NIAGARA UNIV., N.Y. – (Niagara Release) Ali Langford’s go-ahead dunk with 3.7 seconds left capped a second half rally which witnessed the Niagara Purple Eagles erased a 17-point deficit to defeat the Rider Broncs, 84-82, on Saturday at the Gallagher Center.
“If anybody wonders why you play or why you coach or why you go to games and follow sports…look at the two games we had against them…the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” head coach Joe Mihalich said.
Last Sunday, it was the Broncs (11-16, 8-7 MAAC) who erased Niagara’s 17-point second half lead and won the game with 3-pointer with 0.9 second remaining. Today, the Purple Eagles (11-16, 6-9 MAAC) were the squad that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Trailing 37-34 to start the second half, Rider went on a 16-2 run to take a 53-36 lead with 16:16 left. Niagara began to chip away at the lead and after three straight 3-pointers, NU trailed 61-60 with 9:31 on the clock.
When Rider increased its lead to 76-67 with 4:26 remaining, NU answered with a 9-0 run to tie the game at 76-76 with 2:39 left. Rider had an 80-77 lead when Antoine Mason converted a 3-point play to tie the score at 80-80 with 1:44. Rider’s Novar Gadson, who finished with a career-high 26 points, made a tough baseline jumper to put the Broncs up 82-80, but Malcolm Lemmons responded with a baseline shot of his own to notch the game at 82-82 with 49 seconds remaining.
On the next possession Brandon Penn, who made Rider’s game-winner last weekend, missed a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left and Niagara collected the rebound. After a timeout, Juan'ya Green drew a triple team and dished his pass to a wide open Langford for a throw down dunk with 3.7 seconds.
“At the switch I was going to beat my man off the dribble but after I saw I didn’t have it I saw him (Langford) open to get the open two,” Green said.
The drama, though, was not over. After two timeouts, Rider’s Jonathon Thompson pushed the ball up court and unleashed a 25-footer which went in. The play was immediately reviewed by the three officials as both teams and fans waited patiently for 10 minutes before the officials ruled that Thompson didn’t get the ball off in time.
The decision sent the Gallagher Center into a frenzy as they celebrated Niagara’s first win over Rider since its memorable double overtime win in the 2009 MAAC Tournament semifinals.
“For our two teams we split…the difference was not even a second, I guess it all even out,” Mihalich said. "The similarities in the two games are absolutely eerie. We were up by 17 last week and loss and were down by 17 and win, go figure that out.”
Green engineered the comeback, scoring 22 of his game-high 28 points in the second half while having all of his four assists and three steals in the half. Green is five points shy of tying Garry Jordan’s freshman record of 467 points set in 1978.
Niagara’s 3-point specialist Marvin Jordan drained a game-high six triples; Jordan set a Niagara sophomore record with eight treys at Rider last Sunday. Jordan needs one more 3-pointer to tie the sophomore record of 75 which is held by Daryl Greene. Mason added 13 points and had a game-high eight rebounds.
“We basically won two games at the end this weekend,” Mihalich stated. “We are starting to turn the corner. Friday night things went our way, today things went our way. Our kids deserved to win, they earned this and they are starting to play like the team we know that can play.”
At halftime, Niagara honored Purple Eagle legend Frank Layden (’55) by unveiling his banner in the rafters. Newly inducted Niagara Athletics Hall of Famers Daryl Green (’02) from the men’s basketball team and Joe Tallari (’04) from the men’s hockey team were also recognized.
Niagara concludes its home schedule with a Battle of the Bridge contest with Canisius on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.