ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Noah Thomasson hit the go-ahead shot with 63 seconds remaining and Niagara survived a wacky final minute to fend off Siena Basketball 56-54 in front of 7,121 at MVP Arena. The teams, which had entered play ranked second and third in the MAAC in free throw percentage, respectively, combined to shoot just 2-11 from the line over the last 39 seconds.
The MAAC’s leading scorer, Thomasson shot 5-6 in the second half and scored 18 points overall for Niagara (13-9, 8-5) which has won four straight. Sam Iorio added 12 points for the Purple Eagles, who held a 36-20 advantage in points in the paint to win for just the third time in their last 19 trips to Albany.
Andrew Platek posted 18 points on 6-10 shooting including 4-6 from three for Siena (15-9, 9-4) which slipped to third place in the MAAC Standings after having entered the afternoon tied for first. Jackson Stormo chipped in 10 points for Saints who are 3-4 over their last seven games following a season-long seven-game win streak.
Siena led for nearly the entirety of the first half and by as many as 10 at 24-14 at the 4:22 mark following a 10-3 spurt. Platek scored eight of his 13 first-half points during the run for the Saints, who took a 27-21 lead at the break.
Niagara, which shot 57% in the second half, scored nine unanswered down the stretch to claim as much as an eight-point advantage at 48-40 with 6:37 remaining. Siena, which shot 52% themselves in the second half, battled back and capped a 10-2 run with a Jared Billups put back to draw even at 52-all with 90 seconds to go.
But Thomasson responded with what proved to be the game-winning basket on the ensuing possession. The Saints had their chances late – as the Purple Eagles misfired on six of eight free throw attempts in the closing seconds – but turned it over twice in addition to missing all three of their free throws. Siena shot just 5-13 (39%) from the free-throw line, while Niagara was only 10-21 (48%).
The Saints also shot just 39% on two-point attempts (14-36), despite connecting at a 7-15 clip from three, to suffer their first loss against a team currently occupying a top-five spot in the MAAC Standings. Shorthanded Siena played without two-time MAAC Player of the Week and leading scorer Javian McCollum (15.0), who missed his fifth full game spanning the team’s past 13 contests (back), while four-time MAAC Rookie of the Week Michael Eley sat out his second straight game (illness).
The Saints return to action when they travel to new MAAC member Mount St. Mary’s for a Friday night contest at 7 p.m. in Emmitsburg, Maryland.