ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – (Niagara University) A stifling defensive performance and a near perfect outing at the free-throw line propelled Niagara to a 69-61 win over Little 3 rival St. Bonaventure on Saturday. The Purple Eagles have extended their win streak against the Bonnies to eight straight.
“This was a great win for us,” head coach Joe Mihalich said. “We have been saying for weeks that tough times don’t last, but tough people do and our kids showed how tough they were tonight.”
Niagara (3-7) had its best defensive performance of the season, while shooting lights out from the free-throw line. NU held St. Bonaventure (5-3) to 19 field goals on 33.3 percent shooting, which were both season-lows for an opponent against NU. The Purple Eagles also scored 24 points from 21 Bonnies turnovers.
The Purple Eagles were 18-for-19 from the free-throw line. Their season-high 94.7 free throw percentage ranks tied for 10th in the nation in a single game.
The Niagara defense set the tone in the first 10 minutes of the game. NU forced eight Bona turnovers on its way to a 13-5 lead with nine minutes left in the half. The Bonnies scrapped back into the game and held a brief 18-17 lead, but NU withstood the charge. Anthony Nelson scored NU’s last five points in the half and took a 30-26 lead for NU’s first halftime lead of the season.
In the second half, the Purple Eagles were sparked by a couple of key runs en route to pulling away for their eight straight win in the series. Niagara started the second half on an 8-0 run with Marvin Jordan providing all of the scoring. Jordan made a layup and then the connected on consecutive 3-pointers to force a timeout called by Bona at 16:53.
The Purple Eagles used another key run eight minutes later. The Bonnies crawled back to tie the game at 42-42, but the Purple Eagles responded by going on a 14-4 run for the next six minutes. NU sealed the game at the free-throw line by scoring its final 13 points from the line.
“We realize that we couldn’t let St. Bonaventure beat the Vincentian twice in one week,” Mihalich commented referring to the Bonnies victory at St. John’s on Tuesday.
Nelson led all scorers with 24 points and was a perfect 8-for-8 at the free-throw line. Kevon Moore was 7-for-7 at the free-throw line and Malcolm Lemmons was 3-for-4 at the charity line. Moore and Scooter Gillette combined for 17 points off the bench to outscore Bona’s bench 17-2. Jordan finished the game as Niagara’s second leading scorer with 15 points and Kashief Edwards added 10 points to score in double-figures in eight out of 10 games.
Niagara will have eight days off from competitive action before concluding its eight-game road trip at Central Connecticut State on Sunday, Dec. 19 at 3:30 p.m.