NIAGARA UNIV, N.Y. – (Niagara) The Niagara men’s basketball team concluded its home weekend slate against the top two teams in the conference with a hard fought 57-49 loss to the first place Fairfield Stags on Sunday.
“We had the two teams tied for first place come here this weekend; the bad news (is) we lost both games, but the good news is we know we should have won those games, but we didn’t and we have to figure out why,” head coach Joe Mihalich said. “We fought like crazy and we are getting closer to leaving it all out on the floor."
Niagara (4-17, 1-8 MAAC) played a spirited game versus the conference leading Stags (15-4, 8-1 MAAC), but saw its bid to snap its skid vanish down the stretch.
The Niagara defense contained the Fairfield attack in the first half. The defense sparked a 13-0 run as the Purple Eagles took a 17-10 lead with 7:44 remaining in the half. Niagara held Fairfield to 25 percent shooting from the field and forced 10 turnovers en route to a 21-19 halftime lead.
However, an offensive slump early in the second half saw Niagara’s lead evaporate as Fairfield started the half on 13-2 run and built an 11-point lead with nine minutes left.
The Purple Eagles scratched back into the game with a 9-3 run capped by an Anthony Nelson layup to bring Niagara to 45-42 with 3:53 remaining. Though on the Stags’ next possession, Derek Needham made Fairfield’s first and only 3-pointer of the game to halt the rally while seizing momentum as the final minutes trickled away.
“As a staff we have to do a better job of getting the guys to believe we can win,” Mihalich said. “We cut it to three in the end and in years past the guys in the huddle knew we would win and we have to get our guys to feel that way. Everybody in the building could feel it and they (Fairfield) weren’t handling the pressure well, but our guys didn’t respond to that. “
Three Purple Eagles scored in double figures. Freshman Marvin Jordan led the game with 16 points and added five rebounds and three assists. Nelson scored 14 points, had four rebounds and three steals, and Kevon Moore scored 10 points.
Niagara’s next game will be an ESPNU televised game at archrival Canisius on Friday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.