Northwestern State (19-6) at Niagara (16-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 23, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gallagher Center (2,100) -- Niagara, New York. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Northwestern St. 11-1, Niagara 9-3. Away Record: Northwestern St. 8-5, Niagara 7-7. Neutral Record: Northwestern St. 0-0, Niagara 0-1. Conference Record: Northwestern St. 13-2, Niagara 12-4. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Two conference front-runners collide at the Gallagher Center on Saturday, as the Northwestern State Demons take on the Niagara Purple Eagles as part of the BracketBusters weekend event.
Northwestern State comes in with plenty of momentum, as the Demons have won nine straight games to soar to the top of the Southland Conference standings at 13-2. Overall, Northwestern State is 19-6 on the season and hasn't lost since a Jan. 17 setback to Nicholls (93-78). Most recently, the Demons knocked off Texas A&M-CC on the road, 82-71. The team has won six straight road games and is 8-5 in true road games this season.
The Purple Eagles are sitting atop the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with a 12-4 mark. The non-conference schedule was much more daunting for Niagara, with is 16-11 overall. Niagara has won two straight games entering this contest, knocking off both Marist and Manhattan in low-scoring affairs.
This is the first time these two teams have met on the hardwood.
It is no secret as to how Northwestern State likes to play basketball. The Demons like an up-tempo style and currently lead the nation in scoring at a hefty 84.1 ppg. They also lead the nation in possessions per 40 minutes (78.2). While the play at the defensive end takes a backseat most of the time, the Demons have turned up the pressure of late, forcing 20.8 turnovers per game over their last five outings. Scoring depth comes in the form of four double-digit scoring averages, led by DeQuan Hicks, who comes off the bench with 14.2 ppg. Shamir Davis is next in line at 12.3 ppg, followed closely by James Hulbin and Jalan West at 12.2 and 10.6 ppg, respectively. West also serves as the team's top distributor, doling out 5.1 apg.
The Demons got out of the gate fast against Texas-A&M-CC, scoring 53 points in the first half, before holding on for the win at the American Bank Center on Tuesday. West led the way offensively for Northwestern State, finishing with 17 points and five assists. Hicks and Hulbin checked in with 11 points apiece, while Gary Roberson tacked on 10.
For the second straight time, Juan'ya Green came to the rescue, nailing a 3- pointer down the stretch to propel the Purple Eagles to yet another victory. A clutch performer, Green followed his long 3-pointer with four straight free throws to put the game against Manhattan out of reach. Green led the way with 18 points, 11 of which came late in the second half. Marvin Jordan joined Green in double figures with 16 points in the win.
The Purple Eagles are fueled by the potent one-two scoring punch of Antoine Mason and Green. Mason, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, ranks second in the MAAC in scoring at 18.9 ppg. However, he has missed the last four games and is listed as questionable for this contest with an ankle injury. Green is more than capable to fill the void if Mason can't suit up, as the fellow sophomore is sixth in the MAAC in scoring at 16.7 ppg. Ameen Tanksley rounds out the top scoring threats for Niagara at 11.2 ppg, while also serving as the team's top rebounder (6.0 rpg).
The Purple Eagles could really use Mason in this game against what looks to be a formidable offensive squad in Northwestern State. Still, the homecourt advantage and Green's clutch play down the stretch could prove to be the difference in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Niagara 77, Northwestern State 73
02/23 10:50:01 ET