Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Purple Eagles play their final road game of the regular season today and it could go a long way toward determing their postseason path.
Niagara (15-11, 11-4) need a win today at Manhattan (2 p.m., WWKB 1520) to remain ahead of Loyola in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings. The conference champion not only secures the No. 1 seed in next month's MAAC tournament, but receives an automatic bid to the NIT should it fail to qualify for the NCAAs.
If the Purple Eagles lose today, they may lose control of their own destiny in the MAAC race. Should Loyola win at Iona (March 1) and at home against Manhattan (March 3), it would claim the tiebreaker over Niagara by virtue of its season sweep of Manhattan.
Niagara snapped a three-game losing streak Friday night at Marist when Juan'ya Green buried a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to pull out the 57-54 victory. It was Niagara's least-efficient offensive performance of the season, according to kenpom.com, but their second-best defensive effort.
"It was a great win, one of those ugly but pretty nights," coach Joe Mihalich said. "We lost those three games, all of them were close, all of them were winnable, but these guys don't get down. That's the charm of this team."
Niagara has played its last three games without leading scorer Antoine Mason (ankle). Injured two weeks ago in a loss to Loyola, Mason is still struggling with his lateral movement and isn't yet practicing at full speed.
"We're going to let him warm up and see how he feels," Mihalich said. "I'd say it's 50-50 if he plays."
Mason had a game-high 15 points in Niagara's 64-60 win over Manhattan last month at the Gallagher Center. The Purple Eagles shot just 35 percent from the field in the win, but drew 49 free throw attempts. Mason was 13 of 16 from the line.
"We were terrible the first time we played, and now they are playing really, really well," Mihalich said. "So we need to be a lot better."
With all-conference guard George Beamon redshirting the season due to injury, the Jaspers (10-15, 8-7) have struggled to score, but are now on a four-game winning streak after outlasting Iona 74-73 in double overtime Friday.
The Niagara women will look for a season sweep when they play at Siena. The Purple Eagles (12-12, 7-6) are coming off a blowout loss at Marist and are tied with Rider for fourth-place in the MAAC standings.