All signs pointed to a tight defensive struggle last night at the Daskalakis Athletic Center, and Drexel came out on the wrong side again.
Leading by a point with just over one minute left, visiting Niagara held on for a 67-62 victory that left the Dragons with a three-game losing streak.
Niagara improved to 8-2 by taking its seventh win in its last eight outings. Drexel, which had a two-point edge at intermission, fell to 2-4.
The Dragons went into the contest shooting 32 percent from the floor and giving up an average of 63 points. The Purple Eagles had been making 44 percent of their shots and holding opponents to an average of 65 points.
When the contest was over, neither team had shot better than 36 percent.
Drexel had a couple of chances at the end to win, but couldn't finish.
Forward Evan Neisler, who had career highs with 15 points and 13 rebounds, was called for traveling after coming down with a missed Niagara shot with 29 seconds left and Niagara leading by 63-62.
The Dragons' Scott Rodgers had a team-high 19 points, but with the Purple Eagles up by 65-62 with 10 seconds to go, his three-point jumper was off.
"We can't make a shot," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. The Dragons are "in every game with a minute to go, and we're losing these games with a shot to win and a minute to go. My team has played extremely hard, and we haven't given up, but you have to make baskets. That's a part of basketball."
Niagara is guided by former La Salle player and assistant coach Joe Mihalich, who is in his 11th year with the team. Phil Martelli Jr., son of the St. Joseph's coach, is on the Purple Eagles staff. On the team's roster are junior guard Tyrone Lewis (Levittown and Truman High), junior swingman Bilal Benn (a Villanova transfer who played at Cardinal Dougherty), and reserve forward Kashief Edwards (Imhotep Charter), a 6-foot-6 freshman.
The 5-11 Lewis finished with a game-high 22 points. Benn, a 6-5 native Philadelphian, attended Villanova out of Virginia's Hargrave Military Academy. Now in his first year with Niagara after sitting out last season under NCAA rules, he had 16 points and seven rebounds.
Drexel led at the break, 30-28. There were eight lead changes during the first 20 minutes, and 13 for the game.
"That was just what you expected," Mihalich said. "For 30 minutes, Drexel was the toughest team on the floor. The last 10 minutes, I thought we were."