Niagara scored its last nine points at the free-throw line Monday night to nail down an 80-72 victory over Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure at the Gallagher Center.
It was the season opener for the Purple Eagles, who outshot Bona, 19-2 at the line, taking advantage of the 22 personals called against the visitors.
Senior Marvin Prochet led Niagara with 20 points and 10 rebounds. James Towns, a junior guard from Detroit, had 18 points for the Purple Eagles and went 5 of 6 at the line in the final 1:04. Keleaf Tate had a career high 17 points for Niagara.
Towns scored 11 of his points in the last three and a half minutes. He beat the shot clock for a jumper that made it 64-58 with 3:32 left. Towns followed that with a 3-pointer and when Prochet did the same, Niagara had a nine-point lead with 1:47 left. After that, it was a matter of making free throws as the Bonnies fouled in an attempt to catch up.
Junior transfer Jalen Poyser led the Bonnies with 21 points. Sophomore Tshiefu Ngalakulondi had 14 points and 13 rebounds, 6-foot-10 freshman Osun Osunniyi had 14 and Dominick Welch (Cheektowaga) had 10.
Bona played without senior starters Courtney Stockard and LaDarien Griffin. Stockard is recovering from knee surgery. Griffin was injured in the season opener against Bucknell.
With Niagara making only one of its first eight 3-pointers, the Bonnies led the early going. Bona’s largest lead was nine points, 22-13, with 9:10 left in the first half. A 14-0 Niagara run took care of that with Prochet, Towns and Tate accounting for all the points in the rally.
Niagara led, 34-31, at the half. The Bonnies took a 47-42 lead early in the second half, but two 3-pointers by Tate wiped that out and Niagara never trailed again.
The Purple Eagles ended up making 7 of 22 3-point attempts. They made 27 of 62 field goal tries overall. Bona shot 47.1 percent (32 of 68, 6 of 15 on threes).
The Bonnies (1-2) had only three free-throw attempts.
“That’s the least amount since I’ve been here,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt, but he didn’t not blame that for the loss. Instead he cited rebounding and defense as areas where the Bonnies need to improve.
Griffs open at Bucknell
Canisius, one of the last NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams to open, will finally get its regular season under way at 7 p.m. tonight against Bucknell (1-1) in Lewisburg, Pa.
Coach Reggie Witherspoon’s Golden Griffins are facing a tough nonconference slate which includes NCAA champion Villanova before they b egin their defense of their share of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season title.
Bucknell, the defending Patriot League champion, has defeated St. Bonaventure in overtime, 88-85, before losing to Fairfield at home, 60-58.
Canisius women at Bona
The Canisius women (0-1) will look for a third straight win over St. Bonaventure (1-1) at 7 tonight at the Reilly Center. The Griffs lost their opener to Miami (Ohio), 62-59. Bona (1-1) routed Niagara, 76-48, before losing at nationally ranked Georgia, 67-40, on Friday.