LEWISTON, NY (Niagara Press Release) - Despite a late second half push, the Niagara Purple Eagles fell to the Rider Broncs, 90-78, on Sunday.
Antoine Mason, the nation’s leading scorer, netted a game-high 26 points and backcourt teammate Tahjere McCall poured in a career-high 23 points. However, the effort by the tandem was not enough to lift Niagara (4-13, 1-5 MAAC) past Rider (8-7, 4-2 MAAC) as the Purple Eagles have now dropped the last four meetings.
The first half was played at a frenetic pace as there were three lead changes and five ties. Niagara led 38-35 with three minutes left before Rider closed the half on a 9-3 spurt. Mason and McCall carried the scoring load for the Purple Eagles with 17 and 11 points, respectively.
The Broncs stormed out of the gate to start the second half and built the largest lead of the game at 66-50 with 12 minutes remaining. The Purple Eagles, who nearly erased a 10-point deficit in the final three minutes to lose by two at Rider 10 days ago, trimmed Rider’s lead to 70-65 after a Ramone Snowden’s tip-in with seven minutes left. Rider would answer with an 11-3 run over the next five minutes and also held off a late Purple Eagles run in the final minutes.
“I thought we competed hard and with some consistency throughout the 40 minutes, which is a good step for us,” head coach Chris Casey said. “They shot the ball very, very well and any mistake we made they capitalized by making a shot and even when we guarded them well they made a shot. If we make a couple of plays around the basket and a couple of our open shots, I think we‘re right there at the finish.”
Niagara will begin a three-game road trip on Thursday, Jan. 16 at 8:30 p.m. against the Fairfield Stags. The game will air live on ESPN3, ESPN 1520 AM and Purple Eagles All-Access.