Niagara: 2009 NIT

March 16th, 2009
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Niagara Purple Eagles

Metro Atlantic (26-8, 14-4)

NIT Seed: #3


RPI: 49

Big Wins: 2/14 at Fairfield (83-76), 2/20 Illinois State (70-56), 2/27 Siena (100-85)

Bad Losses: 12/30 at Chattanooga (84-99), 1/11 at Marist (68-86), 1/15 Iona (65-71)

Coach: Joe Mihalich


Probable Starters:

Anthony Nelson, Sophomore, Guard, 7.9 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4.5 rpg

Tyrone Lewis, Junior, Guard, 16.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.6 spg

Rob Garrison, Junior, Guard, 11.0 ppg, 2.6 apg

Bilal Benn, Junior, Guard, 13.9 ppg, 2.6 apg, 9.4 rpg

Benson Egemonye, Senior, Center, 12.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg


Key Roleplayers:

Austin Cooley, Freshman, Guard, 2.5 ppg, 1.3 rpg

Kashief Edwards, Freshman, Forward, 3.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg

Kamau Gordon, Junior, Forward, 2.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg

Demetrius Williamson, Junior, Forward, 7.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg


Why They Can Surprise:

Only VMI and Missouri force more steals than Niagara. The Purple Eagles will pressure the ballhandler at just about every opportunity and that leads to a boatload of turnovers and easy buckets for Coach Joe Mihalich’s squad. This is a team that can get under the skin of any point guard, especially an inexperienced one. Tyrone Lewis and Bilal Benn both rank in the top 20 in the nation in steals and those two spearhead the defensive effort. They are also the team’s top two scorers. Lewis has developed into one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and hits nearly three per contest.


Sophomore Anthony Nelson is in his second year of running the point for Niagara. As a freshman last year his turnover numbers were a little high, but this year he has cut them down to a mere 2.2 per contest. His effort has turned the Purple Eagles from a team that would commit as many turnovers as they would create into a team that will almost always get more possessions than their opponents by taking care of the ball and creating turnovers.


Why They Can Disappoint:

However, Niagara will lose out on some possessions due to their lack of rebounding. Benn, a 6-5 wing who usually plays the four spot, is a great rebounder and leads the team with 9.4 boards per contest. Benson Egemonye is the starter at the five spot and has emerged as a solid scoring threat in the paint and a decent rebounder. But the lack of size outside of Egemonye’s 6-10 frame makes it difficult for the team to effectively hit the glass. Demetrius Williamson is the only other forward who averages more than ten minutes per game, but he is not an effective rebounder.


Who To Watch:

Rob Garrison often gets overlooked on this team. He is not a great passer like Nelson or a superb shooter like Lewis or a rebounding machine like Benn. Yet, Garrison, a 6-2 transfer from Connecticut, does bring a lot to the table. He averaged 11.0 points per game during the regular season and can get to the basket or shoot the long ball, although his outside shooting has been very inconsistent this season. If his outside shot starts falling in March, he can be just as dangerous as Lewis in the scoring department. And that would give Niagara four great scorers and that is always tough for an opponent to defend.


By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 76.8 (41st in nation, 2nd in conference)

Scoring Defense: 67.4 (156, 5)

Field-Goal Percentage: 42.0 (246, 4)

Field-Goal Defense: 40.4 (41, 2)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.4 (65, 1)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 31.4 (253, 8)

Free-Throw Percentage: 70.9 (106, 2)

Rebound Margin: -0.4 (191, 5)

Assists Per Game: 14.2 (92, 2)

Turnovers Per Game: 13.0 (91, 1)


Joel’s Bracket Says: Elite Eight loss to Providence


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