Game analysis: In a possible preview of the MAAC Tournament championship, Niagara never trailed against Siena and rolled over the Saints, 100-85. Niagara won despite leading scorer Tyrone Lewis shooting only four times, but the Purple Eagles outscored Siena in the paint, 58-36.
How Niagara won: Niagara has been scoring points for year under Joe Mihalich so no one likes to talk about the Purple Eagles defense, but they limited the Saints to 35.1 percent shooting in the first half and leading scorer Kenny Hasbrouck scored just five points on 2 of 20 shooting from the floor.
Turning point: The Purple Eagles led 36-27 when they ripped off 10 consecutive points with Garrison draining back-to-back threes and tossing an alley oop to Edwards to ignite the run. Finally deciding he had seen enough, Siena coach Fran McCaffery shifted to a 2-3 zone defense to slow Niagara down, but not before the Purple Eagles built a 46-29 lead.
Turning point II: In the second half, Mihalich’s fear of Siena marching to the free-throw line came true and the Saints began to peck away at Niagara’s lead, trimming it to seven with 4:04 left after a layup by Alex Franklin. But after Anthony Nelson missed a three-pointer, Bilal Benn followed up the miss for a basket. Minutes later, McCaffery was hit with a technical foul with 2:39 left for shaking the scorer’s table and knocking over a cup of water. Lewis the two foul shots for the technical, and two more after being fouled and Niagara led, 90-77.
Player of the game: Bilal Benn stuffs the stat sheet. The junior guard finished with a team-high 21 points and a game high 12 boards.
Stat of the game: Lewis took only four shots, but he was 10 of 10 from the free throw line.
Stat of the game II: Benn sometimes stuffs the stat sheet with the wrong stuff (seven turnovers).
What the win means: The Purple Eagles are officially the No. 2 seed in the upcoming MAAC Tournament while the Saints are No. 1.
In the house: Former St. Bonaventure guard Tim Winn was among the standing room only crowd of 2,400-plus on hand.
What’s next for Niagara: This was a statement game for Niagara, who provided the blueprint to beat Siena: Pound the ball inside, hit the glass and take away at least one of its scoring options. Next up is Marist who handed the Purple Eagles their worst loss of the season, 82-70, on Jan. 5. Benson Egemonye, the lone senior on the team, will be honored on Sunday.