For about 20 minutes Saturday, it looked as if Clif Brown was going to have quite the memorable game and help the struggling and short-handed Niagara men's basketball team give St. John's more than just a scare.
But then Niagara's shooting and defensive intensity fizzled, and that pretty much ended any shot the Purple Eagles had at beating a Red Storm outfit that's clearly not the beast of the Big East.
St. John's received career efforts from 6-foot-7 sophomore small forward Anthony Mason Jr. and former second team junior college All-American Avery Patterson to beat Niagara, 86-64, before a Gallagher Center crowd of 1,869 hoping to witness NU's first home win of the season.
Instead, Niagara (1-6) is 0-4 at home to start a season for the first time since the 1989-90 campaign, and the Purple Eagles' inability to control Mason and Patterson in the second half is a big reason why. Mason, the son of former New York Knicks forward Anthony Mason, poured in 14 of his career-best 22 points in the final 20 minutes -- including nine straight points that sparked a 12-1 run. That came after NU had pulled within 50-44 on a three-pointer by Brown, who scored 20 of his team-high 23 points in the first half.
Mason's biggest contribution came on defense as he took the task of guarding Brown in the second half and limited the 6-foot-7 senior to 1-of-8 shooting. Brown made 8 of his first 14 shots but finished 9 for 24.
"Brown, he's a real good player and a real good shooter," said Mason, who grabbed 11 boards to post his first double-double. "I think off the dribble he starts to be like a regular player. I just got up on him to make him drive or dribble so he could kick it out, so he wouldn't be that effective."
Patterson scored a career-high 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 6 of 13 from three-point range. The Red Storm shot 31 for 54 (57.4 percent), including 15 of 24 in the second half (62.5 percent) in posting its third road win in three seasons.
Niagara shot 32.8 percent for the game after making five of its first nine shots to start the game. NU shot 43.8 percent in the first half, including 46.2 percent from three-point range, and trailed, 41-36, at halftime.
Freshman guard Tyrone Lewis added 10 points as seven of the nine Purple Eagles dressed scored. NU played its seventh game without last year's leading scorer Charron Fisher, who has to sit out one more game as his penalty for his role in an off-campus fight last summer.
"Clif's not the only guy who can score. . . . I'm too stubborn to believe [we only have one offensive option]," NU coach Joe Mihalich said.
Senior Lorenzo Miles, a preseason All-MAAC second team selection, figured to help with the scoring during Fisher's absence, but has struggled with his shooting. He scored nine points on 3-of-16 shooting. A career 37.9 percent shooter from three-point range, Miles hit only 2 of 9 and has hit just 22 percent of his threes this season. Overall he is shooting 22.9.
"It's just one of those nights," said Miles, who had some shots rattle in and out of the hoop. "It's been like that since the begining of the season but I'm going to pick it up."
"Lorenzo has probably had some stretches like this, it's just it's the first seven games," Mihalich said of the senior who was a key member of Niagara's 2005 NCAA Tournament team. "We've got 25 games to go or something like that. We are very confident we can get this together."