Michael Schmidt's three-point basket from the right corner with eight-tenths of a second left gave Niagara University an 81-78 victory over Manhattan College Friday night at Draddy Gym in Riverdale.
Schmidt's triple capped another uphill victory for the Purple Eagles, who came back from a double-digit deficit to win for the third straight game, all on the road. NU is 6-2 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference road games this season, the most away victories since joining the conference.
By winning, coach Joe Mihalich's Purple Eagles positioned themselves for a stretch run at the MAAC regular season title. With an 8-4 MAAC record -- 11-10 overall -- fourth-place Niagara is one game behind first-place Iona and Marist, both 8-2. Five of Niagara's six remaining games are at home, including games with Marist Thursday and Iona next Saturday.
Manhattan (9-11, 6-5) stands in sixth place in the MAAC, two games ahead of Canisius in the battle to finish in the conference's top six and avoid a play-in round game at the MAAC tournament.
Mihalich called time out with 3 seconds left after Dave Holmes of the Jaspers had missed the second of two free throws to leave the game tied at 78-all with 8.4 seconds left. Demond Stewart rebounded the miss and the Purple Eagles pushed the ball up the floor and called time out.
Then they set up the play that produced Schmidt's basket.
"It's a play we run all the time," Schmidt said. "It's our 'game winner play.' We ran it perfectly. Every one thought the ball was going to Demond. I used the screens and Daryl (Greene) gave me a perfect pass."
"To have a great year you have to have a win or two like this one," Mihalich said. We told our guys after the Iona game that we would get that one back."
Stewart, the MAAC individual scoring leader, hit his average with 20 points. Schmidt, who hit 5 of 10 from beyond the three-point arc, had 19. Freshman Tremmel Darden came off the bench and contributed a career high 16. Greene had 13 points and five assists.
Niagara trailed by 15, 61-46 with 12:44 left. It was still a 10-point deficit, 73-63, with 4:48 left. A 13-2 run pushed the Purple Eagles into a 76-75 lead after a layup by Greene with 1:24 to go.
Manhattan star Durelle Brown hit a driving layup to put Manhattan back in front but Niagara freshman James Reaves scored off a feed from Schmidt to make it 78-77. Then Holmes was fouled on a rebound setting up the dramatic final nine seconds.
Point guard Von Damien Green led Manhattan with 18 points. Brown had 17 and Holmes had 16 off the bench.
In Fredonia, Jason Campbell sank a pair of free throws with 7 seconds left in overtime to give the Blue Devils a 68-66 victory over Oneonta in SUNYAC play. Robb Fitchlee (Kenmore West) led the way with 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Blue Devils (10-7, 7-6 in SUNYAC). Mike Gibbons (Olean) had 15 points, while Nate Duvert contributed 13 and Matt Moore had 12. Oneonta is 11-7, 8-6 in conference play.
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Oneonta (17-1, 13-1), which has lost only to Cortland in SUNYAC play, pinned a 64-56 loss on host Fredonia (10-7, 7-6). Kim Gunther (Lancaster) led the losing Blue Devils with 14 points. Rene Harpster (Holy Angels) had 13.
MEN'S HOCKEY: Thomas Clayton scored a pair of power-play goals to lead Niagara to a 4-2 victory over the University of Findlay at Dwyer Arena and maintain the Purple Eagles' hold on a share of the lead in the College Hockey America.
Chris Sebastian and Bernie Sigrist had the other NU goals. Clayton's first tally gave Niagara a 2-0 lead with 2:35 to go in the opening period. His second was an insurance tally with 9:13 left in the third period after Findlay had closed to 3-2 on goals by Aaron Weegar late in the second and Ben Patey early in the third.
Niagara goalie Rob Bonk made 17 saves as his team outshot the Oilers, 47-19. The teams meet again tonight at 7.
Canisius went 0 for 15 on the power play while Quinnipiac converted 6 of 8 opportunities in a 7-2 victory over the Griffs in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game in Northford, Conn. David Deeves and Matt Shewchuk scored for the Golden Griffins (10-9-3, 8-7-3 in the MAAC). Quinnipiac improved to 10-6-1 in the MAAC despite being outshot by the Griffs, 58-31.
Brian St. John scored at 2:51 of overtime to give Oswego a 3-2 victory over Fredonia. Jason Furness and Dave Mugavero had the goals for Fredonia (10-10-2, 4-5-1).