Saturday, January 5, 2013

WNY Hoops Odyssey: Green, Niagara Feast At Line

And, another day on the Western New York Hoop Junkie's Odyssey ...

Saturday, 3 p.m. game: Fairfield men at Niagara.

Four men's teams were in WNY for the weekend. Two nights earlier the Stags and Niagara both earned lopsided victories over Canisius and Marist, respectively.

So, this afternoon, in this mini-tournament, of sorts, the winners met.

Final score: Niagara 71, Fairfield 67.

It was hardly a decisive, conclusive outcome. But the Purple Eagles, now 3-1 in MAAC play (7-7 overall) are clearly better than some preseason prognosticators expected.

It doesn't hurt to have sophomore guard Juan'ya Green (9-of-14 shooting, 31 points) who was the best guard, in this observer's eyes, among the four programs in the area over the past three days.

Two nights earlier, in the victory over Marist, Green had 21 points (10-of-15 shooting) in 29 minutes.

On Saturday, after things were tied at 51 with 8:55 remaining, Green scored 15 of Niagara's final 20 points to seal the outcome.

"I'm just trying to do what coach tells me, and that's to be aggressive from the start," said Green,.

Observations ...

- This was as rough and physical a game as one could see without a brawl breaking out. There was one flagrant foul and at least four other occasions when game officials pulled players aside to ensure tempers didn't flare out of control.

And, if there is any remaining bad blood it will boil again in just eight days when Niagara is at Fairfield on Jan. 13.

"I wish we didn't have to see them again in seven or eight days," said Niagara coach Joe Mihalich.

Fairfield guard Derek Needham, on both the receiving and giving end of physical play, was asked if he'd be circling the date with Niagara on his calendar.

"No ... just another league game," said Needham, whose post-game remarks were delivered with uncharacteristic brevity.

Another game on Jan. 13? Yeah, right.

- Niagara big man Devn White continued his progress after off-season Achilles tendon surgery, playing a season-high 29 minutes while scoring eight points, getting eight rebounds, making three steals and blocking a shot.

"I'm just doing what I have to do to impress coach," said White.

"I'm already impressed," responded Niagara coach Joe Mihalich. "He continues to get in better shape.and is starting to show us what he'll be like down the road."

- Oddly enough, Fairfield connected on eight more field goals throws in the game (28 to 21) than Niagara.

But the winners made 27-of-37 free throws (Fairfield made just 6-of-15) while benefiting on 27 fouls called against Fairfield. Only 15 whistles went against Niagara.

"The free-throw discrepancy was almost insurmountable," said Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson.

Did Johnson want to comment on the reason for the discrepancy?

"I don't think so," he said. "We'll leave it at that."

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