Boston College 87, Niagara 83
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) _ Junior guards Howard Eisley and Gerrod Abram combined for 42 points as Boston College withstood a stiff challenge from Niagara to win 87-83 Thursday in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
The Eagles (17-12) will play Rice (18-9) in the second round. The Purple Eagles finished the season at 23-7.
Abram finished with 22 points and Eisley with 20. Niagara got 17 points from center Brian Clifford and 15 from forward Ron Robinson.
Trailing 42-36 at the break, Niagara got layups from Dwayne Daniel and Robinson to close to within 42-40.
The Purple Eagles continued having success scoring inside, frequently using screens to free Robinson and Clifford.
Niagara cut the lead to 57-56 on a Clifford layup with 8:18 left, but it would get no closer.
Layups off steals by Abram on two consecutive Niagara possessions increased the Eagles lead to seven.
On the second steal, Niagara was attempting to call time-out. The referees didn’t see it, though, and Niagara coach Jack Armstrong was assessed a technical foul for pointing it out too aggressively.
Eisley hit one of the two free throws on the technical, the Purple Eagles turned the ball over and a Kevin Hrobowski layup moved Boston College back into a comfortable lead at 66-56 with seven minutes to play.
Boston College built a 23-point in the game’s first 11 minutes, then watched as Niagara steadily closed the gap thanks to 3-point shooting and Clifford’s inside play.
Marc Molinsky’s 3-point shot with 8:44 left in the half gave the Eagles their biggest lead at 34-11.
Then Niagara’s Justin Maples came off the bench to trigger the Purple Eagle comeback by hitting three 3-pointers.
When Maples wasn’t hitting from the outside, Clifford was scoring inside and with 2:57 left to the break, the Purple Eagles had closed to within four at 40-36.
The Eagles built their early lead thanks to torrid shooting. Boston College hit 13 of its first 16 shots, including five 3-pointers. For the half, Boston College shot 59 percent.