Basketball: As season winds down, hopes are high for next season
As the buzzer rang, and the crowd cheered, the Niagara University men's basketball team picked up another win.
The Purple Eagles defeated the Marist Red Foxes on Feb. 6, at the Gallagher Center. The final score was 77-60. Senior Anthony Nelson stole the show with Niagara University's first-ever triple double (he had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and a career-high 14 rebounds). Nelson also added to his nation leading steals per game total, (he averages 3.4 a game).
Although the team has had a less than memorable season, the players have displayed tenacity and have shown that they can be very competitive next season “ especially due to the play of the freshmen class.
Freshman Malcolm Lemmons commented on next year's team, We are going to be looked at differently next year. With the experience we have gained, the way we have meshed together, already, and the fact that we are only losing one player, greatly aides next year.
In their win against Marist, two freshmen, Marvin Jordan and Skylar Jones, led the team in scoring with 27 and 18 points, respectively. With an impressive showcase by the two freshmen, hopes are high for next season;.Nonetheless, the team still has four more games this year.
I think they will definitely be much better next year. With the freshmen gaining the experience they have, who knows what will happen next year? said Christopher Pacheco, one of the team's managers, on next year's outlook.
Jordan and Jones are not the only freshmen playing impressively. Lemmons has shown his skill and prowess for the game. Out of the four freshmen that have played, he is second in playing time, leads the freshman class in rebounds, and is fourth on the team for rebounds per game.
Another accolade for a freshman came from Antoine Mason. Prior to injury, Mason led the team in scoring, averaging 16.7 points a game.
Pacheco commented on Mason, With Antoine coming back fresh next year, we have an even better chance. He added so much to the game before his injury.
Niagara has shown it has the ability and heart to win, even though it is a young team. The Purple Eagles only have one senior and two juniors, while the rest are sophomores and freshmen. As stated before, with the youth gaining the experience they have been, the team can only rise up next year.
Mason added, We have key players coming back next year, which will make the team all that much better. Plus, the team will have much more experience than this year's, which will be extremely beneficial.
Due to the young nature of the team, many of the team's losses this year have happened in close fashion. Wins were easily in grasp. Earlier in the season Niagara faced the UMBC (University of Maryland,
Baltimore County) Retrievers, away, and lost in a close battle. The resulting score was 68-67.
More recently, Niagara lost a close battle with fellow Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) foe, Manhattan. Niagara lost by two points, with the final score being 51-49.
Our close losses are definitely due to our team being young. Also, I think the team was “ and still is “ trying to mesh together. So, when the game was on the line, being a young and still separated team hurt us the most, stated Lemmons.
On the team's last road trip of the season, the Purple Eagles acquired another win. On Feb. 11, the team defeated fellow MAAC combatant the Loyola Riders in dramatic fashion. The final score was 59-57, and
Niagara came back from a 13-point deficit in the second half.
Nelson led the team, once again, with 20 points. Jordan played another strong game, as his performance nabbed him 10 points, and six rebounds.
Niagara can keep their heads held up high toward the end of the season, as they defeated Canisius on Feb. 16. Niagara arose victorious with a final score of 67-65. Once again, a freshman was a key component to the win, as Lemmons had 13 points, and six rebounds, both second for the team.
As the Purple Eagles entered the last two weeks of the season, they had three games left. The ESPN Bracketbuster game was on Feb. 19.
As final words on the hopes and outlook for next year, Mason only had one thing to say, Get your popcorn ready.