LEWISTON – Too many times this season Niagara has found itself undone by one prolonged stretch of hideous basketball. Ill-advised passes turn into damaging turnovers. Shots launched either on a whim or out of desperation clank off iron. Nothing goes as planned and the harm is so severe that righting all the wrongs becomes a super heroes’ feat.
It happened to the Purple Eagles again Tuesday night. The Purple Eagles conceded Siena an early 19-point run and could never drag itself out of debt in falling to the Saints, 82-70, at the Gallagher Center.
One wonders what might have been had the Purple Eagles found their composure and short-circuited the Siena assault. Because once it was over Niagara guard Matt Scott and Emile Blackman took the game in their hands, penetrated, created and caused Siena fits. But 19 points down is a canyon, one the Purple Eagles could not escape even with Scott striking for 31 and Blackman for 22.
Nico Clareth topped Siena with 24 and Brett Bisping added 20.
Long time coming: With the victory Siena swept road games against Canisius and Niagara for the first time since 2007-08.
Same old: The Saints have won seven straight in the series.
Records: Niagara is 5-16 overall, 3-7 in the conference and has lost four straight. Siena is 14-7, 7-3 and is on a three-game upswing.
Dagger: The shot clock was running out when Clareth buried a three for a 75-65 Siena lead with 2:04 remaining.
The big stall: Niagara jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead. Then Scott produced a steal. And forward Marvin Prochet inexplicably launched a 22-foot brick. And just like that the half turned in a blink. Siena unleashed a 19-0 run fueled by four Purple Eagle turnovers and the hot hands of Clareth and Ryan Oliver. Niagara, which scored the game’s first field goal at 18:42, didn’t score another until Scott drove the lane with 9:56 left.
The big recovery: Down 29-10, Niagara turned the game over to its two top talents, Scott and Blackman. They accounted for all the scoring in an 11-0 Niagara burst that drew the Purple Eagles back within eight. Prochet then attained redemption with a couple late jumpers, the second one bringing Niagara to 38-32 at the half. Blackman led all scorers with 13 at the half. Scott had 10.
Long and short: Siena’s Lavon Long had a game for the history books at Canisius Sunday when he made all seven of his field goal attempts and went 11 for 11 at the line. Long didn’t put up a shot in the first half of this one because three quick fouls limited him to three minutes of action.
Formidable: A strong low-post presence might not be as coveted as it once was in the guard-oriented college game - but when it exists it can be devastating. Siena came into Tuesday night leading the MAAC in field goal shooting percentage, defensive rebounding, rebounding margin and blocked shots. The Saints’ 7.4 advantage in rebounding margin tops the conference and ranks 24th in the nation. Yet Niagara came out of the first half with a 16-16 draw on the boards.
More to come: This was the eighth straight game Siena has played without junior guard Marquis Wright, who averages 17.3 points. He’s out with a stress fracture and hope is he’ll be back by the middle of next month.
Almost triples: When Siena put up 99 points in Sunday’s win at Canisius it marked its most points in a game since scoring 99 against Brown in 2009 and its most points in a true road game since a 105-103 loss to Penn State in March of 2000.
Next up: Niagara hits the road for four of its next six, beginning with Marist on Thursday and Quinnipiac on Saturday. Siena goes the other route. The Saints are home for four of their next five, beginning with Marist on Saturday and a Monday showdown with Monmouth. Siena is 8-0 at the Times Union Center, home of the MAAC Tournament from 2015-17.