GAME NOTES: The Niagara Purple Eagles will play host to the New Mexico State Aggies as the two squads battle at the Gallagher Center Sunday afternoon in regional action of the 2K Sports Classic.
It will be the second game in as many days for New Mexico State which dropped a 62-49 decision to Bucknell on Saturday night. The loss was the second of this season for the Aggies who are now 1-2 overall on the year. The Aggies will return home to face Northern New Mexico in its next contest, the first of two straight home games.
Niagara has an identical 1-2 mark overall this season. The Purple Eagles were off on Saturday but also fell to Bucknell (88-71) in its last game on Friday night. This game is part of a six-game stretch for Niagara in the Empire State with a matchup against St. Bonaventure next.
When these teams tip off it will be for the first time on the hardwood.
The Aggies simply couldn't shoot well in the loss to Bucknell. New Mexico State finished with just 14 total fields in the game and shot 29.2 percent from the floor overall. The Aggies also lost the battle of the boards (35-30) but did have the superior night from beyond the arc with an 18-9 edge in points from 3-point range. Daniel Mullings was the go-to scorer in the contest, putting in 22 points while also leading the team with six rebounds.
Through three games Mullings is one of two players for the Aggies averaging in double figures. Mullings (15.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is normally the second option behind Tyrone Watson. The senior forward (17.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg) is playing just shy of 30 minutes per game and was the only other player with more than 10 points against Bucknell with 13. Bandja Sy has tied with Mullings for the most minutes this season, but has not come anywhere close in production. The 6-foot-8 forward has connected on only 7-of-27 shots from the floor for a 6.7 points per game average. Sy has made up for the offensive woes a bit on the glass, as he leads the team in rebounding (7.3 pg). Tshilidzi Nephawe has also been erratic in shooting (4-of-11) and has cost the Aggies in other ways as well with a team-leading eight turnovers and 10 fouls committed. Sim Bhullar (6.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg), a 7-foot-5 center, has provided an imposing inside presence off the bench.
Niagara let itself down defensively against Bucknell. The Purple Eagles didn't seem to have an answer on the defensive end and allowed the Bison to connected on 52.5 percent of their shot attempts including a 9-of-18 showing from beyond the arc. On the other end, Niagara shot just 34.9 percent and needed 30 shots from beyond the arc for its nine 3-pointers. Antoine Mason (14 points) and Juan'ya Green (13 points) led the way in scoring but combined to connect on only 5-of-26 shot attempts.
Failing to slow opposing offenses has been an issue on the young season for Niagara. Despite scoring at a healthy 80.0 points per game clip, the Purple Eagles have not been able to get wins by surrendering 86.3 on the other end. Teams are also shooting an even 50.0 percent from the floor against the Purple Eagles. Green really needs to shake off the rust. Although he is scoring well in terms of total points (14.7 ppg) his 33.3 field goal percentage has not been as stellar. Green hasn't been a selfish player though as he has handed out 6.3 assists per contest. Mason (16.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg) is another scorer that has totaled an impressive amount of points but has not done so efficiently (39.0 FG percentage). Ameen Tanksley (12.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) is a third guard scoring in double figures for the Purple Eagles who are reliant on their backcourt. Forwards Marvin Jordan (8.3 ppg) and Joe Thomas (6.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) are the best option up front.
There is no doubt that Niagara can score but until the Purple Eagles can solve their defensive issues that won't matter. New Mexico State has been much less of an offensive power, so expect the Purple Eagles to have an improved performance on defense in this matchup.
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