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University of Hartford hosts early morning hoops party, tops Niagara 82-78 in OT

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WEST HARTFORD -- It was a  memorable early morning on the University of Hartford campus all in the name of Basketball. ESPN's 9th annual College Hoops Tip-off Marathon made its first ever stop in West Hartford for the contest between Hartford and Niagara University.

For the hometown Hawks, hundreds of students arrived in the pre-dawn hours to support their team before the 6:30 a.m. tip-off.

"I got up at 4 a.m.," shouted UHart junior Sarah Berman. "We got this!"

The game was historic -- it was the first time the Hawks enjoyed a home game on national TV.

"We've set this date on our calendar and told our students how important this game was for our campus and our whole community," said Scott Dolch, Hartford's Senior Associate Athletic Director.

"It's 6:30 in the morning and I figured I might as well," said Bert Sirkin, a longtime fan from West Hartford, showed up in his slippers and bathrobe to help illustrate the early morning mood.

The school estimated over 2,600 fans showed up to cheer on the Hawks.

Jalen Ross scored 35 points and Jason Dunne had 20, including eight in overtime, to lift over Niagara 82-78.

Dunne made a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in overtime and two free throws with six seconds left to seal the win for Hartford (1-1).

Ross went 10 of 19 from the field and 13 of 14 from the foul line. Dunne, a sophomore, had nine rebounds in addition to his career scoring high. He was 6 of 11 from the field. Matt Scott led Niagara (0-3) with 26 points and Dominic Robb added 17.

Hartford led 33-26 at halftime. The game was tied at 70 entering overtime.

"This is about an experience for our students," Dolch said. "We're hoping this morning is a game they will take away and remember."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.