Hawks drop Purple Eagles with strong second half

The magic ran out for the Niagara men's basketball team in the second half of Friday's game at Monmouth.

The Purple Eagles, who entered having won three straight games by a combined four points, rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit to take a short-lived lead over the host Hawks just before halftime. They weren't able to do the same after break, eventually falling 82-71.

The Hawks (11-7, 5-2 Metro Atlantic) used a 10-0 run early in the second half to take a nine-point lead, where they'd more or less sit the rest of the way.

The game featured a battle of the Hammonds. Monmouth's Deion edged Niagara's Marcus for the game-high point total, 22-21, hitting one more free throw. Marcus Hammond added a career-best 10 rebounds for his first double-double, but he also finished with zero assists after averaging over four coming in.

The Purple Eagles (6-12, 4-3) uncharacteristically struggled with ball management Friday, totaling just eight assists to 12 turnovers. It ended a 12-game streak of positive assist-to-turnover ratios, which included each of their MAAC games.

A meeting of the top two 3-point shooting teams in the conference was decided in turnovers and at the free-throw stripe. Both teams shook off frigid first halves to finish slightly below average from deep, NU hitting 7 of 18 (38.9%) to the Hawks' 9 of 26 (34.6%). Monmouth coughed the ball up 10 times but had 18 assists and went 21 of 26 (80.8%) from the line. Niagara shot just 12 of 21 (57.1%) on free throws.

Ray Salnave, Monmouth's redshirt junior guard and a high school teammate of Niagara's Marcus Hammond at Benjamin N. Cordozo in Queens, went a perfect 11 of 11 from the stripe and finished with 16 points and 11 boards. James Towns was second for Niagara with 16 points off the bench.

NU big man Nicholas Kratholm added 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 26 minutes, during which the Purple Eagles were plus-3 on the scoreboard. Fellow forward Greg Kuakumensah, the hero of Sunday's win over Siena, went just 1 of 6 from the floor and was minus-12 in 11 minutes. He picked up a second-half technical foul and gave way to walk-on Damani Thomas when coach Greg Paulus gave Kratholm a spell during crunch time.

Starting guard Justin Roberts also did not play in the second half.

Niagara will look to get back in the win column Sunday at Saint Peter's. Monmouth, which improved to 7-0 at home this season, plays Sunday at Iona.

NCAA HOCKEY

Niagara upsets Army

The Purple Eagles picked up their first regulation win since Nov. 23 on Friday night, knocking off second-place Army, 4-1, in Atlantic Hockey action at Dwyer Arena.

Ben Sokay scored twice and added an assist for NU (5-14-4, 5-8-4-2), which entered desperate for a spark. Jack Billings added a goal and an assist and Jared Brandt also scored while freshman goaltender Chad Veltri earned his first win with 19 saves.

Niagara scored three times on the power-play, a weakness for much of the season, and held the Black Knights (14-6-2, 11-6-2) to just one goal on four tries with the man-advantage.

The teams will play it back at 4:05 p.m. today at Dwyer Arena.

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