Tonawanda News

Sports

January 29, 2010

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Canisius outlasts Niagara in OT

BUFFALO — The three days in March mantra is starting to become a miscalculation.

Canisius outlasted rival Niagara 73-70 in an overtime thriller Friday, putting the Purple Eagles in a position where, if the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament started today, they’d be one of four teams in a play-in game.

Having lost three MAAC games in a row and seven of nine in January, Niagara (11-12, 4-7) is now trails Rider by one win and a head-to-head tiebreaker for the sixth first-round bye.

The Purple Eagles are struggling so bad that coach Joe Mihalich was trying to use this gut-wrenching loss as a way to boost his team’s confidence. Mihalich wore the agony of defeat on his sweat-soaked sleeve after last Sunday’s home loss to Rider. While he didn’t use the words “moral victory” on Friday, he certainly expressed the sentiment.

“Everyone is referring to last year, so I might as well too,” Mihalich said. “There were some stretches (Friday) that felt like last year. My message was we need to have that for more than just some stretches. We need to get that feeling back, that intensity back, that spirit back.”

As has been the case throughout its month-long slump, the Purple Eagles did themselves in with poor shooting. In the second half and overtime, Niagara shot 30 percent from the field.

Tyrone Lewis led Niagara with 19 points and Bilal Benn had 15. But those two combined for just five points in the final 15 minutes of game action. Lewis, who had missed the last two games because of a bruised left shoulder, looked to be playing with one arm after taking a hit with seven minutes left in regulation, though he said it was just lingering pain from the initial injury that happened late last week.

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