Five Purple Eagles scored in double figures as No. 7 Niagara topped archrival tenth-seeded Canisius, 80-70, in the 2012 MAAC Tournament First Round on Friday at the MassMutual Center.
“It was a great win,” head coach Joe Mihalich said. “It was good game for us to play (because) our guys were excited about playing Canisius. I’m really proud of our guys. We are the third youngest team in America and for them to get a postseason win it is exciting for us and hopefully we can use that momentum for tomorrow night.”
Niagara (14-18) opened the game the better of the two teams, leading 9-1 through the opening 3:30 minutes. Though a scoreless drought of five minutes allowed Canisius (5-25) to take a slender 14-9 lead. NU followed with an 8-0 run to regain the lead for which it would keep for the rest of the game.
Recently crowned MAAC Rookie of the Year Juan’ya Green paced the Purple Eagles in the first half. Green led Niagara with 13 first half points, including an acrobatic layup with 47 seconds left the half to give Niagara a 31-21 lead.
In the second half, Green received help from the rest of the starters. Joe Thomas and Malcolm Lemmons scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Ameen Tanksley scored eight points and had six caroms in the second half.
The Purple Eagles maintained a moderate lead throughout the second half and had their largest lead at 73-58 when Joe Thomas completed a 3-point play with 3:10 left in the game. Thomas finished with a career-best 15 points.
Green led NU in scoring for the 17th time this season with 20 points. Tanskley had 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for his third career double-double. Lemmons had 12 points and Antoine Mason scored 10 points.
Niagara’s fourth straight win against Canisius earned the Purple Eagles a quarterfinals matchup with the No. 2 seed Loyola Greyhounds on Saturday at 7:30 airing live on ESPN3. The matchup can be heard live on WBEN 930 AM and on Purple Eagles All-Access.