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Scott leads Niagara’s home opening win

LEWISTON – Niagara sophomore guard Matt Scott looked like he was about to make something happen just about every time he touched the ball Wednesday night.

He plays with a scorer’s mentality, as if he’s back home on the Marcy Park playground in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, where he learned the game.

“He’s got a New York game, absolutely,” said Niagara coach Chris Casey. “He’s got a city game. He scores a lot of different ways. He can get to the basket, make a shot, knows how to get to the lane. Good guards to me can play in traffic. He can play in traffic. That’s what I mean by a New York City game.”

Scott scored a game-high 23 points Wednesday night to lead Niagara to a 75-66 non-conference victory over Brown at the Gallagher Center.

The performance continued Scott’s hot start to the season. He’s averaging 18.3 points a game through three games, a big jump for a guy who averaged only 5.0 points and 17 minutes as a freshman last year.

Niagara improved to 1-2.

“I think Matt’s going to have a terrific year,” Casey said. “I think he’s going to have a breakout year.”

Scott was a big scorer as a prep player for Brooklyn Law & Tech, a tiny high school of only 450 students. He averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds a game his senior year. But he didn’t play any summer ball, so he was an under-the-radar recruit.

“I didn’t play AAU, so a lot of my time was in the park when I was in high school, at Marcy playground,” he said.

Casey was the first college head coach to recruit Scott, early in his senior year, and he picked the Purple Eagles over St. Francis College of Brooklyn and Stephen F. Austin in Texas.

Scott came to Niagara a string-bean 160 pounds and broke his thumb in preseason. He didn’t make a big impact as a freshman.

“I worked hard all summer to get where I’m at now, and my teammates really believe in me,” Scott said. “Weight room-wise I put on 20 to 30 pounds from last year. So that helps me get to the basket easier and finish plays. And it helps me get in the cracks of the other team’s defense.”

The 6-foot-4 Scott, now 185 pounds, also has spent a lot of time after practice working on his jumper.

“Last year I felt I should have made more wide-open shots,” he said. “So I’ve been in the gym shooting at fast pace, making myself uncomfortable so when I get in the game it’s easier to make shots.”

Scott made 8 of 12 field-goal attempts and added 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals.

Niagara held a 38-30 halftime lead and never trailed in the second half.

“There’s a saying that I believe in that the best players in the world know when to solo and when to be in time with the rest of the orchestra,” Casey said. “I think Matt definitely has a great feel for that.”

“The next step for him is as he continues to grow, he’s going to be a scouting report guy,” Casey said. “Stop him. Now he’s got to learn to respond to that, and I have full confidence he will.”