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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 18, 4 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: TD Bank Sports Center (3,300) -- Hamden, Connecticut. Television: None. Home Record: Niagara 3-4, Quinnipiac 6-1. Away Record: Niagara 1-7, Quinnipiac 3-5. Neutral Record: Niagara 1-2, Quinnipiac 1-0. Conference Record: Niagara 2-5, Quinnipiac 5-2. Series Record: Quinnipiac leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Having finally picked up their first true road win of the season, the Niagara Purple Eagles try to make it two in a row this afternoon as they clash with one of the newest members of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Bobcats of Quinnipiac.
Niagara went into their meeting at Fairfield having lost all seven true road games on the season, but two nights ago that run came to an end with a 67-63 triumph in Bridgeport. The victory also served to stop a four-game losing streak for a team that is now 2-5 in MAAC play, ahead of only winless Fairfield in the standings.
As for the Bobcats, they captured their fourth win in five tries on Thursday with a 70-61 decision against Monmouth, the other new addition to the MAAC. With five wins in seven opportunities, Quinnipiac is now fourth in the standings heading into the weekend.
The Bobcats won both previous encounters between these two programs, the most recent coming on Dec. 11, 2011 in an 85-81 final.
Niagara knocked down 55.6 percent from the field in the first half against Fairfield, yet trailed by a point at the break. Instead, it was the defense for the Purple Eagles that turned the screws on the Stags, forcing 17 turnovers in a meeting that featured six ties and 17 lead changes. Ramone Snowden led the offense with 18 points, followed by Antoine Mason with 15, although the latter shot just 3-of-9 from the field.
Snowden has led the Purple Eagles in scoring in two of the last four outings, but aside from those two anomalies, the offense has been under the direction of Mason who has led the way in every other contest. Mason is now averaging a massive 27.6 ppg, the top average in the nation by more than two points per game ahead of Creighton's Doug McDermott. However, in conference games Mason dips down to 24.4 ppg, enough of a difference to bring Niagara back to reality.
Four starters scored in double figures for the Bobcats on Thursday night, led by Umar Shannon with 16 points, to go along with five assists, but the star of the show was Ousmane Drame who nearly pulled off a stunning triple-double as he dropped in 15 points, cleared a staggering 21 rebounds and blocked seven shots. Zaid Hearst responded with 15 points and Ike Azotam 10, while Shaq Shannon supplied a game-high seven assists.
Somewhat surprisingly, Ousmane (12.4 ppg) is pulling down just 9.8 rpg at the moment and, while that's still a great number, it is actually second on the team behind Azotam who is clearing 11.3 ppg, to go along with his team-best 16.6 ppg. Throw Hearst (13.6 ppg) into the mix with his 7.8 rpg and it is easy to see why the Bobcats not only lead the conference, but are also first in the nation in rebounding margin at plus-13.1 rpg.
One of the most impressive stats for the Bobcats has them winning the rebounding battle in 48 straight games, the longest active stretch in the nation by far. Add to that the fact that Quinnipiac has won 12 of the last 13 games at TD Bank Sports Arena and it is tough to pick against the squad today.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Quinnipiac 81, Niagara 76
01/18 10:24:47 ET
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