Niagara (3-5) at Buffalo (3-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 8, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alumni Arena (6,100) -- Buffalo, New York. Television: None. Home Record: Niagara 2-1, Buffalo 1-2. Away Record: Niagara 1-3, Buffalo 2-3. Neutral Record: Niagara 0-1, Buffalo 0-2. Conference Record: Niagara 1-1, Buffalo 0-0. Series Record: Niagara leads 58-30.
GAMES NOTES: In a battle of squads from Western New York the Niagara Purple Eagles will face the rival Buffalo Bulls in non-conference action at Alumni Arena.
Niagara found itself on the better end of a 62-61 win against Loyola-Maryland in its last outing. The thrilling victory ended a three-game losing streak for the Purple Eagles who are just 3-5 overall this season. The win was also the first triumph in four tries for Niagara on the road. Niagara will be at home in its next two contests with a matchup against Hartford up first.
The Bulls also earned a win in their last outing by routing Milwaukee 72-52 on the road. Buffalo had lost two straight and five of its previous six before the easy victory. Buffalo is just 3-7 overall this season and has yet to earn a win on its home floor against a Division I opponent. The only home victory came against Division II Mansfield. The Bulls will be off until December 21 when they take a trip out west to face Washington State.
There are less than 30 miles separating these schools which have faced off 88 times previously. Buffalo has won the last three straight, but it is Niagara that owns the 58-30 series lead.
It was a nip and tuck affair between Niagara and Loyola. However the Purple Eagles did not trail in the second half, leading by as many as 10 points, and despite a last second 3-pointer from Anthony Winbush the Eagles held on for the win. Niagara shot at a 44.0 percent clip in the game including a 5-of-15 effort from beyond the arc. The Eagles could have made it easier on themselves if they could have hit their free throws, but they knocked down only 13-of-24. Juan'ya Green led the charge with 19 points and five assists.
It has not been the offensive side of the ball that has troubled Niagara this season. The Purple Eagles have surrendered 79.0 points per game, while opponents shoot 47.4 percent from the field. That has negated whatever success the Purple Eagles have on offense as they score 74.9 points per game. Niagara has also been on the wrong end in rebounding as well with a -2.7 deficit on the boards. Green (15.8 ppg, 5.1 apg) is one of the better guards running the court in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and is more than capable of taking games over with his scoring and distribution. However it is Green's running mate Antoine Mason who has been the more spectacular scorer. Mason (18.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg) has scored in double figures in every game this year and has erupted for 24 or more points three times. Tanksley (10.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg) is another contributor out of the backcourt. However, there isn't a great deal of depth on the roster with only five players scoring more than four points per game.
Although the Bulls only had three free-throw attempts against Milwaukee, Buffalo still managed to coast to victory by knocking down 55.9 percent of its shots on the road. Buffalo also dominated on the boards with a 47-23 edge in rebounds. That helped the Bulls overcome 17 turnovers which was 10 more than the team forced. Javon McCrea was spectacular in the win with 31 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, although he did turn the ball over seven times.
When Mid-American Conference Player of the Year Mitchell Watt graduated last season the Bulls became McCrea's team. The junior forward has taken those responsibilities to heart as he is leading the team in scoring (17.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.7 rpg), while swatting away 2.2 shots per game. McCrea hasn't just forced up shots either as he connects on 55.6 percent of his field goal attempts. There are no other players on the roster scoring in double figures this season for Buffalo. Jarod Oldham (9.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.1 apg) has the potential to do so but needs to improve on his shooting (38.2 FG percentage). Buffalo has suffered a -2.6 scoring margin, while netting 62.4 points per game. Thanks to McCrea the Bulls have been able to take control of the glass with a +6.4 edge in rebounds, while leading the MAC (36.8 rpg).
These teams have quite different makeups with Niagara excelling in the backcourt and Buffalo preferring to bang inside with McCrea. The Purple Eagles don't have the frontcourt depth to deal with McCrea but have plenty of offensive firepower in the wings to keep the game tight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 71, Niagara 69
12/08 10:37:52 ET