The Niagara Purple Eagles were edged by the Rider Broncs, 72-69, on Thursday to drop consecutive games for the first time in 2013.
Niagara (14-10, 10-3 MAAC) was playing shorthanded tonight as leading scorer Antoine Mason (18.9 ppg) sat out his first game of the season due to an ankle injury he suffered in double overtime against Loyola on Saturday. NU’ second leading scorer, Juan’ya Green, scored seven points but made only one field goal and had a game-high five assists while playing the entire 40 minutes.
Picking up the load was classmate Ameen Tanksley, who finished with a game- and career-high 29 points and seven rebounds in the setback. Marvin Jordan, who tied an Alumni Gymnasium record with eight 3-pointers last season, finished with 11 points and three 3-pointers.
Niagara held a 30-26 advantaged going into halftime. A 3-pointer by T.J. Cline – his only shot in the game – at the 5:55 mark in the first half gave the Purple Eagles their largest lead of the game, 23-16.
The difference in the game was an early surge by Rider (13-12, 8-5 MAAC) to start the second half. The Broncs opened the half on a 10-2 run to take the lead for the rest of the game. NU trailed by 10 points on three different occasions, including with a 1:43 left, before the Purple Eagles trimmed the lead to three with a Tanksley layup at the buzzer.
Niagara remains in first place with a game and a half lead over Loyola and a two-game lead over Canisius, Iona and Rider.
The Purple Eagles return home to face archrival Canisius (15-9, 8-5 MAAC) on Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, WGR 550 AM and Purple Eagles All-Access.