Niagara University, riding a six-game conference winning streak, is the hottest team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference but Joe Mihalich won’t overlook struggling Manhattan or anyone else.
The Purple Eagles, off to their best MAAC start in 14 seasons, welcomes the Jaspers (5-12, 3-4) for a 3 p.m. game today at the Gallagher Center (Radio 550 AM).
“I know it’s going to sound like coach-talk but in this league you better show up every night,” Mihalich said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re home or away or whatever. You better show up every night because if you don’t, you’re not going to win.”
Perhaps, but the Purple Eagles are on a huge surge. Niagara (10-8, 6-1) won its sixth consecutive MAAC game in convincing fashion against Siena on Thursday. The Purple Eagles shot a season-high 54.2 percent, the program’s highest since a victory over Howard on Nov. 20, 2009. Niagara also tied season-highs in three-point percentage (50.0) and assists (18) en route to its largest margin of victory against Siena in MAAC play and its largest win over a conference foe since beating Manhattan, 88-64, on Dec. 4, 2009.
“Everyone was creating for everyone else,” said sophomore point guard Juan’ya Green. “We got open looks and everybody knocked down shots.”
Niagara has won 11 of the last 15 meetings against the Jaspers. The Purple Eagles are 6-2 in the last eight meetings at the Gallagher Center against Manhattan.
Elsewhere, Canisius College (11-7, 4-3), which lost back-to-back games on the road until rallying to beat Manhattan on Thursday, takes on Siena (4-14, 2-5). at 2 at the Koessler Center (Radio 1400 AM).
Golden Griffins senior Isaac Sosa scored a season-high 25 points on the strength of five three-pointers, while fellow senior Harold Washington scored 12 points with five assists to beat the Jaspers, 64-60.
It marked the 400th career victory for first-year Canisius coach Jim Baron, who is in his 26th season as a head coach at the Division I level. Baron is just the second Canisius coach in school history to earn 400 career wins, joining former coach John Beilein, now at Michigan. He is also just the fifth coach in the history of the MAAC to reach 400 or more Division I coaching wins, joining a group that includes Beilein, Mike Deane (Siena), Pat Kennedy (Iona) and Tom Penders (Fordham).
St. Bonaventure (7-9, 0-3 Atlantic 10) comes into its 1 p.m. game (CBS Sports Network, Radio 1450 AM) at Temple (12-4, 2-1) on a six-game losing streak, a 14-game losing streak against the Owls and a 0-31 mark at Temple. This might be the last chance to defeat the Owls in Philadelphia because they’re slated to move to the Big East next season.
The Bonnies suffered a heartbreaking loss Wednesday against Xavier when the Musketeers’ Semaj Christon converted a driving lay-in with 5.1 seconds remaining to give Xavier a 66-64 win. Sophomore Youssou Ndoye posted a career-high 16 points off the bench, and senior Eric Mosley added 13.
The University at Buffalo (5-12, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) looks to end a four-game skid at 7 against Bowling Green (6-10, 1-2) at Alumni Arena (Radio 1230 AM).
Junior forward Javon McCrea was the lone bright spot in Wednesday’s 80-68 loss to Kent State. McCrea scored a career-best 33 points and added 10 boards for his third double-double in four games. He also added four blocked shots and two steals to his stat line while finishing a perfect 15-for-15 from the free throw line, the third most free throws made in a game in school history.