Niagara 83, Siena 79
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP)—Tyrone Lewis hoped to be dancing on the court, holding the championship trophy and heading to the NCAA tournament.
And when the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament was over, Lewis and his Niagara teammates were celebrating just the way he pictured it.
Lewis scored a career-high 24 points and had five steals as Niagara won the MAAC title and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament with an 83-79 victory over Siena on Monday night.
“It was just like I envisioned,” the freshman guard said. “Dancing on the floor, it was everything I dreamed of.”
Lewis scored 59 points in three games to win Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament.
“I’m so happy for Tyrone,” Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. “He’s so confident, all you have you do is let him play and he does the rest.”
Niagara (22-11) won its 11th straight game and avenged a pair of regular season losses to the Saints (20-12).
This will be the second NCAA tournament appearance in three seasons for the Purple Eagles, who also went in 2005. Before that, the last time Niagara made the NCAAs was 1970.
“I’m still trying to figure out how we won,” Mihalich said. “It never seemed like we were in control until the very end.”
Mihalich was right. There were eight ties and 15 lead changes in the game. The biggest lead for either team was just six points.
Lorenzo Miles added 21 for Niagara while Clif Brown had 14 points and 16 rebounds, his fifth straight double-double and his 16th of the season. Charron Fisher had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Alex Franklin scored 27 points to lead Siena while Kenny Hasbrouck scored 15, Ronald Moore added 12 and Edwin Ubiles had 11.
“We felt this was a great opportunity for us and we came real close,” Siena coach Fran McCaffrey said.
With the scored tied at 73 and just over three minutes to play, Fisher made a three-point play to give the Purple Eagles a lead. Siena inched back within one twice but the Saints’ Ronald Moore missed a runner in the lane with 25 seconds left and Brown made two foul shots to give Niagara an 80-77 lead.
Another free throw from Miles with 10.7 seconds left made it 81-77, and two more from Miles with 3 seconds to play started the Niagara celebration.
“I feel excellent,” Miles said. “In the middle of the season, coach told me I had to stop playing like a freshman, making those dumb mistakes. Tonight, I knew I had to play like a senior.”
In a fast-paced first half, Siena shot 54.5 percent from the floor and took a 44-43 lead, thanks to 11 points each from Franklin and Hasbrouck. Niagara, which hit 6-of-16 3-pointers in the half, was led by Lewis with 12 and Brown with 10.
Jared Jordan (Marist), Hasbrouck and Michael Haddix (Siena), and Brown and Miles (Niagara) were named to the all-tournament team.