When teams prepare for Niagara, their focus is on stopping high-scoring guards Demond Stewart and Daryl Greene.
However, forward Terry Edwards is starting to force opponents to readjust their strategy.
The 6-foot-7 senior had a career night Saturday, pouring in 29 points to lead the Purple Eagles to an 86-76 victory over Manhattan before 1,566 at the Gallagher Center.
"The way Terry Edwards played tonight was just tremendous," said NU coach Joe Mihalich, whose team improved to 11-6 overall and 5-3 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. "I think he was the story of the game. There's no doubt in my mind."
Manhattan (10-8, 7-3) should have been more mindful of Edwards, who often was left open around the perimeter. He drilled 6 of 10 three-point shots and was 9 of 14 from the field overall.
"Terry Edwards had a phenomenal game," said Manhattan's first-year coach Bobby Gonzalez, whose team entered the game sharing first place in the MAAC with Siena. "We just didn't expect him to hit all those threes. We had to help on Demond Stewart and Daryl Greene because they're so good. Once Edwards got hot, he really hurt us. He hit some huge shots to help open the gap."
Edwards is making a habit out of playing big at home. In his last appearance at Gallagher, he scored 21 points to help Niagara beat Marist on Jan. 14.
Edwards had extra motivation to play well Saturday. Manhattan won the previous meeting between the two schools when Noah Coughlin hit the winning shot over him.
"That helped me get ready to play," said Edwards, who added six rebounds and four assists. "I felt I owed them one."
Niagara needed Edwards' big night. Although Stewart had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Greene missed all 11 of his shots and finished with just four points. He did have a career-high 13 assists, however.
"I said to the coaches at the end of the game that if we can win with Daryl not scoring, we're a pretty good team because up to this point we've needed him to score," Mihalich said. "Of course, Terry picked up the slack."
Manhattan's pressure defense shook Niagara up at times, forcing 15 first-half turnovers and 22 overall. But the Purple Eagles went into halftime with a 45-31 lead behind 60 percent shooting.
Niagara shot 49.1 percent for the game and had 23 assists on 26 field goals. It also outrebounded Manhattan, 38-26.
"I thought it was our worst game of the year," said Gonzalez, who played for Dick Bihr at Buffalo State. "I don't want to take any credit away from Niagara because they had a lot to do with us looking bad. We just thought that we didn't defend and play as hard as we're capable of for most of the game."
Edwards scored 15 points in the first half, including a three-pointer that started a 22-6 run that put Niagara in control.
The Purple Eagles also did it with defense. Manhattan shot 47.3 percent for the game, but only 10 of 27 in the first half. Forward Durelle Brown, the Jaspers' leading scorer (20 ppg.), was held to a season-low five points.
"As a team, we felt like our defense has been slacking," Edwards said. "Last year we played better defense than we have this year. It was a challenge for all of us to come out and play harder."
The Purple Eagles led by as many as 21 points in the second half, but the Jaspers had one last run in them. With Bruce Seals (26 points) and Michael "Spud" Johnson (21 points) scoring 11 each from long range, the Jaspers got within six (77-71) with 2:26 left.
Manhattan could have gotten closer, but forward Badou Kane missed an easy layup and Johnson had the ball stolen by Greene on back-to-back possessions. Niagara made free throws off both miscues to put the game away.
"It can go either way when they make a run like that," said NU guard Luke Dobrich. "We felt that if we could weather that little storm and then hit them back we knew that we could win the game."
Niagara, winners of 19 consecutive MAAC home games, tries to extend that streak Monday against Siena.