ALBANY – Over the years Times Union Center hasn’t been too kind to the Niagara men’s basketball team.
It wasn’t easy, but the Purple Eagles exorcised some of their demons here Friday night by hanging on for a 78-69 victory over Siena in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
First-place Niagara brings an eight-game conference winning streak into Sunday’s showdown with local rival Canisius at the Koessler Center.
The Purple Eagles (12-8, 8-1) extended their winning streak by surviving in a venue where they’ve lost many a heartbreaker, including the 2009 MAAC Championship Game.
Juan’ya Green had 19 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds for Niagara, which won for the first time in Times Union Center since Jan. 27, 2005. Antoine Mason added 17 points for the Purple Eagles, who swept the season series from the Saints for the first time since 2004-05.
Evan Hymes scored a game-high 30 points to lead Siena (4-16, 2-7).
Niagara led, 42-40, at halftime, but a Marvin Jordan three-pointer increased the lead to 52-43 with 14:26 left. The Saints hung around, pulling within 61-59 with 8:21 left on Bob Poole’s layup and staying within five until the final 51 seconds. Siena pulled within 70-69 on O.D. Anosike’s dunk with 2:04 left.
Niagara held the Saints off as Devon White’s dunk off a Green assist made it 72-69 with 1:29 left. NU forced two turnovers, two missed shots and went 6 for 6 from the line to close it out.
“They found a way a win and winners do that,” NU coach Joe Mihalich said.