LEWISTON – It was clearly a tale of two halves for Niagara University on Friday night.
The Purple Eagles led by as many as 12 points in the first half, then surrendered the lead to Bucknell early in the second and went on to lose, 88-71, in front of 1,814 at the Gallagher Center.
Erratic shooting can be blamed for this loss as Niagara connected on only seven field goals in the last 20 minutes (7 of 30). The Purple Eagles shot 45.5 percent in the first half as they built a 43-31 lead with 2:09 remaining before halftime. That’s when Bucknell started to chisel away at the lead with a 7-0 run to end the half.
“I thought that, quite frankly, we got sticky fingers there and I don’t think the ball moved as well as it did when we scored 41 points,” Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. “I think it was 41-29 with three minutes to go … and the ball was moving pretty good and I think it was the last three minutes in the first half, which means the ball wasn’t moving – we were holding it a little bit, we were looking for ourselves.”
The Bison (3-0) took the lead for good at 44-43 with 18:02 left on a layup by Joe Willman. Bucknell’s largest advantage was 17 points.
Antoine Mason (14 points), Juan’ya Green (13) and Ameen Tanksley (12) led Niagara (1-2) in scoring but shot a combined 8 of 32 from the floor while starting guard Marvin Jordan was 3 of 10 and 2 of 9 from downtown. Joe Thomas was the lone starter to shoot over 50 percent (3 of 3).
Bucknell had six players in double figures starting with Mike Muscala’s 18 points. Muscala also grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds.
“So we got a lot of work to do especially defensive stuff,” Mihalich said. “It’s back to where we need to decide if we want to be a really good team.”