February 23, 2013 - 8:00 PM
Niagara 92, Northwestern State 76
How Niagara Won: By solving the pressure defense that has stymied so many other Demon opponents. By making virtually eveything they launched at the basket. After 20 tentative minutes the Purple Eagles went on a second-half blitz during which they went 20 of 30 from the field and hammered 8 of 10 threes. It might have been their best passing game of the year, too. They had assists on 19 of 30 baskets and eight players had at least one.
Player of the Game: Split this one down the middle and give halves to Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason. Both scored 20 points. Green also had seven assists while Mason's six rebounds were second to teammate Devon White's eight.
Best Supporting Role: Split this one as well between Ameen Tanksley and T.J. Cline. Both had 12 points. Tanksley was 4 of 5 from the field, 3 of 4 from behind the arc and grabbed five rebounds and two steals. Cline went 5 of 6 and 2 of 3 from long range.
Stat Check: Not only did the Purple Eagles score 61 second-half points, they outrebounded the Demons by eight after intermission.
Stat Check II: Niagara was 20 of 29 in the second half until walk-on Lawrence Johnson missed a late jumper. Lot of nerve.
Milestone: Mason reached 1,000 career points on a three with 9:34 left in the game. Thave gives Niagara two sophomores over 1,000, Green being the other.
What It Means: Not much in the overall scheme. They can call it a BracketBuster but there will be no at-large bids doled out to the MAAC or the Southland.
In the House: There were 1,704 for this ESPNU game.
Next Up: Big conference games await both. Niagara has take the MAAC title with season-ending home wins against Rider and Saint Peter's. Northwestern heads off to its big showdown with co-leader Stephen F. Austin.
They Said It
NWS Coach Mike McConathy: "Just got beat by a really good basketball team that had an exceptional day. Felt like the turning point in the game, at 44-43 . .. we had about five empty possessions where we were right at the goal and don’t finish. I felt like at that point our kids got a little frustrated and y’all came down and scored each and every time."
McConathy: "I think it’s really good to play in another area of the country to where you go into a game and you’re just playing and you’re not thinking about all the other stuff. I thought the timing for us personally ... wasn’t totally bad. And part of it may have been my fault because I felt like we needed to work to get better today. Sure, I wanted to win the ballgame. But we didn’t get better today. But we did get something out of it from the standpoint of now I can re-focus, re-energize them and get them where they need to be for next Saturday at Stephen F. Austin."
Antoine Mason: "The first half I had to shake off the rust. There was two options. I could have sulked about the first half or just let the game come to me and know that I could actually score and play. So the second half I just let the game come to me and I trusted my teammates."
Niagara coach Joe Mihalich: "I thought we made good decisions. Our battle cry throughout the week against this team was . . . to be quick but not hurry. That’s what they want out of their press -- make you be fast, make you be out of control, take the shot that they didn’t want you to take. And we didn’t do that. We made the extra pass. We were under control against their pressure. We kind of carved it up I thought. We did a pretty good job against that press."
-- Bob DiCesare