The Niagara men’s basketball team opened its home schedule on Tuesday with an 86-69 win over the St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash.
“We are really happy with the win,” head coach Joe Mihalich said. “I thought we played some good basketball in the first half (and) I thought were locked in defensively. We let the lead get to us, but it’s a positive problem learning how to play with a 21-point lead.”
The Purple Eagles (1-0) built a 22-point first half lead and shot 50 percent from the field on their way to evening their record to 1-1 on the season. Four players scored in double figures in the game, but it was Antoine Mason and freshman T.J. Cline that sparked the first half scoring output.
Mason scored 13 points to lead all scores at the half while Cline added 12 points, including going 2-for-2 from 3-pointers, and four rebounds coming off the bench to help NU take a 45-24 halftime lead.
NU’s lead was trimmed to under single-digits once, 56-48, with 11 minutes left in the half but its lead ballooned to 25 points on a 3-pointer by Juan’ya Green with three minutes remaining.
Niagara was less than a minute away from record its first 20-point win in three seasons, but a 3-pointer by St. Francis (0-2) cut the score to 86-69.
Mason led all scorers with 25 points, which was his highest total since netting 25 against Marist on Jan. 15, 2012. Cline finished with career highs with 15 points and seven rebounds. Green had 17 points and a game-high five assists and his childhood friend Ameen Tanksley had 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
“I thought the contributions were terrific,” Mihalich added. “It was great to see Joe Thomas get eight points and eight rebounds in 17 minutes because he has been working hard. A maybe the star of the night was TJ who gave us a boast in the first half.”
Niagara is back on the court on Friday when it hosts Bucknell at 7 p.m. as part of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project.