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NIAGARA PUTS AWAY LOYOLA BUT IT'S TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

The game didn't match the excitement of Saturday's last-second win over Rider, but the 1,053 at the Gallagher Center were kept on the edge of their seats Monday night as Loyola College made things very uneasy for Niagara.

After losing several huge leads in the first and second halves, the Purple Eagles held on at the end for a 94-86 victory over the Greyhounds.

Guard Alvin Young scored 26 points, forward Terry Edwards matched his career-high with 20 and point guard Jeremiah Johnson added 14 points and seven assists as Niagara (12-7, 9-1) won for the 13th consecutive time at home. It was its 12th straight home win in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

"I told our kids, 'Every day is a different day, every game is a different game and you never know what's going to happen,' " Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. "We gave (Loyola) some life, and to their credit, they wouldn't go away."

Niagara came out smoking, building a 47-23 lead in the first half, and led by as many as 16 points in the second half.

But Loyola (6-11, 1-9), coming off its first MAAC win (at Fairfield), fought back behind the brilliance of junior guard Jason Rowe. The former Buffalo Traditional star had 26 points, seven assists, four rebounds and no turnovers in 37 minutes.

"The last few games have been a problem for us as far as coming out of the gate," Rowe said. "I just remember turning and looking at the players and saying, 'Hey, I didn't come up here to get blown out. This is home. If you guys want to go back to Baltimore, you can go, but I'm going to stay here and fight.'

"I think the guys really pulled through. I think we settled down and got the jitters out."

A steal and layup by Rowe capped a 16-5 Loyola run that got the deficit down to five (76-71) with 6:55 remaining. But that was the Greyhounds' last field goal until Anthony Walker hit a three-pointer to cut Niagara's lead to 90-86 with 35 seconds left.

Young made four free throws to seal the win.

"I really didn't want to have the dramatics we had in the Rider game," said Young, whose three at the buzzer beat the Broncs on Saturday and helped him earn MAAC co-player of the week. "But (Loyola) is much better than their record shows."

Loyola hammered Niagara inside. The Greyhounds shot 52.7 percent from the field and had a 44-26 rebounding advantage. Forward Brian Carroll (19 points, 12 rebounds), center Roderick Platt (15 points, 12 rebounds) and reserve forward Clifford Strong (15 points, nine rebounds) pounded the backboards to give Loyola multiple possessions.

"Al and I were looking at the stats, trying to see how we won," Edwards said. "We have to step up and do a better job on the boards."

Loyola was plagued by turnovers and poor free-throw shooting. While Niagara sank 20 of 27 freebies, the Greyhounds were 21 of 34. They also had 21 turnovers, leading to 26 Niagara points. The Purple Eagles turned it over eight times.

"One of the things that have hurt us all year is free throws," Loyola coach Dino Gaudio said. "We're going inside and getting fouled, but we're not rewarding ourselves at the free-throw line. But I have to give Niagara credit. They deserved to win."

Yes, Niagara won the game, but its weaknesses were exposed again. The Purple Eagles continue to get manhandled inside and they have become too reliant on outside shooting. After taking 34 three-point attempts against Rider on Saturday, they hoisted 28 more Monday, making 12.

"At the end of a game, you're just happy that you won," Young said. "But after you sit around and really evaluate what's going on, it's definitely a big concern. We've got to build up more consistency through the whole game. Once we get our lead, we need to keep on building on it instead of letting people come back because one day it's going to burn us."

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