FACTS & STATS: Site: Gallagher Center (2,400) -- Niagara, New York. Television: TWCSN. Home Record: Siena 2-6, Niagara 6-1. Away Record: Siena 1-6, Niagara 3-6. Neutral Record: Siena 1-1, Niagara 0-1. Conference Record: Siena 2-4, Niagara 5-1. Series Record: Niagara leads, 44-43.
GAME NOTES: The Siena Saints are playing some of their best basketball of the season over the last week, and they'll look to keep the momentum going when they visit the Gallagher Center for a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference clash with the Niagara Purple Eagles.
This time last week, Siena was mired in an 11-game losing streak that spanned nearly two months. However, the Saints put an end to their skid with a 57-54 win over Canisius on Friday, and followed that up with a 66-53 triumph over Saint Peter's this past Sunday to move to 2-4 in league play. They'll play three of their next four contests on the road, where they have managed only one win in seven tries this season.
Niagara entered the week tied with Iona atop the MAAC standings, although the Gaels own the tiebreaker by virtue of their head-to-head victory back in November. The Purple Eagles have won four of their last five outings and are coming off Sunday's 67-64 victory at Fairfield to wrap up a three-game road trip. The Purple Eagles are no doubt happy to be back at the Gallagher Center, where they are 6-1 on the season.
Niagara holds a narrow 44-43 lead in the all-time series, which dates back to 1938.
Siena's recent turnaround has come in spite of sophomore swingman Rob Poole, the team's second-leading scorer (12.7 ppg), missing each of the last two games with the flu. Poole is a versatile contributor who is also second on the team in rebounding (5.2 rpg) and first in 3-pointers made (33-of-81, .407). Although the Saints have managed a pair of wins without Poole, they could certainly use his presence back on the court tonight as his shooting really opens things up for big man O.D. Anosike (13.2 ppg, 11.9 rpg), the nation's leading rebounder entering the week. Anosike had 20 points and seven boards in the win over Saint Peter's, and he also accounted for 12 of the team's 27 points from the free-throw line. Freshman Rich Audu did his best Poole impersonation, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers to open up a double-digit lead with just over two minutes to play.
The Purple Eagles are scoring a rather solid 74.1 ppg this season, although the defense has been suspect as they have allowed opponents to shoot 46 percent from the floor and average 73.6 points. Foes are also shooting at a 38-percent success rate from beyond the arc against Niagara. Antoine Mason is third in the MAAC with 18.4 ppg, while Juan'ya Green (16.4 ppg) and Ameen Tanksley (10.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg) have also been steady contributors. While the Purple Eagles are certainly a work in progress on the defensive end, they are averaging only 11.8 turnovers for a +4.3 margin. The team was able to grind out a victory on Sunday despite losing the rebounding battle, 45-27, as Niagara committed only five turnovers while forcing 16. Mason finished with 17 points and four steals to help the Purple and White to its best start in MAAC play since 2007-08.
Ever since falling to Iona earlier this season, the Purple Eagles have reeled off five straight wins in league play. Somewhere along the line, their leaky defense is bound to cost them some games. But with a team effort helping out on Anosike in the paint, Niagara should be able to get past Siena on its home floor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Niagara 79, Siena 69
01/17 10:41:30 ET
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