Loyola-Maryland (15-8) at Niagara (14-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gallagher Center (2,400) -- Niagara, New York. Television: None. Home Record: Loyola 8-3, Niagara 9-1. Away Record: Loyola 4-5, Niagara 5-6. Neutral Record: Loyola 3-0, Niagara 0-1. Conference Record: Loyola 7-4, Niagara 10-1. Series Record: Niagara leads, 35-17.
GAME NOTES: The Niagara Purple Eagles go after an eighth consecutive win on Saturday when they host the Loyola-Maryland Greyhounds in a pivotal Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference showdown at Gallagher Center.
Niagara barely kept its winning streak intact on Thursday, as Juan'ya Green's 3-pointer in the final moments of overtime provided the Purple Eagles with a thrilling 93-90 win over the Iona Gaels. Green was two assists shy of a double-double with 26 points, while Ameen Tanksley recorded a double- double with 15 points and 11 boards. Antoine Mason scored a team-high 30 points and T.J. Cline tallied 11 points off the bench.
Loyola, meanwhile, enters Saturday's tilt having lost two in a row following a 91-79 setback at the hands of Canisius on Thursday. Robert Olson scored a career-high 27 points to go with six rebounds, five assists, and four steals, while Erik Etherly and Dylon Cormier scored 13 points apiece for the Greyhounds, who are three games back of conference-leading Niagara.
Niagara holds a 34-17 lead in the all-time series, and narrowly edged Loyola, 62-61, back on Dec. 5 at Reitz Arena. The Greyhounds had won the previous two meetings, though.
Loyola found itself down by 15 midway through the first half, but scored 15 of the next 19 points to cut the lead to four. The Greyhounds then found themselves down by 18 but a 13-0 run dwindled that deficit to five. Canisius, though, quickly went back up by double-digits and cruised to the win. For the second game in a row, the Greyhounds were one shy of their season-high in assists, totaling 18 on Thursday night. Olson led Loyola in most statistical categories, dishing out five assists and coming up with four steals. Loyola scored 32 point off turnovers, as opposed to just three for Canisius, as the Greyhounds had only three turnovers to the Golden Griffins' 16. On the season, Cormier paces the squad with 17.4 points per game. Erik Etherly is second in scoring with 14.7 ppg to go along with 6.7 rebounds, while Olson is contributing 12.1 ppg.
Like Loyola, Niagara faced a huge deficit on Thursday. The Purple Eagles were down 15 with under seven minutes left in regulation, but chipped away and fought back and evened the game on a Green triple with 4.5 seconds to force overtime. Niagara improved to 10-1 in-conference to set a program-best start in MAAC play, breaking the record set during the 1998-99 season. The Purple Eagles also extended their program-best conference win streak to 10 games and improved to 9-1 at home.
At the offensive end of the court, Niagara is the second-best scoring team in the MAAC this season in netting 74.9 ppg on 42.7 percent shooting. It is on defense however where the Purple Eagles fall short. They are getting lit up for 72.7 ppg. The backcourt duo of Mason (18.7 ppg) and Green (16.5 ppg, 5.2 apg) has been impressive for Niagara. Adding to the list of scoring options are Tanksley (10.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Marvin Jordan (8.5 ppg). The Purple Eagles aren't a very deep team though, with only one other player putting up more than six points per tilt.
There figures to be a playoff-like atmosphere inside the Gallagher Center on Saturday with two of the best teams in the MAAC squaring off. You'd be hard- pressed, though, to find a team playing any better in the conference than Niagara. They Purple Eagles should continue to roll in front of their fans on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Niagara 76, Loyola-Maryland 65
02/02 11:26:09 ET