Niagara continues to upset those gloomy preseason forecasts for its season in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s basketball.
After knocking off first-place Saint Peter’s on Thursday, the Purple Eagles tied the game on a buzzer-beating three by Marcus Hammond and rolled past defending MAAC champion Iona, 100-91 in the extra period Saturday afternoon at the Gallagher Center.
Picked to finish 10th among 11 teams in the preseason conference poll, Niagara (11-18, 9-9 MAAC) closed out its home regular season in style, in gaining a season sweep of the Gaels (11-14, 9-9 MAAC), the favorite to win the championship.
First-year coach Greg Paulus’ team had defeated Iona, 70-69, in New Rochelle on Jan. 12. That was against an Iona team that struggled early in the conference season and fell from contention. Before Saturday, Iona had won six of its previous seven games, with the one loss by a point at first-place Siena.
Saturday’s game was tied at 24 before the visiting Gaels moved to a 43-35 halftime lead. It was not tied again until Hammond nailed his 3-pointer to send it to overtime. That was after Dylan Van Eyck of the Gaels had supposedly iced it with a pair of free throws with 5 seconds to play.
The Purple Eagles trailed by seven points, 79-72, with 35 seconds left. James Towns made a layup to cut Iona’s lead to 80-76. Towns was fouled on the play and missed his free throw. However, Iona knocked the ball out of bounds.
On the ensuing inbound, Hammond drained a corner 3-pointer to bring NU within one point, 80-79, with 17 seconds left in regulation. Iona’s E.J. Crawford made two free throws to give the Gaels a three-point lead heading into the final 10 seconds of regulation.
On the next possession, Hammond drove for an uncontested layup to cut the lead back to one point. Van Eyck then made two more free throws for an 84-81 lead. On the last play of regulation, Justin Roberts found a wide-open Hammond, whose 3-pointer hit the back rim and dropped through as time expired.
In the overtime, Niagara made six of seven free throws. The Purple Eagles took the lead, 90-87, on a three by sophomore Raheem Solomon. A layup by Greg Kuakumensah and a jumper by Solomon made if 94-88 and Niagara’s free throw shooters took care of the rest with Solomon making 4 of 4.
Hammond had 27 points to lead five Niagara double-figure scorers. Solomon and Kuakumensah had 16 each, Roberts 14 and Towns, the lone senior on the roster, had 12.
Taijuan Agee had 28 points, E.J. Crawford 25 and Isaiah Ross 19 for Iona.
Other WNY Big 4 men’s teams, Canisius and St. Bonaventure were not as successful.
Canisius (10-19, 5-13 MAAC) fell to Saint Peter’s, 69-68, at the Koessler Center on a free throw by Aaron Estrada with 7 seconds to play. The Golden Griffins had tied the game twice in the final minute, the first time at 66-all on a 3-pointer by Majesty Brandon with 45 seconds left, the second time on a pair of free throws by Malik Johnson with 20 seconds to go that made it 68-all.
The Griffs led the majority of the game, including the largest margin of the game, 10 points, 24-14 with 7:54 left in the first half.
Brandon led Canisius with 21 points. Quinn Taylor had 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Peacocks.
St. Bonaventure (18-11, 10-6 Atlantic 10) was upset by La Salle (14-14, 5-11), 73-65, at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia. The Bonnies’ third loss in the last four games damaged their hopes of a top-four finish in the A-10 standings.
The outcome was no fluke. Bona’s biggest lead was two points after the opening basket of the game. The Explorers led by as many as 19 points, 51-32, after 8:56 of the second half.
Saul Phiri had 19 and Ayinde Hikim 18 for La Salle. Kyle Lofton led the Bonnies with 17 points.
The Bonnies were outscored 23-7 at the free-throw line as they committed 15 personals in the second half trying to come back.
UB’s Legette-Jack gets 300th coaching victory
University at Buffalo women’s basketball coach Felicia Legette-Jack reached career victory No. 300 on Saturday as the Bulls (16-11, 7-9 MAC) defeated the Ohio Bobcats in a nail biter, 63-62, in Athens, Ohio. It avenged a 76-65 loss to the Bobcats at Alumni Arena on Jan. 11.
It was the third straight victory for UB after a six-game losing streak. Unlike the previous victory over Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday when Dyaisha Fair and Theresa Onwuka combined for 52 of the team’s 88 points, the attack was more spread out this time.
Buffalo had four players finish in double figures. UB was led by Adebola Adeyeye, who put up 16 points to go along with nine rebounds, Fair finished with 14 points and Theresa Onwuka and Keowa Walters finished with 10 points each.
Wolters made a contested layup for a 63-61 UB lead with 1:02 left. Ohio had one last chance to tie it after a steal with 6.6 seconds left. Peyton Guide of the Bobcats missed the second of two free throws to leave the Bulls with their one-point margin.
The Canisius women suffered their worst loss of the season at Rider, falling, 87-48. Rider led 41-27 at the half before outscoring the Griffs, 21-8, in the third quarter.
Danielle Sanderlin led Canisius with 18 points.
The St. Bonaventure women (7-21, 4-12 Atlantic 10) lost their Senior Day game to Duquesne (19-10, 9-7 A-10), 80-57 at the Reilly Center. Asianae Johnson led the Bonnies with a game-high 17 points to go with eight rebounds.
It was the final home game for Bona seniors Dajah Logan, Claudia Del Moral and Amanda Oliver.
Hilbert women fall
Hilbert made only 1 of 12 3-point shots and was outscored 29-13 in the fourth quarter in an 88-69 loss to host La Roche in the championship game of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference women’s basketball game in Pittsburgh.
Seniors Ashley Repine (20 points on 9 of 12 field goal shooting) led Hilbert (20-7).
Erie Community College (22-4), the No. 1 seed, defeated Monroe CC, 99-76, on Saturday and will face Genesee CC at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the NJCAA Region 3, Division II championship game at the Flickinger Center.
Ahamadou Fofana led the Kats with 17 points while Ladji Fofana had 17 and Tavien Kemp 15.
Genesee edged Niagara County CC, 82-80, in the other men’s semifinal at ECC City.
NCCC’s women routed Jamestown CC, 116-48, in Sanborn to advance to the Region 3 championship game against Genesee CC at 1 p.m. on Sunday.