Iona (14-7) at Niagara (13-8) (ET)
GAME NOTES: The top two teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference meet up at the Gallagher Center, as the Niagara Purple Eagles play host to the Iona Gaels.
Niagara is coming off a last-second win over Canisius on a 3-pointer by Marvin Jordan. It marked the sixth straight victory for the Purple Eagles, who stand alone atop the MAAC standings with a 9-1 mark. The Purple Eagles have taken care of business at home, winning eight of nine this season.
Iona is 8-2 in the MAAC and can tie Niagara for the top spot with a win. The red-hot Gaels have won eight of their last nine games overall. They opened a three-game road trip on Sunday afternoon with a 79-71 victory over Loyola- Maryland.
These teams opened conference play against one another back in November, as Iona claimed an 83-72 home victory. Iona has won five straight meetings with Niagara to take a 38-33 lead in the all-time series.
The Gaels had to stave off a late threat in their win over Loyola, as they led by 15 with five and a half minutes to play before the Ramblers narrowed the gap with a 12-2 run. Senior guard Lamont Jones came up big down the stretch for Iona, as he scored 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. Jones scored 13 of the team's final 15 points. Sean Armand added 14 points in the victory, while Tre Bowman scored 11, and David Laury recorded a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds. The Gaels held Loyola to 38.9-percent shooting as a team, and they also outscored the Ramblers at the foul line, 20-8. On the season, Jones entered the week as the MAAC's leading scorer with 22.3 points per game, which also ranks third nationally. Armand is second in the conference with 18.4 ppg, while Laury is averaging a double-double with 13.6 points and 10.4 boards per contest.
Sophomore Juan'ya Green (16.0 ppg) has come up big of late for Niagara, and he is the current MAAC Player of the Week along with Siena's Evan Hymes. In Friday's road win at Siena, Green recorded his first career double-double with 19 points and a personal-best 11 assists with only one turnover. He came one rebound shy of notching the program's second triple-double ever. Two days later, against Canisius, Green had a game-high five steals to go along with eight assists, the last of which set up Jordan for the game-winning 3-pointer. Jordan led all scorers with 23 points off the bench in the win over Canisius, while Antoine Mason (18.1 ppg) scored 14. Ameen Tanksley (10.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg), the team's other double-digit scorer on the season, finished with seven points and six boards, although he posted a 1-of-7 effort from the perimeter.
Both of these teams are playing some of their best basketball of the season at the moment, and it figures to be a playoff-like atmosphere inside the Gallagher Center. Assuming the Gaels can keep the crowd from becoming much of a factor early on, they are certainly capable of taking down the Purple Eagles here.
GAME NOTES: The top two teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference meet
up at the Gallagher Center, as the Niagara Purple Eagles play host to the Iona
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gallagher Center (2,400) -- Niagara, New York.
Television: ESPN3. Home Record: Iona 8-0, Niagara 8-1. Away Record: Iona 5-4,
Niagara 5-6. Neutral Record: Iona 1-3, Niagara 0-1. Conference Record: Iona
8-2, Niagara 9-1. Series Record: Iona leads, 38-33.Game Date and Time
Thursday, January 31, 7 p.m. (et)Predicted Outcome
Iona 69, Niagara 65