Niagara 58, Siena 54
How Niagara Won: Not easily. The Purple Eagles negated Siena's inside dominance by turning 17 Saint turnovers into 21 points and getting a career-high 24 points from freshman swingman Ameen Tanksley on his birthday. Somehow that helped Niagara overcome being pulverized 40-25 collapsing, double-teaming defense that limited the 6-8 junior to nine points and eight rebounds. He ripped them for 27 and 14 the last time out.
Player of the Game: Tanksley had a birthday game he won't soon forget. He shot 8 of 12 from the field including 6 of 9 from three and exceeded his previous career high by nine points. He also produced three of Niagara's eight steals. On a night when Antoine Mason wasn't himself it was a huge and necessary performance.
Play of the Game: Mason seemed frustrated early when he didn't get a couple foul calls and just meandered his way through the opening 39 minutes and 45 seconds. And then he slashed his way to the basket from near the top of the key to score his only points of the night and put Niagara in front for good with 13.5 seconds on the clock.
Unsung Hero: Marvin Jordan stepped up and key moments and finished with six points, four assists, no turnovers and one very big steal. He stole the inbounds pass and hit a three after two Juan'ya Green free throws to put Niagara on top by two with four minutes left. It was Niagara's first field goal in nine minutes.
Stat of the Game: There were five ties and six lead changes.
Unpredictable: Players on both sides were miffed by what constituted a foul as no-calls prevailed most of the night. And then, just like that, Anosike picked up three quick ones and was disqualified with 2:01 to play. Doubtless the three officials on this one -- Joe Demayo, Brian Dorsey and Tim Attanasi - have had better nights. The trio was inconsistent and then some.
They Said It
Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro: "Tanksley made some huge threes. He really in the first half kept them ahead. And then he made a couple big shots in the second half. But our defense I thought was really sound. I thought we defended them well. I think they shot in the high 30s (38 percent). Anytime you can hold a team like Niagara at home to that shooting percentage I think speaks to our defense."
Antoine Mason on Niagara getting the most out of Tanksley: "Saturday's his birthday, too."
In the House: Just 1,314 at the Taps. The students jumped off the bandwagon after five straight defeats.
What It Means: The Purple Eagles and Saints are tied for sixth at 5-9. One of them will likely finish there and avoid a first-round MAAC Tournament game. The other appears destined to face Canisius in the 7-10 game. Four games remain.
Next Up: Niagara entertains Rider Saturday afternoon while Siena crosses Grand Island and heads for Canisius.
-- Bob DiCesare
taggedCollege basketball | Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference | Niagara