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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, November 13, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gallagher Center (2,400) -- Lewiston, New York. Television: None. Home Record: Buffalo 0-0, Niagara 0-0. Away Record: Buffalo 0-1, Niagara 0-1. Neutral Record: Buffalo 0-0, Niagara 0-0. Conference Record: Buffalo 0-0, Niagara 0-0. Series Record: Niagara leads, 58-32.
GAME NOTES: A pair of squads coming off season-opening losses get together in the Empire State tonight, as the Buffalo Bulls tangle with the Niagara Purple Eagles.
Despite finishing last season with a 14-20 overall record and a 7-9 mark in the Mid-American Conference, Buffalo came into the new campaign with plenty of intrigue thanks to a solid returning core, and a high-profile first-year coach in Bobby Hurley. The Bulls' season got off to a sour start, however, as they were outgunned at Texas A&M in last Friday's opener, 82-58.
Niagara had a strong campaign in 2012-13, going 19-14 overall and winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season title, but with the loss of several key players as well as its head coach Joe Mihalich to Hofstra, expectations have been tempered for the new season. In Chris Casey's debut as coach, the Purple Eagles lost at Seton Hall on Saturday, 83-72, as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Niagara leads this upstate New York state rivalry by a 58-32 count, although Buffalo claimed a 77-67 verdict last December.
Buffalo opened the season with poor performances at both ends of the court. Not only did it shoot just 31.2 percent from the floor, but it allowed Texas A&M to make good on nearly 48 percent of its field goal attempts. Javon McCrea paced the losing effort with 14 points, five rebounds and two blocks, and while it was a nice performance from the senior forward, he'll be expected to do much more this season a year removed from averaging 18.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as one of the MAC's best players. The only other player to net double figures in the loss was Joshua Freelove, who poured in 11 points. Both Will Regan (11.1 ppg) and Jarod Oldham (10.1 ppg) will be looked to for consistent contributions after strong campaigns a season ago, but the duo combined for only 10 points in the opener.
The Purple Eagles lost a large chunk of their scoring in the offseason with the departures of Juan'ya Green (17.7 ppg), Ameen Tanksley (11.3 ppg) and T.J. Cline (7.9 ppg), but in the opener, Antoine Mason shouldered the scoring load with a career-high 34 points on 9-of-22 from the field and 15-of-20 at the foul line. Performances like that might not be out of the norm for Mason, who netted 18.7 points per game a season ago and was named First Team Preseason All-MAAC, but it still wasn't enough for Niagara to avoid an 11-point loss, as it allowed Seton Hall to make 24 field goals while sending it to the free- throw line 52 times. Marcus Ware contributed 10 points, seven boards and three steals in the setback, while Ramone Snowden made an impact in the paint with 15 rebounds.
In an intriguing matchup between star players McCrea and Mason, expect the Bulls to take this one as they boast the better supporting cast.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 70, Niagara 65
11/13 10:32:35 ET