Niagara defense shines in bashing of Bobcats

LEWISTON — Two days ago, Niagara was crushed by cellar-dwelling Marist.

Sunday, the Purple Eagles pounded league-leading Quinnipiac.

Ah, life in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

NU set a new program record by committing just three turnovers — including one out of sportsmanship on its final possession — and forced the Bobcats to cough up the ball 20 times in a 75-59 throttling at the Gallagher Center.

The Purple Eagles (7-14, 5-5 MAAC) had 17 assists, less than 48 hours after tallying just eight assists to 16 turnovers against the Red Foxes.

"The credit goes to our players," NU coach Greg Paulus said. "They did a great job. We had a great day of preparation (Saturday). Walk-through, film over the last 36 hours was great. They were talking to each other. That energy and enthusiasm is contagious."

After scoring just 17 points in the first half of Friday's snoozer, NU nearly doubled that Sunday. It used a pair of 8-0 runs to take a 33-18 lead into the locker room.

The big showing started on the defensive end. The Bobcats (11-9, 6-4) had their worst offensive half of the season and were held scoreless for more than five straight minutes before a layup just before the buzzer.

Paulus mixed up his starting lineup for the first time in 13 games, inserting sophomore guard Shandon Brown, a 5-foot-9 bulldog the Cataract City would be proud to call its own.

The feisty Brown led Niagara's coverage of Quinnipiac star Rich Kelly, who finished with 15 points — two shy of his MAAC-leading average — and five turnovers.

"Anytime I'm in the game, whether it's coming off the bench, starting, playing 20 minutes, five minutes, I always want to come in and my identity is to take care of the basketball and to be one of the best defenders on this team," Brown said. "That was what Coach Paulus wanted me to do coming into this game. All the guards, make it tough."

When Brown came off for a breather, Kelly duty fell to senior James Towns, who also performed admirably. He capped a 19-point performance with a steal and two-handed dunk with 1:28 to play.

"Just using our athletic ability, just making him work the whole game," said Towns, who was honored before the opening tip for becoming the 49th player in NU history to score 1,000 points. "There's really not another point guard on the team besides him, like another ball handler, so we just tried to get him fatigued so late in the game he could be worn out."

Sophomore Marcus Hammond scored a game-high 23 points, shaking off a pair of tough outings where he combined for just 17 points in losses to St. Peter's and Marist.

He scored a career-high 36 points against the Bobcats in the teams' first meeting this season, a 67-56 Niagara road loss back on Jan. 10.

"I was coming into mindset where I had to pick it up for the team," he said.

Niagara finished with 13 steals and held an outrageous 32-2 advantage in points off turnovers. Seven different Purple Eagles had at least two assists.

Kevin Marfo, the MAAC's top rebounder, scored 11 points and had 15 boards for the Bobcats. Seven-foot-1 freshman Seth Pinkney also impressed with four points, four blocks and four rebounds in 12 minutes.

Niagara hits the road for a pair next week, Friday at Manhattan and Sunday at Rider. 

Bonnies honor Hayes

Niagara Falls native John Hayes was inducted into the St. Bonaventure Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Hayes, a member of the Class of 1969, was the third-leading scorer on the 1967-68 team that went 22-0 during the regular season and rose as high as No. 3 in the national polls. He averaged 13.5 points and 6.8 rebounds, trailing only Bob Lanier and Bill Butler in both categories.

Hayes moved to Olean as one of the highest-regarded prospects in the country. He led the country in freshman scoring, edging out Lew Alcindor with an average of 34.7 points per game. A knee injury cost him his sophomore season.

Hayes joins the rest of the '67-'68 starting lineup — Lanier, Butler, Jim Satalin and Bill Kalbaugh — with his enshrinement.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Big quarter pushes Marist over NU

Niagara flirted with an upset for two quarters Saturday before the wheels fell off in the third quarter of a 82-57 loss to the host Red Foxes.

A late 3-pointer gave Marist (15-4, 8-2 MAAC) a 38-35 lead at halftime, and it then dominated the third, 27-7.

Niagara (7-13, 5-6) got 23 points from Jai Moore, who made all five of her 3-pointers in the first half. Emerald Ekpiteta added 10 points and six rebounds.

The Red Foxes had four players in double figures, led by Alana Gilmer, who matched Moore with 23 points. Sam Bailey (Grand Island) got two minutes late, scoring two points and adding a rebound and a block.

NU is back home for a pair, Thursday against Fairfield and Saturday against Iona.

MEN'S HOCKEY

Niagara swept by Bentley

The Bentley Falcons completed a weekend sweep of Niagara with a 4-2 win Saturday night.

Niagara trailed 2-0 after one and 3-0 in the third before potting a pair to make things interesting. With goalie Brian Wilson on the bench, the Purple Eagles (6-16-4, 6-10-4-2 Atlantic Hockey) got goales from Ryan Cox and Ben Sokay, but Bentley (12-13-3, 10-11-2) clinched things with an empty-netter.

Despite an energetic push late in the game, the Niagara men’s hockey team fell at Bentley on Saturday night by a 4-2 score. The Falcons held a 3-0 lead for more nearly 55 minutes before the Purple Eagles struck twice in a little more than two minutes to make it a one-goal game. Bentley then added an empty netter to halt Niagara’s furious comeback bid.

Bentley won Friday's series opener in overtime, 3-2. Ryan Naumovski and Jack Billings scored for NU, but the Falcons' Jonathan Desbiens netted the winner just 1:09 into the first overtime.

Niagara plays a home-and-home series against Mercyhurt next weekend, starting at 7 p.m. Friday at Dwyer Arena.

MEN'S VOLLEYBALL

Schneider helps lift Daemen

Freshman outside hitter Zach Schneider (Lockport) posted a season-high 14 kills to go along with nine digs, narrowly missing a third straight double-double as Daemen picked up its second straight win Saturday, 3-1 over visiting Wittenburg University.

Schneider also had two aces for the Wildcats (2-3), while fellow Lockport product Jess Donorovich nearly made it a Daemen sweep with three straight points in a second-set rally that fell short.

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