90 come-from-behind victory over Iona in Thursday's battle for first-place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Coming off an exhilarating last-second win over rival Canisius on Sunday, the Purple Eagles somehow found a way to top that effort in front of a white-hot crowd of 1,856 at the Gallagher Center.

Niagara (14-8, 10-1) is now off to its best MAAC start in history and holds a two-game lead over Iona (14-8, 8-3), the lone team it has lost to. On Saturday, Niagara hosts third-place Loyola, the defending champions coming off losses to Iona and Canisius.

For most of the second half Thursday, it looked as if the Gaels were going to reclaim their status as the team to beat in the MAAC. They led by as many as 15 at one point and held a 12-point advantage inside of six minutes.

"Everybody's head was down," Green said.

That's when Green and Antoine Mason picked the Purple Eagles up by their bootstraps, turning up the volume in team huddles and taking the big shots down the stretch.

"I don't know how many teams in the league have an answer for those two players," Iona coach Tim Cluess said.

The Gaels certainly didn't. Green, who finished with 26 points, eight assists, five rebounds and three steals, netted eight of Niagara's next 12 points and Mason scored inside to make it 81-76 with 43 seconds remaining.

The Purple Eagles then fouled Sean Armand, a 76 percent free throw shooter, who proceeded to miss both foul shots.

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