NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, NY (ASU) – Redshirt sophomore point guard PJ Hardwick dished out 11 assists with no turnovers as the Arkansas State men's basketball squad rallied from nine points down in the second half to upend Niagara 74-69 in its final non-conference contest of the year Tuesday night at the Gallagher Center in Niagara University, N.Y.
Hardwick also added four points on the night, including a clutch jumper as the shot clock expired to bring A-State (5-4) within one point at 65-64 with a little less than three minutes remaining in the game. Niagara (1-8) missed a three-pointer on its next possession and Sean Gardner drilled a fadeaway three-point attempt to give the Red Wolves a 67-65 advantage they wouldn't relinquish.
Cameron Golden connected on a shot beyond the arc to extend A-State's lead to 70-65, but a couple of missed free throws kept Niagara in the game. The Purple Eagles had a chance to tie the game after a turnover with the score 72-69, but missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with eight second remaining. Anthony Livingston grabbed the rebound and made two free throws to set the final.
“We made some big baskets tonight,” A-State men's basketball coach John Brady said. “PJ made one at the shot clock buzzer, Sean made a big three, Cameron had a big three, and Anthony made a couple of clutch free throws. It was a gutty win for us. PJ was outstanding tonight and when you think about it he probably accounted for close to 30 points between his four points and the assists.”
A-State outshot Niagara 47.3 percent (26-55) to 45 percent (27-60) for the game, but Niagara shot 63 percent (17-27) in the first half to A-State's 40 percent (12-30) to earn the early edge. The Red Wolves outrebounded Niagara 35-34 and shot 71.4 percent (15-21) from the charity stripe, while the host team could only muster a 52.6 percent (10-19) mark.
Gardner led all scorers in the game with 23 points, while Golden poured in 20 of his own. Livingston added 16 points and had 10 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games. Niagara had five scorers in double figures and was led by Rayvon Harris (13) and Ramone Snowden (12). Emile Blackman had 11, while Wesley Myers and Dominique Reid each had 11 points off the bench.
“Niagara started out uncharacteristic of what they have done, so you have to give them credit,” Brady added. “We weren't as good defensively as we had been and tonight they made some baskets, including some guys that hadn't done that this year for them. They played extremely well the first half, but we got them back to who they are in the second half because we played like we are capable of playing, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Purple Eagles raced out to a 10-2 advantage in the first half, but two consecutive three pointers from Gardner capped an 11-2 run to give A-State a 13-12 lead early. However, Niagara regained the edge 17-14 on a Karonn Davis three-pointer and wouldn't relinquish the lead the rest of the half. A-State got within 36-34 on two Golden free throws with just under two minutes remaining, but couldn't get any closer as Niagara took a 41-36 edge to the locker room.
Niagara began the second half strong as they took a 51-42 lead on a bucket from Cameron Fowler with 16:36 showing on the clock, but A-State used an 8-0 run, capped by a Gardner layup, to set the score at 51-50. The Purple Eagles stretched their advantage out to 56-50 with just under 11 minutes remaining, but a 7-0 run, capped by a Golden three, gave A-State its first edge since the first half. Niagara quickly regained the lead, but would lose it on Gardner's three-pointer with 1:53 left to go.
Arkansas State begins Sun Belt Conference action with a road matchup at South Alabama next Tuesday, Dec. 30. Tip-off from the Mitchell Center in Mobile, Ala., is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Fans can follow the action with live stats at