Niagara (6-23) at Monmouth (10-19)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, February 28, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: The MAC (4,000) -- West Long Branch, New Jersey. Television: None. Home Record: Niagara 5-9, Monmouth 7-8. Away Record: Niagara 1-12, Monmouth 3-11. Neutral Record: Niagara 0-2, Monmouth 0-0. Conference Record: Niagara 3-15, Monmouth 4-14. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: The final week of the regular season in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference continues tonight, as the Monmouth Hawks host the Niagara Purple Eagles at the MAC in New Jersey.
Monmouth, one of the latest additions to the MAAC, has struggled with the adjustment, winning only four of 18 league bouts to this point. The team has now gone more than a month since ending up in the win column, having last posted a victory versus lowly Fairfield (63-60) back on Jan. 23. Last weekend, the team's losing streak reached nine in a row with a 61-51 setback versus Saint Peter's at home.
Meanwhile, the Purple Eagles have actually been even less successful all around, winning a total of just six games in 29 tries this season. The team, a meager 1-12 in true road games and 1-14 away from home all together in 2013-14, is coming off a 90-88 loss to Quinnipiac at home last weekend. The defeat was the eighth in a row and the 10th in 11 tries for a group that is next-to-last in the MAAC at 3-15.
This is the third meeting all-time between the programs, with each having claimed a previous victory. Last month, the Purple Eagles lost to Monmouth at home, 85-74.
One of the nation's leading scorers, Antoine Mason delivered a game-high 31 points versus the Bobcats last Saturday, but even that was not enough to keep Niagara out of the loss column yet again. Marcus Ware and Marvin Jordan pitched in with 15 and 14 points, respectively, while reserve Joe Thomas tallied 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor. Niagara, which led by as many as 17, was crushed in the paint as it was outscored there by a 52-38 margin, and beaten on the glass, 51-29.
Scoring in double figures in every game this season, Mason is currently generating 25.7 ppg overall which, as of Sunday, was second-best in the nation behind only Creighton's Doug McDermott (26.0 ppg). He is playing more than 37 minutes per contest and has accounted for 540 of his team's 1,747 field goal attempts, not to mention hitting 229-of-309 (.741) at the free-throw line, which is why he is the only double-digit scorer on a squad that generates 76.2 ppg.
Monmouth led by as many as seven points less than five minutes into the meeting with the Peacocks last week, but the home team went on to shoot just 37.3 percent from the floor and 3-of-13 behind the 3-point line. Perhaps most crucial for the Hawks was the fact that they were outscored by a 22-10 margin at the free-throw line. Josh James tallied 18 points and Andrew Nicholas 10, the latter shooting just 4-of-13 from the floor.
Over the course of 18 conference games this season, Deon Jones has settled in as the top scorer for the Hawks with his 13.9 ppg, posting a solid portion of his points at the free-throw line where he is 68.8 percent accurate, but the team as a whole only 62.3 percent. Nicholas checks in with 12.8 ppg, but he has struggled to come up with those points as he hits just 36.5 percent from the floor overall, which includes a 28.6 percent showing from behind the 3- point line.
Clearly the Purple Eagles are capable of putting up significant points each time they take the floor, but with a defense that allows 82.7 ppg, that kind of effort opens the door for an opponent such as Monmouth to squeeze out a win at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Monmouth 79, Niagara 75
02/28 10:32:09 ET