Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — Niagara University women’s basketball will need to wait until Sunday to attempt to lockup its first winning season since 2004-05.
Following a 51-36 loss to Western New York rival Canisius Friday night at the Gallagher Center, the Purple Eagles find themselves in fifth place in the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference with a 9-8 record (14-14 overall) heading into their final game, a road contest against Manhatten.
It’s a far cry from where they were slated to begin the season, ranked second in the MAAC preseason polls, but there will still be some positives to take away as the Purple Eagles prepare for the postseason.
“I think we’re going to really try and take the positives out of this,” said assistant coach Corinne Jones, filling in for Kendra Faustin, who is on maternity leave. “We’re going to really focus on the fact that our defensive effort was great and we’re producing on that end of the floor.”
Niagara shot just 20.4 percent (11 of 54) from the floor in the game — their worst shooting percentage in a game this season — and were held under 40 points for the first time all year.
Niagara led for a small stretch in the first half after jumping out to a 13-9 lead. But the MAAC’s second-best shooting defense (36.5 percent) didn’t allow another point for the final 12:50 of the half and Canisius took off on a 17-0 run to take a 27-13 lead into the break.
Niagara wouldn’t get within seven points of Canisius (11-17, 8-9) in the second half.
“I thought we forced them to take shots they didn’t want to and our defense gave us that extra cushion going into the first half,” Canisius coach Terry Zeh said.
The Purple Eagles’ leading scorer, Lauren Gatto, was double-teamed all night by the stifling Golden Griffin defense and managed just nine points. Nine different players reached the scoresheet for Canisius, led by Ashley Wilkes, who also scored nine and had seven rebounds.