Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — By taking a quick glance at the final score, you wouldn’t know that the Niagara University women’s basketball team was leading one of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s top teams for most of the game.
In a span of three minutes, however, the Iona Gaels erased a seven-point deficit and capitalized on late free throws to pull away from the Purple Eagles, 94-84, at the Gallagher Center on Sunday afternoon.
It looked like Niagara (3-10, 1-3 MAAC) had the right formula to upset the Gaels (11-2, 4-0 MAAC), who entered the game on a nine-game winning streak. Defensive rebounding was superb, with Niagara pulling down 22 rebounds in its own end, led by Gabby Baldasare with six.
The Purple Eagles also held the nation’s third-leading scorer, Iona guard Damika Martinez, to just four points in the first half. Unfortunately, they learned in the second half that the Gaels have much more offensive firepower available.
“We did a great job defending her in the first half and the whole game, actually,” said Niagara head coach Kendra Faustin. “We made some poor choices on the weak side of our zone, and those are adjustments that we just didn’t make.”
Leading Iona’s second-half comeback were Aleesha Powell and Joy Adams, who finished the game with 25 and 22 points, respectively.
“I think we have a great bench, a lot of great energy coming off the bench,” Powell said. “If we don’t have that we wouldn’t be where we are.”
After Martinez opened the scoring with a 3-pointer to put the visitors ahead, Niagara’s Meghan McGuinness responded with a jumper, followed by Val McQuade hitting her own three. It would be the start of a half that, for the most part, saw both sideds keeping pace with each other. McGuinness led Niagara with 13 points as the team took a 38-33 lead into halftime.