LEWISTON, N.Y. (Niagara Univ. Press Release) - Antoine Mason tied a career-high with 35 points as the Purple Eagles rallied for a 61-56 victory over the Saint Peter’s Peacocks on Sunday afternoon at the Gallagher Center.
“It was a very hard fought basketball game by both teams and I thought we made plays when we needed to,” head coach Chris Casey said. “I’m really proud of our guys, because we kept fighting and when you keep fighting good things can happen for you.”
Niagara (2-8, 1-1 MAAC) needed every point of Mason’s seventh 30-plus scoring output to erase a double-digit second half deficit. Mason scored 25 of his 35 points in the second half for his sixth 20-point second half of the season.
The Purple Eagles scored 46 points in the second half and shot 58.6 percent from the field, which was a stark difference from the first half. Niagara struggled offensively, making only six of 27 shots, en route to scoring 15 points for its lowest scoring half since putting up 15 at Drexel on Dec. 28, 2010.
The Purple Eagles trailed Saint Peter’s (2-6, 0-2 MAAC) 23-15 at halftime and were down 52-40 with five minutes remaining when NU started its comeback with a 16-4 run. Niagara tied the game at 56-56 on a 3-pointer by Marvin Jordan, which was his only triple of the night, with 1:50 remaining.
Niagara caused a turnover on the Peacocks’ next possession and Niagara called a timeout after a missed 3-pointer by Jordan. On the en suing inbound play, good ball movement by Niagara helped Jordan find a wide open Mason in the corner who drained his third 3-pointer of the game to give the Purple Eagles’ their first lead, 59-56, with 22 seconds left.
Saint Peter’s missed two contested 3-pointers in its attempt to tie the game in the final seconds. Mason added two free throws in the final second as the nation’s leading scorer increased his season scoring average to 29.4 points per game.
Niagara forced a season-high 21 turnovers which led to a comfortable 22-5 (19-2 in the second half) points off turnover advantage. The Purple Eagles’ 16 steals are the most by them since snatching 17 against Norfolk State on Dec. 29, 2009.
“We weren’t too happy with the way we have been playing defense, so we really had a real defensive practice yesterday,” Casey stated. “With the newness of what we are doing, I think it will take some time to grasp the things we are doing and to have five guys moving as a unit. I thought we did have that today.
Niagara is back on the court on Wednesday, Dec. 11 when the Purple Eagles face the Davidson Wildcats in the first game of the Big Four Basketball Doubleheader at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y.