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Niagara-Iona Game Wrap (MAAC semis)

MAAC Semifinals
Iona 79, Niagara 72

How Iona Won: The Gaels dominated the inside, making it imperative for Niagara to shoot it well from the outside. That didn't happen. The Purple Eagles launched 33 shots from behind the arc and made just seven. They were 21 of 36 on two-pointers. What's more, Niagara scored just 12 points off 14 Iona turnovers.

Player of the Game: David Laury, Iona's 6-8 sophomore forward, was sensational. He had 20 points and 17 rebounds, giving him 44 points and 33 rebounds in two games against the Purple Eagles.

Best Supporting Role: Taaj Ridley, Laury's front-court mate, is benefiting from the room that opens because of Laury's presence. His 16 points were two off his season high.

Best Player (Losing Effort): With Tahjere McCall out injured, Marvin Jordan played all but a few seconds, scored 11 points and handed out six assists. And no turnovers.

Ellis Island: The Gaels don't develop freshman. They scour the country for players looking to transfer. Momo Jones came from Arizona. Tavon Sledge from Iowa State. Ridley, Laury and Tre Bowman were juco players. The only Gaels who came straight from high school: freshman A.J. English and junior Sean Armand.

Stat Check: Iona shot just five second-half threes to Niagara's 15. They both made two.

What It Means: Iona, an NCAA at-large team last year, looks to secure a second straight trip to The Dance with a win in Monday night's MAAC title game against Manhattan. The Jaspers are only the second No. 6 seed to tourney history to make the final. Niagara will play in the NIT, its prize for winning the conference regular-season crown.

They Said It

Niagara's Antoine Mason picked up his third foul when Momo Jones drew a charge with 6:17 remaining. Here's Jones:

"I've known him since I was a young kid. He's a power player. I knew he wanted to go right and I kept telling coach, 'Coach, all he wants to do is go right. All he wants to do is go right.' That was just the mindset. Make him go right. Take a charge. I think he had maybe two or three at that time and I knew if I could get that charge he would slow down and not be as aggressive as he was. I think that charge really set him back and he wasn't as aggressive as he was early on."

Iona coach Tim Cluess: "When we have four of five guys giving us good contributions and other guys coming off our bench and helping us in different roles then we're a pretty good basketball team. And right now we're a pretty good team."

Niagara coach Joe Mihalich: "Our hearts our broken. At the same time, as I said to the guys, at the same time there's a lot of guys whose hearts are broken and they've turned their uniforms in. We're not doing that."

Mason on Niagara's second-half shooting woes: "We just didn't hit them in the second half. The first half everything was going in. We got to make sure if it's not going in we got to mix it up."

-- Bob DiCesare

Live blog: Niagara vs. Siena men's hoops at 2:30 p.m.

MAAC Matchups Set

Here's how the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament shapes up this week in Springfield, Mass.:

On the women's side, No. 7 Canisius plays No. 10 Saint Peter's at noon on Thursday. If the Griffs win they'll face No. 2 Iona in the quarters at 9:30 Friday morning. No. 5 Niagara faces No. 4 Rider in the quarters at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

On the men's side, No. 1 Niagara plays the winner of Friday's 8-9 game between Marist and Siena at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. No. 5 Canisius meet No. 4 Iona at 4:30 Saturday. If the Griffs and Purple Eagles both will they'll meet in Sunday 2 p.m. semifinal.

-- Bob DiCesare



Chat replay: Niagara beats Saint Peter's for MAAC title

Niagara-Rider Game Wrap

Rider 68, Niagara 59

How Rider Won: Very rarely will you see a team come into the Gallagher Center and better Niagara's toughness. The Broncs did it. They challenged everything on the defensive end, and the physical style made it a miserable night for Niagara scoring leader Antoine Mason (7 points, 1 of 12 from the field). Rider also got big threes from Tommy Pereira and Jonathon Thompson during a 13-0 second-half run that settled the issue.

Player of the Game: Thompson, a senior who averages 12.5 points, was sensational. He killed Niagara off the drive, buried three treys and got to the foul line nine times while scoring 25 points. That's one shy of his career high.

Best Supporting Role: Junior forward Daniel Stewart owned the inside and scored 14 points to go with 14 rebounds.

Best Player (Losing Effort): Juan'ya Green did everything to keep Niagara close, scoring 27 points. No one else reached double figures.

Stat Check: Points in the paint favored Rider, 34-22.

Stat Check II: Only four of Niagara's 20 field goals were assisted.

Stat Check III: Niagara's comeback effort was undermined by its free throw shooting -- 10 of 19 in the second half.

What It Means: Niagara remains in first place, a half-game ahead of Loyola, but will need a Loyola loss this weekend to have a chance at the title. Rider remains tied with Canisius for third, a half-game behind Loyola.

In the House: There were 1,948 at the Taps.

They Said It

Juan'ya Green on Niagara's frustration: "We shouldn't have got that way. We started talking to each other and started getting frustrated at each other. It shouldn't have got that way. We should have just came together and played through it."

Mihalich: "I'm not going to publicly call anybody out but our interior defense was . . . Stewart did whatever he wanted. I mean, Stewart just did whatever he wanted."

