Banged-up Niagara upsets Iona

Shooting cures all.

Playing without its top two bigs, Niagara pulled off the road upset of four-time defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Iona on Sunday, 70-69.

The Purple Eagles (4-11, 2-2 MAAC) hit a season-high 15 3-pointers, shooting 57.7% from beyond the arc. Marcus Hammond, Justin Roberts and Raheem Solomon each hit at least four treys, with Solomon finishing a perfect 5 for 5 on tries from deep.

Without the injured Greg Kuakumensah and Noah Waterman, first-year NU coach Greg Paulus was forced to piece together a few different lineups. Reserve Nicholas Kratholm, the only healthy Purple Eagle over 6-foot-5, played 23 minutes, meaning Niagara used a five-guard lineup for nearly half the game.

"We had a lot of guys in positions that we haven't had a whole lot of reps in," Paulus said. "... We found a way."

Hammond, who scored a career-high 36 points in Friday's loss at Quinnipiac, led NU again Sunday with 20 points. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished four assist. Roberts scored a career-high 18 points, including 14 before halftime, and Solomon posted his first career double-double with 17 points and 10 boards.

The Purple Eagles, who entered being out-rebounded by an average of 16 over three MAAC games, kept that deficit to 10.

The game was close throughout. Iona (3-8, 1-3) led by 11 early in the first, and that was the largest gap of the day.

Solomon gave Niagara a 67-65 lead on a 3-pointer with 4:08 left. Neither team scored for the next two minutes, until Isaiah Washington hit two free throws to tie things for the Gaels.

Shandon Brown found Kratholm all along for a layup following a scramble for possession with 45 seconds left, and Niagara hung on after Roberts hit 1 of 2 free throws.

"I really liked our fight," Paulus said. "... I thought we really competed well and stayed together."

Paulus said Waterman and Kuakumensah would be reevaluated when the Purple Eagles returned home. Waterman has been out with an ankle injury since a Dec. 8 win over Colgate, while Kuakumensah went down in Friday's loss and was unable to return.

Niagara hosts Rider at 7 p.m. Friday.

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