Niagara advances to play Kansas
Dayton, OH (Sports Network) – Clif Brown caught fire from beyond the arc and
scored 24 of his 32 points in the second half, and Charron Fisher continued to
be Niagara’s key component with 13 points, as the Purple Eagles punched a
ticket for Chicago and a date with Kansas after besting Florida A&M, 77-69, in
the opening-round contest of the NCAA Tournament from Daytona Arena.
The Purple Eagles (23-11) improved to 21-5 with Fisher in the lineup, winning
their 12th straight overall and advancing to a first-round contest in the West
region on Friday against the top-seeded Jayhawks.
Brown drained 6-of-11 from beyond the arc and Fisher grabbed eight rebounds in
Niagara earned the automatic invitation thanks to rolling through the Metro
Atlantic Conference Tournament, capped by an 83-79 victory over Siena in the
“Well, Pete Carril (former Princeton head coach) always said if it’s March and
you’re still practicing, then that’s a good thing,” said Niagara head coach
Joe Mihalich. “Just so excited to be here. We’re honored to be one of the two
teams that get to tip this tournament off, and anxious for the game to start.”
Darius Glover led the Rattlers with 15 points and three players led by Leslie
Robinson had 10 points. Brian Greene and Rome Sanders scored 10 each in the
Florida A&M (21-14) also entered the game on fire, winning seven of its last
eight games and had extra motivation on Tuesday night. Six team members came
to the small Florida university from Illinois, and a victory would have sent
the contingent to the West region for a homecoming against Kansas.
The homecoming was pushed aside by the determined, streaking Purple Eagles,
who used big games by Brown and Fisher to advance.
“Tremendous individual performance by Brown, singlehandedly carried them down
the stretch,” Rattlers head coach Mike Gillespie, Sr. said. “It was tough to
contain him tonight.”
Niagara jumped out to a 12-2 lead behind the scoring punch provided by Fisher,
who scored seven of the club’s first nine points including a three-pointer
from the top of the circle.
The Rattlers slowly crawled back into the contest by controlling the tempo and
holding onto the basketball, committing just three first-half turnovers. A
13-6 stretch cut the deficit to 26-24 with about five minutes remaining.
Robinson’s three-pointer capped the stretch, then he buried another deep
jumper to give the Rattlers a 31-29 advantage with just under three minutes
The Purple Eagles finished the half strong, reeling off the final six points
to claim a 35-31 lead after the first 20 minutes.
Brown buried two three-pointers early in the second half, his second from the
right corner gave the Purple Eagles a 49-39 lead around the 14-minute mark.
Florida A&M countered every Purple Eagle surge, but another Brown three
followed by a Lorenzo Miles jumper opened a 61-51 edge with approximately
eight minutes to play.
The Rattlers drew within six in the final three minutes, but Joe Ballard
missed a pair of free throws, and the Purple Eagles held on to advance.
Free throws killed the Rattlers, as they missed 10-of-12 at one point before
draining two free shots with 1:22 on the clock.
Fisher came into the game as the Purple Eagles’ leading scorer at 21 points
per game…The Golden Eagles lead the all-time series, 2-0, winning by a 76-65
count back in 1998…Both schools were making their third appearance in the
NCAA Tournament…Niagara started the season 1-6…The Rattlers made just
7-of-18 from the charity stripe…Tyrone Lewis and Miles had 12 points apiece
in the victory…A No. 16 seed has never knocked off a top seed in the history
of the NCAA Tournament.