Rider coach Kevin Baggett: "I'd say we match up well with those guys. We have a number of guys that can sit down and play defense and match up, and we do a good job preparing for this group. When it comes down to conference play everybody kind of knows what different teams are going to run, it just comes down to executing and we've done a better job in terms of trying to stop them being able to get to where they need to get to on the court and what they're looking to get out of their offense as well."

Next Up: Niagara finishes out the regular season hosting Saint Peter's at 3 p.m. Saturday. Rider moves on to Canisius for a 2 p.m. game. The winner of that one finishes no worse than third in the final standing.

-- Bob DiCesare

Niagara-Northwestern State Game Wrap

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

Niagara-Northwestern St. Pregame

Some interesting facts about Northwestern State as we close in on an hour before tipoff:

** The Demons lead the nation in scoring and possessions per game.

** They've had 10 players score in double figures this year and six lead the team in single-game scoring.

** Coach Mike McConathy was hired to coach his father's alma mater in March of 1999. His dad, Johnny, was the No. 5 pick in the 1951 NBA draft (Syracuse).

** Notre Dame coach Mike Brey is an NSU alum.

** Three of McConathy's former assistant have head jobs -- Dave Simmons at McNeese St., Mark Slessinger at New Orleans and Buzz Williams at Marquette.

-- Bob DiCesare

Canisius-Niagara game analysis

Game analysis: Billy Baron did allow a buzzer to decide his team's fate this time around. Billy the Kid had his stroke going early and often against rival Niagara to the tune of 33 points as Canisius avenged its last-second loss two weeks at home, 77-70, on Sunday.

How Canisius won: Showered with chants of, "Daddy's Boy," Baron made his father proud especially with all the pounding he took in a physical game. Baron missed out playing the full 40 minutes only because he sat out two after hurting his ankle. Niagara was able to dig out of a first-half hole but failed to come up with a key basket in the final minutes. Antoine Mason, the team's go-to scorer, sat out the game with an ankle injury.

Turning Point: Baron broke a tie at 64 with a layup and then Canisius ceased control of the game when Jordan Heath followed a Harold Washington miss with a two-handed jam.

Player of the Game: Can't say enough about Baron.

Unsung player of the game: Washington has been fighting a viral infection the last few days but came through with 18 points and four assists.

Key stat: The Griffs had 16 turnovers and just six assists.

Key stat II: Niagara shot just 12 of 23 from the charity stripe.

What It Means: Despite the loss, Niagara remains in first place in the MAAC at 10-4, while Canisius is in a three-way tie for second.

Long time coming: Canisius won at Niagara for the first time since Nov. 30, 2002.

Tough night: Marvin Jordan hit the winning shot to beat Canisius in their last matchup but was scoreless this time around.

Working overtime: Referee Jeff Anderson worked Sunday's game after officiating Saturday's five overtime marathon between Notre Dame-Louisville game in South Bend. When asked how much sleep he got Anderson said, "Four hours."

In the House: Green Bay Packers running back and Niagara Falls native James Stark and NU great Tyrone Lewis were among the capacity crowd of 2,400 at the Gallagher Center.

He said it: "He was leading the team and we followed." - Harold Washington on Billy Baron.

Up next: The Golden Griffins play at Loyola while the Purple Eagles travel to Marist, both on Thursday.

---Rodney McKissic

Niagara-Loyola Game Wrap

Loyola (Md) 89, Niagara 87 (2OT)

How Loyola Won: Give the Greyhounds a ton of credit for this one. They were down three after their leading scorer and emotional leader (Robert Olson, 23 points) fouled out with 7:27 remaining. How'd they rebound and persevere? By putting six players in double figures and producing textbook execution of a long inbounds play with 2.9 seconds left in the second OT. The results have shown the MAAC's top four of five teams are evenly matched. It should make for an interesting conference tournament.

Player of the Game: Loyola's Anthony Winbush (13 points, game-high 13 rebounds) made two clutch free throws near the end of regulation and was dead-on target with the long inbounds pass to Erik Etherly that set up the decisive Julius Brooks basket.

Continue reading "Niagara-Loyola Game Wrap" »

Niagara-Iona Game Wrap

Niagara 93, Iona 90 (OT)

How Niagara Won: 'Twas magic is what it was. Down 15 midway through the second half and down seven with 45 seconds left in regulation, the Purple Eagles tied it on a Juan'ya Green three and won it in OT on another trey by Green. Stunning. Iona appeared to have secured the victory that would tie it for first place in the conference but the Purple Eagles, as is so often the case and particularly on their home floor, just wouldn't go away. They came up with key steals down the stretch. They went on a rampage on the offensive glass. And when Iona failed to make the free throws that would have locked things up Niagara barged through the door and shouted, "Here we are."

Players of the Game: Green and Antoine Mason combined to rip the Gaels' hearts out. Time and again in the final 10 minutes they drove into the paint and either scored or went to the line. Mason had a career-high 30 points, 17 of them after intermission. Grey scored 26 to go with eight assists against just one turnover. They outplayed Iona's heralded backcourt combination of Momo Jones (23 points) and Sean Armand (11).

Continue reading "Niagara-Iona Game Wrap" »

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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |