Niagara lost to Youngstown State, 101-97, in overtime Wednesday night in the Beeghly Center in Youngstown, Ohio, but may have uncovered a new offensive weapon.
Shane Gatling, a 6-foot-1 freshman guard from Baldwin, scored a career-high 24 points for the Purple Eagles, who forced overtime on a jump shot by junior guard Kahlil Dukes with 3 seconds left in regulation. Gatling was making only his second start. His previous scoring highs were 18 points at Kent State and 13 at Iona.
Sophomore forward Devin Haygood had only seven points for the Penguins, but five came in the overtime, including the two free throws that put his team ahead for good, 97-96, with 1:44 to play. Haygood then scored on a layup after a miss by Gatling to make it 99-96. Niagara had taken a 96-95 lead in the extra period on a three-point play by Matt Score.
It was a tight game from start to finish. Niagara's biggest lead was eight points (43-35) with 1:49 left in the first half and the margin was 47-42 at the break. The lead swung back and forth throughout the second half and usually changed on three-point shots. Neither side had a lead larger than four points after the first basket of the second half.
Gatling kept Niagara in it. At one points in the second half he had 18 of the team's 30 points, including three three-point shots. Youngstown was led by its scoring star Cameron Morse, who had 27 points, However, it was three-point shooters Francisco Santiago and Rahim Williams who caused a lot of trouble for Niagara. Three times Santiago had scores that gave the Penguins the lead in the second half, including on two three-point shots. And Williams, a junior from Toronto, did it to the Purple Eagles twice. Santiago had 18 points, including 4 of 4 threes.
Gatling made 7 of 17 shots, including 4 of 10 from the three-point area and 6 of 7 free throws. Dukes had 20 points and Scott finished with 16 points and led Niagara with 10 rebounds. Morse made 10 of 21 shots, 4 of 8 from three-point range and 3 of 6 free throws. He also had six assists. Seven-foot center Jorden Kaufman, a transfer from Oral Roberts, had 12 rebounds for Youngstown.
Niagara (3-8) will face St. Bonaventure at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the opening game of the Big 4 Classic at KeyBank Center.