Niagara University's Brian Clifford turned in his season highs of 22 points and 19 rebounds Thursday night but Robert Morris still held off the Eagles, 84-79, in the Sewall Center at Coraopolis, Pa.
The Eagles (3-6) trailed at halftime, 42-33, as Joe Fallett scored
11 and Ricky Cannon 10 for the Colonials (4-6).
But Niagara coach Jack Armstrong switched to a man-for-man defense in the second half and Eagles rallied.
"We went to a man-for-man in the second half hoping we would get our adrenaline going better than we did in the first half," said Armstrong. "We started to defend better and our offensive possessions were more precise."
The Colonials expanded their lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the second half on two baskets by Cannon and one on a Tyrone Steals follow to go ahead, 48-33.
But Clifford scored 10 of his points over the next nine minutes as the Eagles closed to within 57-56 with 10:19 to go.
"Brian (Clifford) has been doing a great job. He may be somewhat limited in athletic ability, but he compensates with great basketball ability," said Armstrong.
Niagara surrendered a pair of leads in the final 4:25 after first Darrin Bossert and then Brown gave the Eagles one-point advantages. The last time, Robert Morris' Wade Timmerson and Andre Boyd made three-pointers in a span of 29 seconds to take a 75-70 lead with 2:26 remaining.
A 17-footer by Brown cut the Colonials' lead to 78-76 with 1:02 left, but that was the closest the Eagles got.
Griffs headed west
Canisius can improve to 6-2 for the first time since 1974-75 when it meets the University of San Diego in a difficult non-conference game Saturday.
San Diego is 5-3 and was the preseason favorite in the WestCoast Conference, which is rated about even with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
The game (10:30 p.m., Radio 930) is the first of two on Canisius' holiday trip. The Griffs meet Cal-State Northridge, in its first year in Division I, Wednesday.
San Diego has lost three straight -- to Indiana, Cal-Santa Barbara and to Cal-State Northridge. The latter, an 83-73 surprise, was San Diego's worst outing of the season. Northridge, which averages 24 three-point attempts a game, is 2-6.
The Griffs are holding foes to 36 percent shooting from the field, third best in the country.
St. Bonaventure (2-6) plays host to Central Connecticut State (1-7) Saturday at the Reilly Center (7:35 p.m.).
The Bonnies are expected to be without senior guard and leading scorer Michael Burnett, who still is plagued by a sprained knee and has not practiced since Dec. 10.
Around & About
Luis Correa, a former swimmer at St. Bonaventure (Class of '88), has been named deputy chief of mission for the Nicaraguan embassy in London.
Buffalo State kick returner Bill Nashwinter was one of 122 players named to the first Champion Division III All-America team. Nashwinter was an honorable mention special teams pick. Brockport tight end Ed Smart was a first-team pick. Alfred linebacker John Hoosock was a second-team pick, as was Rochester defensive end Dennis Braniecki (Cheektowaga). Ithaca receiver Ken Hammel (Tonawanda) was honorable mention.
Nassau topples NCCC
Nassau Community College rallied from a 20-point second-half deficit to defeat Niagara CCC, 110-100, on Long Island.
Dennis McCullough had 25 points and nine assists and Chuck Kearney had a career high of 24 points for NCCC (7-3).