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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 30, 8:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Times Union Center (17,500) -- Albany, New York. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Niagara 4-4, Siena 6-2. Away Record: Niagara 1-9, Siena 3-7. Neutral Record: Niagara 1-2, Siena 0-3. Conference Record: Niagara 3-7, Siena 5-5. Series Record: Niagara leads, 46-44.
GAME NOTES: The Siena Saints will try for their first three-game winning streak of the season on Thursday night when they welcome the Niagara Purple Eagles to the Times Union Center for a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference bout.
Niagara is fresh off an 80-74 home victory over Marist last Friday, effectively snapping out of a run of six losses in seven games. The Purple Eagles are still just 6-15 overall this season, including 3-7 in the MAAC, and they've been especially bad away from home (1-9).
Siena is just 9-12 overall, but it has turned things around of late with back- to-back victories, defeating Saint Peter's on Jan. 23 (64-46) before downing Fairfield on the road on Sunday, 64-56. The Saints' winning streak has allowed them to improve to 5-5 in conference action, and they have defended their home floor well at 6-2.
The teams met up on Dec. 6 in the MAAC opener, with Siena coming away with an 84-71 road victory. The Purple Eagles still hold a slight 46-44 advantage in the all-time series.
The Purple Eagles were locked up in a tight battle with Marist their last time out until, with under eight minutes to play and the game tied, they pulled away with a 14-4 run. They shot 48 percent from the field on the evening, including 9-of-17 from 3-point range, and earned a 23-11 scoring advantage at the foul line. Antoine Mason has seen more efficient nights from the floor (6- of-18) but he still finished with 22 points. Marvin Jordan pitched in 18 points and Marcus Ware scored 12.
On the season, Niagara possesses an impressive scoring offense, netting 77.4 ppg, but its downfall comes on the other end of the floor, where its dreadful scoring defense (84.0 ppg) ranks 345th out of 351 qualifying Division I teams. Mason is the nation's leading scorer with 27.4 ppg, as he shoots 45 percent from the field and gets to the free-throw line more than anybody in the country (186-of-251, .741). No one else registers in double figures but five others net between 7.0 and 9.9 ppg.
The Saints grabbed a late lead over Fairfield earlier in the week on a three- point play by Brett Bisping and managed to hold on for the victory thanks in part to shooting 6-of-6 at the free-throw line over the final 30 seconds. They held Fairfield to a mere 37.3 percent from the floor while draining 43.5 percent themselves and finished the contest a stellar 20-of-25 from the stripe. Bisping and Rob Poole both scored 19 points on a combined 15-of-15 at the line, and the duo helped out on defense as well with seven steals.
Despite outshooting its opponents from the field this season, 42.6 percent to 42.4 percent, and owning a +4.2 rebounding margin, Siena still gets outscored by 2.9 ppg because of its poor showing in the takeaway battle (-2.8). It also drains just 4.1 3-pointers per contest. Poole paces the squad in both scoring (15.1 ppg) and rebounding (6.0 rpg), while Evan Hymes (10.1 ppg), Bisping (9.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Lavon Long (9.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) have also been solid.
Siena had Niagara's number earlier this season on the road, and with the Saints playing well of late, a similar result should be expected on their home floor in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Siena 85, Niagara 76
01/30 10:35:39 ET
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