Rhode Island 68, Niagara 62
Kahiem Seawright scored 20 points in the second half - including all 10 for Rhode Island during its critical run - and the Rams beat Niagara 68-62 in an NIT first-round game on Tuesday night. Jimmy Baron scored 20, including hitting six free throws in the final 40 seconds, for the sixth-seeded Rams (23-10), who snapped a two-game losing streak. Seawright finished with 23 points for the Rams, who are making their 13th NIT appearance and improved to 7-6 in tournament-opening games. Rhode Island plays Penn State in the second round. Anthony Nelson scored 14 for the poor-shooting Purple Eagles, who finished 21-of-59 from the field, and 7-of-27 in 3-point attempts. Third-seeded Niagara (26-9) had a seven-game home win streak snapped. The Purple Eagles were also denied an opportunity to match a school record for victories, and dropped to 9-13 in making their 13th NIT appearance. Niagara was coming off a 77-70 loss to Siena in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament championship game last week. Seawright, who added 10 rebounds, was the difference for a Rhode Island team that spent the past week still stewing over a 78-74 loss to Duquesne in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament quarterfinals last week. The game was decided with 38 seconds left when Niagara's Bilal Benn was charged a technical foul for touching the ball out of bounds in attempting to deny an inbound pass. Baron hit the two free throws, putting Rhode Island up 62-57. Baron was then fouled on the Rams' next possession, and once again hit two free throws to extend the lead to seven. Otherwise, the Rams took control early in the second half - after they trailed by as many as nine in the first. With Rhode Island trailing 41-34, the Rams gained momentum courtesy of Seawright, who sparked a 10-2 run by hitting a free throw after he missed the first attempt. The senior forward was then nearly perfect, scoring 10 straight over a span of 2:42 that put the Rams ahead 43-41 with 12:20 remaining. Seawright hit a tough 16-footer from the baseline and completed a three-point play after being fouled on drive to the basket. Niagara recovered briefly, and regained the lead - 46-45 - when Rob Garrison hit a 3-point shot. The Rams responded and took the lead for good when Jason Francis scored on a putback after Keith Cothran missed a 3-point attempt. Rhode Island's 23 wins are the third most in school history, and the most since the program went 25-9 in 1997-98. Tyrone Lewis added 13 points for Niagara, but went 4-of-17 in field goal attempts and missed 11 of 14 3-point shots.