BY MICHAEL MROZIAK firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — After jumping out to an early 10-4 lead, Niagara University women's basketball struggled with defensive rebounding and eventually found their hosts, regional archrival Canisius College, pulling away to a 62-53 win at the Koessler Center late Friday afternoon.
It was a disappointing finish for a Purple Eagles team (7-15 overall, 5-8 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) that hadn't lost at Canisius (9-13 overall, 5-8 MAAC) in the past two years and had defeated the Golden Griffins at the Gallagher Center, 69-60, on January 29.
Niagara head coach Kendra Faustin met with reporters briefly after the game. There was little to discuss except for what was quickly acknowledged as the root cause of her team's downfall, poor rebounding.
"I thought we did a great job rebounding in the first game and we did not tonight," said Faustin following the game.
"I think when we first went into the zone, we didn't do a good job of going and getting the basketball."
The struggles were most apparent in the early stages of the second half, when Purple Eagles players couldn't seem to get a grip on the loose ball, giving Canisius several more chances at the basket after missed initial shots.
Another key to Canisius' success was containing leading Purple Eagle scorers Meghan McGuinness and Chanel Johnson, who finished the game with a combined nine points. McGuinness was just 1-for-7 in the field and 1-for-3 from three-point range. Johnson went 2-for-11 from the field.
"We were very disciplined with the defensive game plan, and taking away what they wanted to do," said Canisius head coach Terry Zeh. "Meghan McGuinness really hurt us up at their place (January 29), and we weren't going to let her shoot shots. She was not going to get open shots."
McGuinness also found herself in foul trouble, committing her fourth foul of the game with 7:17 remaining in the second half.
Meanwhile, Canisius' Jamie Ruttle and Lauren D'Hont provided a one-two punch that built second-half leads that Niagara would come close to erasing but could never get close enough to tie. One of Ruttle's two 3-pointers opened scoring in the second half. Her second from behind the arc, with 2:46 remaining, was perhaps the death blow, followed up by a layup that extended the Griffins' lead to 11 points.
Ruttle finished the game with 19 points, while D'Hont, who hit four times from 3-point range, had 14 points.
Val McQuade led the Purple Eagles in scoring with 14 points. Sophomore Sam Lapszynski was Niagara's second-leading scorer in the game with eight points.
Niagara travels to Lawrenceville, NJ on Sunday to face Rider, beginning at 1 p.m.
NOTES: Friday afternoon's game at the Koessler Center was broadcast live online on ESPN3... The Niagara loss puts the school behind, 9-7, in this season's Battle of the Bridge series, which awards points to the schools over the course of the academic year and finishes with the awarding of the Canal Cup... The game at the Koessler Center was a homecoming of sorts for one member of Niagara's coaching staff. Brianna Lucas, the team's Director of Basketball Operations, was a four-year member of the Griffins women's program, including the 2008-09 team that went 24-9, graduating from Canisius in 2010.