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Niagara shooters blast St. Peter's

LEWISTON -- Sometimes it's good to get away from home for a while.

After starting the season 1-6 while dealing with staggered suspensions, the Niagara men's basketball team seems to have found its groove and its chemistry.

Niagara used hot shooting Wednesday night to earn an 88-55 win over St. Peter's in front of 1,515 in the Gallagher Center. It was the first home game for the Purple Eagles since Dec. 16 and their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference home opener.

Niagara is 6-1 over the last seven games -- with five of those games on the road or at neutral sites.

"The word is bonding," Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. "I think we did come together . . . going on the road did help us, especially during the [semester] break with no students around.

"If we were 14-0 right now, I don't think anyone would be worried about our record. We focus on how the team plays, whether or not you're improving and if by the end of the year you can be the best team in the league. That was the focus in July, when we were 1-6 and right now."

Niagara shot 55 percent as a team, including 54.5 percent (12 of 22) from three-point range. All five starters finished in double figures. Junior swingman Charron Fisher led the way with 23 points, his fourth 20-plus outing in the last six games.

"I think everything was just going well," Fisher said. "We ran our plays and everybody got good looks. [J.R. Duffey] got everybody started and then they rotated to cover him. The good thing with our team is that we have so many people who can hurt you in a given night -- you don't know who to try and stop."

Niagara (7-7, 2-1 MAAC) also did a solid job rebounding, holding a 40-26 advantage on the boards. Clif Brown pulled down 10 rebounds and added 11 points for his third straight double-double.

Niagara began its shooting clinic in the first half, hitting nearly 58 percent of its shots, including seven of 10 from three-point range. At the half, Fisher already had 15 points and Duffey 14. Duffey finished with 16, as did Lorenzo Miles.

St. Peter's (3-10, 1-2 MAAC) was playing with a short bench. The Peacocks dressed only seven players as three stayed in New Jersey for violating team rules, including junior forward Todd Sowell, the team's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer.

"Really, Niagara just plays six or seven guys as well," Peacocks coach John Dunne said. "I don't know if it was the short bench, but what happened within our seven who played, there were a lot of guys that don't have much experience."

Buffalo native Tim Spitler (St. Joe's) led the Peacocks with 15 points, adding two rebounds and two steals.
"It's always great to come back to Buffalo and play, especially now that I am starting and get more playing time," Spitler said.

Both teams return to action at 7 p.m. Friday. Niagara hosts Siena while St. Peter's visits Canisius in the Koessler Center.

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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