Niagara (6-25) vs. Marist (12-18)
GAME NOTES: The Niagara Purple Eagles try to win away from home for just the second time in 2013-14, as they challenge the Marist Red Foxes in the first round of the 33rd annual Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament at the MassMutual Center.
The 11th seed in this year's event, Niagara has just a single win against Fairfield to show for its efforts away from the Gallagher Center this season. The program closed out the regular season on Sunday afternoon with a 71-67 loss to Saint Peter's, running the losing streak to 10 in a row in the process.
As for the Red Foxes, the sixth seed in this year's event, they managed to close out on a positive note with a 103-72 thrashing of Quinnipiac on Sunday, snapping a three-game skid, but still the prospect of competing in this tourney is a daunting one for a Marist squad that has never won the title.
These teams faced each other twice in a span of about a week this season, as Niagara posted an 80-74 home win in late January and then the Red Foxes returned the favor at the start of February with a 78-64 triumph, which means the all-time series now numbers 23-16 in favor of the Purple Eagles.
The winner of this meeting will face the third-seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats in the quarterfinals on Saturday night.
Niagara finished dead last in the conference with a mere three league victories in 20 opportunities, yet the team had not only the top scorer in the MAAC, Antoine Mason, who was also second in the nation coming into this week with his 25.2 ppg. But after Mason, who saw his scoring output dip to 22.8 ppg in league play, the Purple Eagles didn't have a single player in double figures. The squad managed to put up a decent 75.0 ppg on the season overall, but at the same time the defense was one of the weakest in the nation with 82.1 ppg allowed.
The Purple Eagles, who played in the tournament title game as recently as 2009 and won it all two years earlier, often made it easy for opponents to get the upper hand because they ended up averaging 13.6 turnovers per contest, not to mention allowing those foes to shoot 48.6 percent from the floor.
Marist one of two teams that has yet to win this event outside of the two newest additions to the league, closed out the regular season on Sunday on a positive note with a 103-72 thrashing of Quinnipiac at home, snapping a three- game slide as it registered a season high for points. Chavaughn Lewis leads a quartet of double-digit scorers with his 17.3 ppg, letting fly with 15.0 field goal attempts per contest, so it only figures that he would have the advantage in scoring among the Red Foxes. Khallid Hart checks in with 14.6 ppg, as both he and Lewis have picked up the pace in league bouts with averages of 16.3 and 18.0 ppg, respectively.
Adam Kemp (10.0 ppg) leads the way on the glass for Marist with 7.6 rpg, but the fact that he is just 55.9 percent accurate at the free-throw line might be one of the reasons why he is playing less than 28 minutes per contest.
With one of the worst scoring defenses in the country this season and the Red Foxes coming off a huge victory versus the Bobcats just a few days back, Niagara has to be careful not to let this meeting get out of hand too quickly.
GAME NOTES: The Niagara Purple Eagles try to win away from home for just the
second time in 2013-14, as they challenge the Marist Red Foxes in the first
round of the 33rd annual Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament at the
MassMutual Center.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: MassMutual Center (7,552) -- Springfield, Massachusetts.
Television: None. Home Record: Niagara 5-9, Marist 9-4. Away Record: Niagara
1-14, Marist 3-11. Neutral Record: Niagara 0-2, Marist 0-3. Conference
Record: Niagara 3-17, Marist 9-11. Series Record: Niagara leads, 23-16.Game Date and Time
Thursday, March 6, 9 p.m. (ET)Predicted Outcome
Marist 85, Niagara 72