ALBANY, NY -- Niagara has become the first team to advance in the 2017 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Championship, defeating Quinnipiac by the final of 88-69.
With the win, the ninth-seeded Purple Eagles (10-22) move into the quarterfinal round, where regular season champion Monmouth awaits. The two teams will tip off at 7 p.m. Friday, with Niagara attempting to snap a 16-game win streak that the Hawks carry with them into the Times Union Center.
Four players ended the evening in double figures for the Purple Eagles, headlined by Matt Scott's 19 points. Kahlil Dukes chipped in with 18 points while Chris Barton tallied 15 and James Towns scored all 14 of his points in the second half. Freshman Peter Kiss led eighth-seeded Quinnipiac (10-21) with 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the losing effort.
After a rock fight of a first half in which Niagara took just a two-point lead into the intermission, the Purple Eagles weathered an early Quinnipiac run, as Daniel Harris scored the first eight points of the second half for the Bobcats en route to 14 on the night. The two teams traded blows for the next few minutes before a 27-8 Niagara run effectively sealed the win to avenge a regular season sweep earlier in the year.
With Dominic Robb in foul trouble for a majority of the first half, Niagara received an impressive contribution from Maurice Taylor, who came two points shy of a double-double while amassing 16 rebounds, nine more than any other participant in the game.
"I feel like throughout the season, we've shown a good level of togetherness and connection," head coach Chris Casey remarked. "I thought we were really focused in and I thought we did a good job of really playing together on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively. Everybody gave us something, and I thought Maurice Taylor did an outstanding job on the glass, which was something we stressed in practice and before the game, we felt like if we could win the glass, then we could win the game. That proved to be true tonight, and Mo really stepped up and led the charge."
In the opposing locker room, however, there was a sense of letting one get away, as Quinnipiac saw their season end with their seventh consecutive loss.
"Obviously, we didn't play enough defense in the second half," head coach Tom Moore lamented. "Two things that caught in the last month were a shortened rotation and taxing too few guys with too many minutes may have caught us again tonight. We went to the well in the second half for some defensive resolve, and we couldn't find it. I thought Niagara played terrific."