With just days to practice, Niagara preps to open the season at Syracuse

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s been a wild start to the young season for the Niagara Purple Eagles. After hitting the court to open up team practices, everything came to a stop due to COVID-19. With that precious practice time gone, the Purple Eagles returned to the court early this week with just days to prepare for Thursday’s season opener against a daunting ACC foe, the Syracuse Orange.

“It’s been different for us. There’s been some opportunities that haven’t worked out previous to playing December 3rd. In terms of the preparation, that’s going to be similar to what the returning guys are used to in terms of watching film. Syracuse has played one game so we’re looking at that, we’re looking at film from last year, we’re looking at our games from last year,” Niagara head basketball coach Greg Paulus said. “We’re trying to get an understanding and a feel here. Sometimes in conference play last year we played Friday Sunday, so in some cases you’re only getting one chance to look at a team. Us having a couple days to do that, then at the same time trying to get ourselves back in a little bit of a rhythm basketball wise, trying to combine the two things is a balance that we’ll learn a little more like those that watch it on Thursday too.”

In a season, and a year, unlike any other, this will be just the first test for Niagara. But head coach Greg Paulus says that he’s preached to his team throughout these tough times the same thing he’s been preaching since COVID-19 ended their 2019-20 campaign: control what you can control.

“There’s a number of things and variables out there that we can spend our time and energy on, but they’re just things you can’t control,” Paulus said. “One of the things we’ve talked about not only on the basketball court but away from it is to try to do the best we can controlling what we can control. We haven’t played a game since the second week in March.

“For us to practice a couple weeks, be on a pause, then have a little time here before we play on Thursday, there certainly is a level of excitement, and our job is to have excitement and play with energy and enthusiasm and togetherness, but we also want to make sure we’re passing and catching in the right spots, staying true to our fundamentals and principles.

“With such a short window to try to develop those things, I think this is going to be a great opportunity to compete against a terrific program with terrific talents, and this will be a way for us to see where we are and see where we can grow. I think we’re going to learn a lot, and we’ll be able to use this experience to be able to get better moving forward,” Paulus said.

The Purple Eagles head to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 7 pm.

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