Dec. 7, 2008
BALTIMORE - Niagara's Bilal Benn led three Purple Eagles with 20 or more points with a career-high 23 to lead the visitors to a 91-75 MAAC victory at Loyola Sunday afternoon in Reitz Arena in its conference opener. The Purple Eagles raced out to a 50-31 halftime lead behind 56.8 percent shooting as four Niagara players reached double figures in the first 20 minutes.
Niagara scored the game's first eight points and extended its lead to 18-6 just 5:22 into the contest, punctuated by a Tyrone Lewis dunk. The lead would slip below 10 just one time in the half at 18-9 and the Purple Eagles held their largest lead of the game after scoring seven straight points to take a 50-29 advantage on another Lewis dunk with 58 seconds remaining before the half.
The Greyhounds outscored Niagara after the intermission, 44-41, and spent much of the time whittling away at their deficit. When freshman forward Anthony Winbush grabbed a defensive rebound and passed the ball ahead to an open Brad Farrell, the senior forward's layup brought Loyola within eight at 63-55 with 11:30 remaining. A three-pointer from junior guard Brett Harvey with 9:13 left in the half cut Loyola's deficit to eight at 70-62 for the final time in the game and Niagara responded with a 10-2 run to push the lead to 80-64 with 4:54 remaining. Benn's free throws with 58.5 ticks remaining gave the Purple Eagles a 91-71 lead and Harvey knocked down four free throws in the final minute to close out the scoring.
"They are a very physical team and our young guys found out how hard you have to play to win a conference game" Greyhounds fifth-year coach Jimmy Patsos said following the game. "For three years, we have had the target on our back. I'm really proud of our team and the way we hung in there and beat them in the second half. We are achieving and heading in the right direction. We just have to stop turning the ball over."
For Niagara, Benson Egemonye scored 21 points and led all players with nine rebounds and three blocks. Anthony Nelson tallied a career-high 20, including nine of 10 from the free-throw line.
Harvey led all scorers with his 27 points. The junior guard was a perfect 13-13 from the free-throw line, equaling the second best performance in Greyhounds history. Tracy Bergan was the first to make that many in a 1990 game at Navy. The school record is 16 in a game by Mike Powell in February 1998 against Iona. Sophomore guard Jamal Barney added 13 points and seven rebounds while senior guard Marquis Sullivan scored 13 points. The Greyhounds won the battle on the boards with a 43-33 rebounding advantage.
A three-game home stand continues Wednesday when the Greyhounds step out of conference play to host Coppin State at 7 o'clock. The game will be carried live on MASN.