Niagara falls into Sojka

A pretty fair test on tap tonight when Bucknell hosts Niagara, a team some in Lewisburg say, after Pitt, might be the best team the Bison will face this season.

Niagara (5-3) is coming off a 111-75 win over St. Bonaventure. Bonnies coach Anthony Solomon offered this scouting report inthe Buffalo News story about the Bonnies' lopsided loss:
"Niagara certainly has a lot of offensive weapons. And they started using them in the second half from every part of the court."
The most potent of those weapons is 6-8 Juan Mendez, the second-leading scorer in Niagara history (behind Calvin Murphy). In his College Basketball Extra column (scroll down)'s Mark Simon points out Mendez needs only 118 points to set an NCAA record for scoring by a Canadian born player.

From College Hoops Net's Niagara Basketball Preview:
They return three starters and five players who saw minutes in every game. Add a solid recruiting class and Niagara is looking to come out on top of the Metro Atlantic this year.
All three losses have come on the road, one by five points at Providence of the Big East and a double-overtime three-point loss against a very good Buffalo team. The puzzler is a Dec. 5 loss, 97-89, at Loyola (Md.). It is Loyola's only win thus far. The Greyhounds even lost at home against Navy.

Loyola beat Niagara by getting to the foul line 53 times.

According to a recap of that game:
Scoring 42 points in the paint, the Greyhounds were the aggressors and drew 37 Purple Eagle fouls.
Looking at the box score, I notice that two of Niagara's starting guards, plus 6-3 swingman Charron Fisher, all fouled out. Combined that pattern, Loyola's 42 points in the paint and a 27-point night by a guard who shot just one three, and it makes you wonder if the formula for beating Niagara involves taking the ball to the hole.

This does not look like a team that likes to play defense, they are allowing over 77 points per game. The Eagles don't look to like playing halfcourt offense much either. You don't put up 90 points a night running patterns or making backdoor cuts.

Tempo will be key. Bucknell will look to control the pace by running patient halfcourt sets and honkering down on defense, mixing in enough matchup zone to cause Niagara some confusion. If Bucknell can shoot the ball well, it will also help the defense since Niagara can't run on made shots.

This would be a chance for Bucknell to reclaim the role of Patriot League favorites. Should be a good one.

Of course between students on break and holiday distractions, hardly anybody will see it.

Elsewhere tonight:

Lafayette hosts D-3 Moravian

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