Tonawanda News — LEWISTON — After Niagara head coach Chris Casey watched University at Buffalo forward Javon McCrea pour in 31 points and grab 14 rebounds Wednesday night, he said he’ll happily attend the senior’s graduation in the Spring.
But despite McCrea’s herculean effort, Niagara out-rebounded the Bulls (44-41), won the battle in the paint (26-20) and standout guard Antoine Mason scored a team-high 25 points to lead the Purple Eagles to a 92-81 win over UB at ‘Taps’ Gallagher Center.
The win for the Purple Eagles snapped a four-game losing streak against Buffalo and was the first win at home since 2007.
“Both teams played extremely hard,” Casey said. “If you’re a fan of college basketball you really enjoyed that game. It was a hard fought game. We made one or two more plays and came out on the positive end.”
The Purple Eagles dominated in the first half. Sporting a 28-17 advantage on the boards, Niagara took a 47-33 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
NU’s attacking style gave the Bulls fits on the inside. The Purps converted a number of easy baskets around the rim, which is uncharacteristic of the bigger UB team.
“We didn’t get off to a great start,” said UB head coach Bobby Hurley. “In the first half we came out of the gate losing the effort game and gave up a lot of offensive rebounds, put backs and really dug a hole for ourself.”
The second half was a different story. An inspired Buffalo team erupted early on, ripping off a 9-1 run to open the half to cut a 14-point halftime lead down to six points at 48-42. The teams went back and forth the next few minutes and NU’s advantage fluctuated between six and 12 points.
Then the Bulls seemed to make another charge at about the midway point of the final half, cutting the lead to five on a pair of Jarod Oldham free throws.