One victory over Mid-American Conference opposition is tucked away. Niagara University's men's basketball goes for No. 2 tonight against the University at Buffalo in the Gallagher Center (7 p.m, Radio 1520 AM, 105.1 FM).
Coach Joe Mihalich's Purple Eagles defeated Central Michigan in their season opener at home last Friday night before a loud and boisterous crowd of 2,400. The atmosphere will be even more intense and another a sellout is expected to be on hand when the Bulls come in to renew the Big 4 rivalry.
UB is off to a 2-1 start. The record includes a win (South Florida) and a loss (at Connecticut) against Big East competition.
Niagara will be trying to end a a string of five losses to the Bulls. UB has won in its last two visits to the Gallagher Center. The Purple Eagles' last win in the series was in 2001-2002. Even NU's NIT team (2003-04) and NCAA team (2004-05 and 2006-07) lost to the Bulls.
"They defense well," Mihalich said of the Bulls. "I hope we can score as many points as the Patriots did. For whatever the reason, they've had their way with us."
In Stanley Hodge, Tyrone Lewis and Charron Fisher, Niagara has three veterans back from last year's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship team. Nevertheless, Mihalich said, "We're a little bit of a work in progress.
"We lost 3,600 points (to graduation). We're either new, young or stepping into new roles. You don't know what to expect from day to day. Some days you leave practice scratching your head, but it's fun."
Lewis, a sophomore, had 26 points, and Fisher, a senior, scored 22 in the victory over Central Michigan. Hodge had nine points and seven assists. One of the newcomers, freshman guard Anthony Nelson, shot 5 for 5 in a 13-point debut performance.
UB has been off since last Tuesday's win, 76-69, over South Florida, a team which upset Florida State of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Sunday on a neutral court in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Two Western New York products have stood out for the Bulls so far. Greg Gamble (Niagara Falls) had 25 points in the season opening win over Ohio Valley. Rodney Pierce (Hutch-Tech), a transfer from Rider, scored 20 against South Florida, and is shooting 50 percent (4 of 8) from three-point range.
UB coach Reggie Witherspoon has substituted liberally. He's used a 13 players so far and 11 of them have averaged double-digit minutes.
Both teams will head for Pittsburgh later in the week. Niagara will play at Duquesne on Saturday (2 p.m.). UB's date in the Steel City will be a Friday night game at the University of Pittsburgh.