Niagara, Syracuse to play in December

The Niagara Purple Eagles and Syracuse Orange are renewing a historic basketball showdown that's been dormant for 19 years.

The Orange will host Niagara in the teams' 82nd meeting — and first since 2000 — on Dec. 28 at the Carrier Dome, the schools announced Monday. 

“Playing against an ACC team like Syracuse is great for our conference and for Niagara University,” first-year NU head coach Patrick Beilein said in a statement.

Syracuse holds a 53-28 advantage in the all-time series and was ranked No. 15 in the country during the last meeting, a 95-69 win over Niagara. The series dates back to the 1909-10 season.

The game will be a homecoming for most of the Niagara coaching staff.

Beilein spent the past four seasons as head coach of Division II Le Moyne, where he scheduled three exhibitions against the Orange.

Assistant coach Greg Paulus spent his formative years in Syracuse, starring at Christian Brothers Academy. He also played one year of quarterback for the Orange football team (2009) as a graduate student.

Assistant coach Brett Ervin spent three years on Beilein's staff at Le Moyne, as a graduate assistant (2015-17) and assistant coach (2018-19).

Director of basketball operations Madison Hahesy played four years (2011-15) on the Le Moyne women's basketball team, where she also spent two years as a graduate assistant (2015-17).

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Niagara officially announced its incoming recruiting class back in June.

Beilein's first group includes NCAA transfers Shandon Brown (George Washington) and Kobi Nwandu (Le Moyne), former Miami Dade College (JuCo) teammates Italo Cicotti and Nicholas Kratholm, and two true freshmen, Amherst native Nick MacDonald and Trey Syroka.

Brown received a waiver from the NCAA and is immediately eligible, the NU athletic department confirmed on June 25. The 5-foot-9 guard will be a true sophomore.

The 6-6 Nwandu was Beilein's top scorer last season with the Dolphins. He'll sit a year before being eligible in 2020-21 as a redshirt senior.

Cicotti (6-6) and Kratholm (6-9) both add skilled size to the Purple Eagles and will be eligible this season as juniors.

The 6-5 MacDonald is the son of former Canisius College and current Daemen College head coach Mike MacDonald. He played at Canisius High School and comes to Niagara after prepping for a year at the prestigious St. Thomas More School in Connecticut.

Syroka, listed 5-9, is walking on to the Purple Eagles. He hails from Toledo, Ohio.

The additions leave Niagara with one open scholarship. After his hiring, Beilein said he wouldn't hesitate to leave a scholarship open if he didn't find the right fit.

It appears as though the Purple Eagles are working to fill it. They offered a scholarship to 6-9 Noah Waterman, from the tiny Finger Lakes Christian School, on Monday, according to Pat Lawless of PrepCircuit.com.

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