Courtesy of PurpleEagles.com
NIAGARA UNIV., N.Y. – The Niagara Purple Eagles closed out their home schedule in dramatic fashion, falling to the second place Quinnipiac Bobcats on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, 90-88, on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m very, very proud of our guys and the passion, energy and fight that they showed,” head coach Chris Casey said. “Unfortunately they made one more play at the end and sometimes that happens in college basketball.”
Niagara (6-23, 3-15 MAAC) succumb to its fourth loss on the final possession at home this season, including on two buzzer beating baskets (St. Bonaventure and Quinnipiac).
The Purple Eagles looked poised to snap their seven-game losing streak and as they got off to a blistering start. Feeding off of the emotions from the pregame senior day ceremony, NU built a double-digit lead six minutes into the game and led as much as 17 points after a Cameron Fowler layup made it 33-16 with 7:30 remaining in the half.
Niagara went into halftime leading 46-33 behind 16 points from Antoine Mason and 10 points from Joe Thomas. The Purple Eagles shot 57.6 (19-for-33) percent from the field which is the highest in the first half and second highest output in a half this season.
However, the Bobcats (19-8, 14-4 MAAC) rallied in the second half. After cutting Niagara’s lead to three points on three occasions, Quinnipiac took its first lead of the game at 66-64 with 10 minutes left. The Purple Eagles regained the lead at 80-79 with 4:52 on the clock on a Ramone Snowden 3-pointer as the lead would alternate three more times on the ensuing possessions.
Niagara went back in front, 86-85, with 41 seconds left before Quinnipiac’s Ike Azotam put the Bobcats ahead 87-86 with 28 second remaining. On Niagara’s final possession, Mason was fouled going to the basket with 1.7 seconds on the clock. Mason, who leads the nation in free throws made, calmly drained both attempts to take an 88-87 lead.
On Quinnipiac’s baseline inbound play, Azotam flung the ball across the court which was deflected near the Bobcats’ bench and miraculously fell into the hands of Umar Shannon who connected on the 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win.
Mason led all scorers with 31 points for his 11th 30-point game of the season and went 10-for-11 at the free-throw line. Seniors Marcus Ware and Marvin Jordan scored 15 and 14 points, respectively. Thomas finished with 12 points.
Niagara begins its final conference weekend on Friday, Feb. 28 against Monmouth at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN 1520 AM and Purple Eagles All-Access.