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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 21, 5 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gallagher Center (2,400) -- Lewiston, New York. Television: TWC Sports. Home Record: St. Bonaventure 4-0, Niagara 2-1. Away Record: St. Bonaventure 1-3, Niagara 0-5. Neutral Record: St. Bonaventure 2-1, Niagara 1-2. Conference Record: St. Bonaventure 0-0, Niagara 1-1. Series Record: St. Bonaventure leads, 84-66.
GAME NOTES: Upstate New York rivals will square off on Saturday afternoon, as the Niagara Purple Eagles welcome the St. Bonaventure Bonnies to the Gallagher Center.
St. Bonaventure has been largely impressive this season, running out to a 7-4 record, but it was not fared well on its current road trip, losing two of three. The Bonnies most recently visited Wake Forest on Tuesday night and fell on the wrong end of a 77-62 final.
Although Niagara is a disappointing 3-8 on the season, it has recently snapped out of its seven-game slide with back-to-back wins over Saint Peter's in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference showdown (61-56) and most recently at Davidson College on Dec. 11 (83-72).
The Bonnies lead the historic all-time series with Niagara, 84-66. St. Bonaventure has won this matchup two years in a row after the Purple Eagles claimed the previous eight meetings.
The Bonnies actually led Wake Forest by eight points at halftime of their latest game, but the Demon Deacons opened the second half on a 25-7 run and had control for the remainder of the contest. They shot just 39.7 percent from the field on the night and were especially dreadful from the free-throw line (7-of-16). Andell Cumberbatch was the only player to finish in double figures with 19 points, while also chipping in with seven rebounds and six assists. Charlon Kloof added eight points and dished out seven assists.
It was an atypical performance for St. Bonaventure, which shoots 45.8 percent from the field for 75.3 points per game, 7.5 points more than it allows. It also owns impressive margins in the rebounding (+6.4) and turnover (+2.2) battles. Matthew Wright (16.5 ppg) is the top scorer despite shooting less than 40 percent from the field. Cumberbatch (12.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Kloof (12.7 ppg, 4.5 apg) and Marquise Simmons (9.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) are also regular contributors.
The Purple Eagles were able to take advantage of their soft home matchup with Davidson the last time out by shooting 24-of-50 from the field (.480) and 29- of-40 from the free-throw line (.725) en route to the 11-point victory. Antoine Mason paced the effort with 21 points thanks largely to a busy, effective night at the stripe (12-of-15). Marvin Jordan scored 17 points, Tahjere McCall chipped in 16 points and Ramone Snowden put up 12 points and six rebounds off the bench.
Offensively, Niagara has been solid this season, scoring 78.8 points per game, but unfortunately its shooting attack is paired with one of the nation's worst scoring defenses (85.2 ppg). Mason shoulders most of the scoring load, as he shoots 45.8 percent from the field and 76.6 percent from the free-throw line for 28.6 points per game, which is tops in the nation with a significant gap between him and second-ranked Doug McDermott (25.3 ppg). No one else scores in double figures, but Jordan (9.7 ppg) and Snowden (9.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg) are solid complementary options.
Despite Niagara's recent surge, it still displays a porous defense, which will prove costly against a St. Bonaventure squad with ample scoring options.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: St. Bonaventure 85, Niagara 78
12/21 11:14:42 ET