070217 NU/Liberty BB2

070217 NU/Liberty BB2 - Sports DENNIS STIERER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Lewiston, NY - Charron Fisher of Niagara University shoots an easy layup for two points against Libery University during Saturday afternoon action.

Rider’s Jason Thompson can go a long way tonight toward securing his position as Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference player of the year.

Some would say Thompson is currently leading the race by a large margin. In Saturday’s surprising blowout of Siena, the 6-foot-11 senior scored 23 points and hauled in 21 rebounds, as many as the Saints’ total output. According to ESPN, it was the first 20-point, 20-rebound, five-assist effort on the road since Tim Duncan was a collegian.

For the fifth time this season, Thompson was named MAAC player of the week. He’s easily the top NBA prospect in the league, and has been rising up mock draft boards all season.

“That’s why I think Rider is the favorite,” Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos said. “When you have an NBA player on your team, it’s different.”

But earlier this season, Thompson was outplayed by one of the MAAC’s other top seniors, Niagara forward Charron Fisher. When the Purple Eagles (14-7, 8-4) visit the Broncs (17-6, 10-2) tonight (7 p.m., 105.1 FM radio), Fisher will look to further state his own candidacy for MAAC player of the year.

Voters may have trouble giving the award to Thompson if he is twice trumped by his closest competition.

Thompson had 25 points and 10 rebounds in Niagara’s 89-77 home win over Rider on Dec. 6., but also earned a technical foul in the first half that facilitated a crucial Niagara run.

Meanwhile, Fisher, the MAAC’s top scorer, shot better than 50 percent (12-of-20) for the only time this season, connecting on a career-high eight 3-pointers.

Perhaps Fisher’s second-best performance, at least in MAAC games, came Tuesday night when he notched 31 points and nine rebounds against visiting Loyola, whose top scorer, Gerald Brown, is the only other legitmate contender for player of the year.

Coincidence? Last season, Fisher had 49 points and 25 rebounds in two meetings with Marist and eventual player of the year Jared Jordan.

Tonight’s game won’t be decided solely on how Fisher and Thompson match up.

“Jason Thompson is a terrific player,” Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. “But he’s got a terrific supporting cast.”

Mihalich asserts that Fisher’s worst statistical performances have come on nights when the rest of the Purple Eagles, particularly those expected to hit 3-pointers, haven’t made opposing defenses accountable for double-teaming Fisher.

Conference player of the year awards are often given to the top senior on the best team, regardless of whether that player really had the most dominant season.

Rider, which has won nine straight games, can effictively eliminate Niagara from contention for the regular season championship with a win tonight.

So, for the moment perhaps, the MAAC player of the year award is Charron Fisher’s to lose.

Contact reporter Jonah Bronstein at 282-2311, ext. 2258.

Game Night

• WHO: Niagara Purple Eagles (14-7, 8-4) vs. Rider Broncs (17-6, 10-2)

• WHAT: MAAC men’s basketball

• WHEN: 7 p.m.

• WHERE: Trenton, N.J.

• NOTES: Niagara is playing for the third time in six nights. The team followed a home loss to Fairfield on Sunday with a come-from-behind victory over Loyola. ... Rider has won nine straight games and hasn’t played since Saturday, when it jumped out to a 25-point halftime lead en route to a win at Siena.