Niagara Falls, N.Y. – Niagara junior guard Antoine Mason, the nation's top scorer, tossed in 39 points as the Purple Eagles held off a late Brown surge for a 68-65 win over the Bears at the Gallagher Center Sunday afternoon.
The loss drops the Bears to 6-5 overall, heading into Thursday's cross-state match-up with Rhode Island at the Pizzitola Sports Center. The Purple Eagles improve to 4-9 overall.
Brown was paced by senior Sean McGonagill, who scored 19 points, on 5-of-13 shooting from behind the three-point arc, while grabbing seven rebounds. McGonagill moved into ninth place on Brown's all-time scoring list with 1,318 career points, passing Damon Huffman, who scored 1,306 points from 2004-2008.
Mason came into the game averaging over 28 points per game for the Purple Eagles and set the tone early, scoring 22 of his 39 points in the opening 20 minutes. He connected on 11-of-25 field goals overall and shot 14-of-17 from the free throw line. Tahjere McCall also scored in double figures with 12 points for the Purple Eagles.
While Brown had a decided advantage on the backboards, out-rebounding Niagara by a 49-36 margin, Niagara's full-court pressure forced the Bears into 25 turnovers.
"We came back by cutting down our turnovers with just one in the final 10 minutes after turning it over 24 times in the first 30 minutes," said Brown head coach Mike Martin. "Mason is an outstanding player, and our turnovers allowed him to run the floor and score in transition."
Brown had the better of play in the game's opening nine minutes, building a 19-15 lead following a lay-up by freshman Tavon Blackmon. The Purple Eagles battled back to grab a 27-22 lead with five minutes remaining in the half.
A 12-4 run to end the half enabled Niagara to build a 12-point halftime lead, 39-27, with Mason putting on a dazzling display, scoring 22 points on an array of treys and off-balance one-handed shots in the lane. The Purple Eagles also scored 14 points on 12 Brown turnovers.
Niagara opened the half with a 12-7 run to lead by 17 points, 51-34, after a lay-up by Mason with 14:30 left in the game. Brown outscored the Purple Eagles, 12-0, over the next 1:30 to pull to within nine points, 51-42, on a lay-up by junior Dockery Walker at the 13 minute mark.
The Bears later came within four points, 59-55, with 4:23 remaining, on a trey by freshman Leland King. A trey by Mason put the Purple Eagles back up by seven points, 62-55.
A three-point play by Spieth pulled Brown back to within four points, 62-58, with 1:08 left in the game. After Niagara's Yahjere McCall hit two free throws, McGonagill's trey with 1:00 remaining enabled the Bears to climb to within three points, 64-61.
Two free throws by Marvin Jordan and a basket by Mason put Niagara back in control, 68-63, with 20 seconds left on the clock.
Brown opens the New Year at home on January 2, 2014 with a match-up against Rhode Island at the Pizzitola Sports Center in the 155th meeting between the two Ocean State Teams. Tip-off is 7:00 pm. Newport's Heather Abbott, a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing, will be presenting the game ball to officials for the opening tip-off.