Niagara (4-13) at Fairfield (3-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 16, 8:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Webster Bank Arena (10,000) -- Bridgeport, Connecticut. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Niagara 3-4, Fairfield 2-4. Away Record: Niagara 0-7, Fairfield 1-7. Neutral Record: Niagara 1-2, Fairfield 0-2. Conference Record: Niagara 1-5, Fairfield 0-6. Series Record: Niagara leads, 37-26.
GAME NOTES: A pair of struggling Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference foes are set to square off at Webster Bank Arena, as the Fairfield Stags host the Purple Eagles of Niagara.
Niagara enters this contest hoping to avoid a fifth consecutive loss after falling at home to Rider on Sunday, 90-78. This tilt begins a three-game road trip for the Purple Eagles, who remain winless on the road through seven tries this season.
Fairfield has endured similar struggles and also brings a four-game losing streak into this matchup. The Stags, who were dealt an 84-75 setback at Iona this past Friday, are still in search of their first MAAC victory of the season (0-6).
Niagara swept both meetings last season to snap a six-game slide to the Stags. The Purple Eagles lead the all-time series, 37-26.
The Purple Eagles trailed Rider by just three points at halftime of Sunday's game, but the Broncs opened the second half with a 22-9 run to go up by 16. Niagara managed to cut the deficit to five with seven minutes remaining, although Rider put together a late 11-3 spurt to seal the outcome. Niagara's Antoine Mason led all scorers with 26 points in the loss, while backcourt mate Tahjere McCall scored a career-high 23. In Mason, the Purple Eagles boast the nation's leading scorer as he averages 28.3 ppg. Granted, sheer volume has contributed to that scoring average, considering Mason has attempted more than twice as many shots as any of his teammates and is the only player averaging double figures for the Purple Eagles.
The Stags have lacked that go-to scoring threat and they are shooting just 38.7 percent from the floor as a team while posting only 61.4 ppg for a minus-8.5 scoring margin. Marcus Gilbert leads the way with 13.1 ppg and 5.0 rpg, and Maurice Barrow is posting 11.8 ppg to go along with 4.9 rpg. The Stags shot a healthy 50 percent from the floor in their last outing and also held a 40-27 rebounding advantage. However, they committed 15 turnovers and forced only five, while Iona made 11-of-22 3-pointers and held a 23-11 scoring edge at the foul line. Barrow had a team-high 19 points off the bench in the loss. Sean Grennan was next in line with 16 points, followed by Coleman Johnson and Justin Jenkins with 12 apiece.
The formula for beating Niagara has been fairly simple: focus extra defensive attention on Mason and force his teammates to generate offense. Look for the Stags to deploy a similar approach against a Purple Eagles team that has struggled mightily on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fairfield 62, Niagara 57
01/16 10:17:49 ET