LEWISTON — The Greg Paulus era of Niagara University basketball is off to a rocky start.
Paulus’ Purple Eagles dropped their fourth straight game to open his first season as head coach, 73-62 to Bryant on Monday at the Gallagher Center.
Familiar problems arose for the Purple Eagles, who gave up 15 offensive rebounds for the game and opened with a seven-turnover first half. Bryant (4-2) hit 7 of 20 first-half 3-pointers and took a 43-25 lead at halftime.
The Buildogs showed the Purple Eagles myriad defensive looks, and it left NU’s players seeing ghosts. Niagara would to pass to a spot, only to have no one there. Other possessions, and ill-timed cut would clog up a driving lane.
“They did a good job defensively of mixing up their defensive coverages,” Paulus said. “They would start off man and go zone, go zone to man in the middle of a possession, and we got a little bit stagnant offensively.
“… I think it's the first time we've had a chance to see something like that, where teams are mixing up defenses in the middle of the possession. … And once we started to play downhill and be aggressive, we were able to create some opportunities.”
Almost every player to take the floor was ice cold in the second half, save for Niagara senior James Towns. Towns scored 14 of his game-high 21 points after break, using a lightning first step to repeatedly get to the rim.
Five of Towns’ second-half points came during a 10-2 Niagara run out of the locker room that cut the deficit to 10. That’s about where the Purple Eagles would stay, never getting close than nine or farther than 13.
“That's basically what they gave,” Towns said. “They started to open up the lanes for me worried about the shooters and I just took what they gave me.”
After filling it up in in the first, Bryant shot just 2 of 17 from deep in the second. Niagara, though, made just 1 of 7 treys after halftime, stifling any hope of a comeback.
With 9:03 to play, the teams were shooting a combined 23.7% overall in the second.
“We’re better shooters than that,” Towns said. “I just feel like we’re just a young team, and we’re trying to build the chemistry. It’ll come. We just gotta keep shooting the open shots.”
While Bryant couldn’t buy a bucket, that only opened more opportunities on the boards. The Bulldogs grabbed a ridiculous 52 rebounds, including 15 offensively. Niagara had just 35 total.
On the season, NU has been out-rebounded 160-112, giving up an average of 11.8 offensively per game.
Niagara’s best rebounder, Greg Kuakumensah, grabbed 10 and added 10 points for a double-double. He was plus-2 in his 28:24, the only Purple Eagles with a positive plus/minus. Niagara was outscored by 13 in the 11:36 he was off the floor.
NU will have some practice time before hitting the road for its next two games, Nov. 27 at Purdue Fort Wayne and Dec. 1 at Norfolk State.
The Purple Eagles won’t play their second home game until Dec. 8, when they host Colgate.