Purple Eagles ready for Rider

Niagara University men's basketball is back at the Gallagher Center this weekend, putting a seven-game home winning streak on the line when they host the Rider Broncs in the first of a two-game series at 4 p.m. today.

The Purple Eagles are coming off a weekend split at Marist, having handed the Red Foxes just their second lost of the season. Niagara's comeback attempt fell short in Friday's 65-63 opener, but it responded by running away with Saturday's contest, 86-72, behind a 51-point first half. The 86 points were the most given up by John Dunne's group in nearly two years.

"I thought we were able to play a more complete game the second time," NU coach Greg Paulus said. "We really had some good contributions throughout the team and ... I really thought that the guys coming in off the bench gave us a tremendous spark of energy and their play was tremendous."

Nick MacDonald and Raheem Solomon combined to score 29 off the bench, helping NU (4-4, 3-3 MAAC) hold a 39-14 advantage in bench points.

Paulus also pointed out that his group took care of the basketball, turning it over just four times, and had a balanced offensive attack with five players in double figures.

Marcus Hammond led the scoring effort both nights, putting up 17 on Friday and 23 on Saturday. He also averaged five rebounds, earning MAAC Player of the Week honors for the effort.

Solomon played a season-high 28 minutes in Saturday's win, grabbing seven boards to go with his 14 points. Paulus said he's nearing 100% after being hampered by an early-season lower-body injury.

"We've seen improvements from him over the past couple games, being able to play with consistent energy and impact the game on both ends of the floor," Paulus said.

Rider (2-7, 2-4) is fresh off a weekend split at Fairfield, winning the opener Friday and falling Saturday. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for Kevin Baggett's bunch, which lost its top five players in terms of scoring and minutes played from last season to graduation or transfer.

The teams will meet again at 4 p.m. Saturday, also at the Gallagher Center.

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