Niagara made clutch plays late in the game to complete a season sweep of Fairfield, 67-64, on Sunday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., and keep its share of first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Iona (11-6, 5-1 MAAC) kept pace with a 97-87 triumph over Canisius in New Rochelle.
“Our team had an attitude today and we competed like crazy,” coach Joe Mihalich said.
Niagara (9-8, 5-1) led 65-62 with under 55 seconds left after a T.J. Cline layup. Fairfield’s Desmond Wade made two of three free throws with two seconds left after being fouled on a three-point attempt. Then Antoine Mason calmly drained two free throws to restore NU’s three-point advantage.
Wade missed a half-court shot as time expired for the Stags (10-8, 2-4).
The Purple Eagles led 37-33 at halftime. Their largest lead was 56-49 before Fairfield answered with an 11-3 run and led, 60-59, with 5:35 remaining. Niagara’s go-ahead points came when Mason stripped Wade and dished the ball to Juan’ya Green for the layup with 3:35 left.
Mason made a career-best 12 of 12 free throws and had 17 points. Cline finished with 12 points and Ameen Tanksley added 10.
In the Hynes Athletic Center in New Rochelle, Iona’s Sean Armand had a game-high 32 points, including nine three-pointers, and Tre Bowman added 24 points off the bench as the Gaels overcame the slumping Golden Griffins (10-7, 3-3), who lost their third in their last four MAAC games after a 2-0 start.
Harold Washington scored a season-high 26 points for the Griffs. Billy Baron had 20 points and 11 assists, while Jordan Heath scored 13 and Chris Manhertz pulled down 14 rebounds.
“Give those guys credit, they made 16 threes today and they all made big-time shots when they needed them,” Canisius coach Jim Baron said of Iona.
The Griffs led 49-47 at halftime and later owned a 58-57 lead before Iona went on an 11-2 run to take charge.