The Niagara Purple Eagles continue their five-game road swing on Wednesday when they open conference play against regular season champion Iona Gaels at 7 p.m.
Niagara (2-3) started its road swing with a narrow setback against Little 3 rival St. Bonaventure on Saturday in Rochester, N.Y. The Purple Eagles must now turn their attention to conference action where they will face last season’s regular season champion Iona (2-2). Wednesday’s matchup features the top two teams in scoring (Iona 83.0 – NU 80.2), assists per game (NU – 15.2, Iona 14.3) and 3-pointers (NU – 9.8, Iona 8.8) in the MAAC.
NU, which begins its 24th season in the MAAC, is 12-11 all-time in MAAC openers; however, Niagara is 9-5 in conference openers and 8-6 in conference road openers under Joe Mihalich.
Joe Mihalich is two wins away from 250 for his career.
The Purple Eagles’ 80.2 points per game are 28th in the nation and they are eighth in the nation with 9.8 3-pointers per game.
Juan’ya Green leads the conference and is 26th in the nation with 6.0 assists per game.
NU leads the MAAC with 15.2 assists per game and with 9.8 3-pointer per game.
T.J. Cline became the first Purple Eagle to win a MAAC weekly award when he was named rookie of the week on Nov. 26.
Wednesday’s game versus Iona will be NU’s third straight against a 2012 NCAA Tournament participant (New Mexico State, St. Bonaventure). NU will face three more tournament teams (Loyola, Vermont, Notre Dame) in the next three weeks.
How To Tune In
NU fans can listen live to all the action from “The Voice of the Purple Eagles” Todd Callen. The matchup can be heard live on WGR 1520 AM. Internet listeners can listen free online through Purple Eagles All-Access.
Rare November Game
Niagara’s MAAC opener against Iona in November is a unique fixture on the Purple Eagles schedule. It will be the second-ever MAAC game Niagara has played since joining the league for the 1989-90 season. The only other November MAAC game came on Nov. 30, 2002 when NU fell against archrival Canisius, 89-69.
‘Tis The Season For Sharing
Niagara is in a sharing mood this holiday season. The Purple Eagles lead the conference with 15.2 dimes per game, while Juan’ya Green is first in the MAAC and 28th in the nation with 6.0 assists per game. Green, who led the team in assists as a freshman, is on pace for the fourth highest assists per game in a season in Purple Eagles history.
Cline Captures First MAAC Honors
Freshman forward T.J. Cline was named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Men’s Basketball Rookie of the Week on Nov. 26. Cline had 11 points, six rebounds and three assists in his first-ever Little 3 rivalry game against St. Bonaventure. Cline set career-highs in rebounds (six), assists (three), free throws (two) and in minutes (27) in the contest played in Rochester, N.Y. Cline’s six rebounds tied a team-high and he was one of four Purple Eagles in double figures scoring.
The backcourt duo of Juan’ya Green and Antoine Mason rank in the top 15 in points, free throw percentage and steals in the conference. Mason and Green, who have scored in double figures in every game this season, are fifth and seventh, respectively, in the conference. Mason and Green are seventh and eighth, respectively, in the MAAC; Mason has connected on 23 of his last 25 free throws. Green is third in the conference with 1.8 steals per game and Mason is 15th with 1.2 steals per game.
Mihalich Approaching 250 Wins
Joe Mihalich is two wins away from reaching 250 wins for his career. Mihalich, who is in his 15th season as head coach, is the all-time winningest head coach in MAAC history. Out of the 347 Division I programs, only 29 percent (102) of the current head coaches have at least 250 wins.
On The Court
Iona Gaels (2-2/0-0 MAAC)
Iona enters its MAAC opener with a 2-2 record and went 1-2 at the U.S. Virgin Island Paradise Jam. The Gaels have two of the highest scoring tandems in the nation in Preseason All-MAAC First Team member Lamont Jones (25.8 ppg) and preseason third teamer Sean Armand (21.3 ppg).
Against the Gaels (Iona, 37-33)
Niagara is 6-7 against Iona in the last 13 meetings. However, NU has lost the last four meetings which is the longest losing streak in the series since dropping 11 straight from Feb. 11, 1993-Feb. 6, 1998.
Niagara ranks in the top 20 in two statistical categories, according to KenPom.com. The Purple Eagles are 17th in the nation in turnover percentage and SECOND in steals percentage. The numbers represent the percentage of NU possessions in which those things have occurred. NU only has the ball stolen 5.2 percent; Arkansas leads the nation at 5.1 percent. NU has a 14.3 percent in turnover percentage. Texas A&M Corpus Christi is first in the nation with a 11.7 percentage.