LEWISTON, N.Y. - Holding Niagara to 20.4 percent from the field and having nine players play at least 17 minutes, the Canisius women's basketball team defeated its rival 51-36 in the Gallagher Center on Friday night. The Golden Griffins win the Battle of the Bridge contest and improve to 11-17 overall and 8-9 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Canisius enters the final game of the regular season in sixth place in the MAAC standings. The Golden Griffins must defeat Siena College on Sunday afternoon to finish as the No. 6 seed in next week's MAAC Championship. If Siena wins, Canisius will be the No. 7 seed in the tournament.
All nine Golden Griffins who played at least 17 minutes scored for Canisius, with no Griff reaching double figures. Senior Ashley Wilkes had nine points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes while junior Jen Morabito had nine points, making all three of her 3-point field goal attempts.
"We forced Niagara to take some shots they didn't want to, and I thought they were out of the rhythm of the offense," Canisius coach Terry Zeh said. "We had very balanced scoring and played great team defense.
"Coming into the game, we knew about the importance of Sunday's game at Siena, and tonight's win is a great game to build on and great way to start March."
Niagara (14-14, 9-8 MAAC) made five of its first eight shots and built an early 11-7 lead. Canisius would hold Niagara without a field goal for the final 14 minutes of the first half and held the Purple Eagles scoreless for the final 12:50 of the first half. Canisius would close the half on a 20-2 run, going into the locker room with a 27-13 lead. Eight Golden Griffins scored for Canisius in the opening 20 minutes.
Niagara scored the first seven points of the second half to cut the Canisius lead in half before the Griffs answered with 3-pointers from Morabito and senior Ashley Durham to push the Canisius advantage to 13 points. Niagara would never get the deficit into single digits for the rest of the game as the Griffs were perfect from the free-throw line in the final four minutes to cement the victory.
Lauren Gatto led Niagara with eight points and nine rebounds. Meghan McGuinness had seven points and seven rebounds. Kayla Stroman led all players with six assists. The Griffs forced Niagara into 16 turnovers.
Canisius concludes the regular season on Sunday, when the Golden Griffins play at Siena College. Tipoff in Loudonville is set for 2 p.m.
Notes: With the win, the Griffs earn two points for the all-sports Battle of the Bridge competition. Canisius now leads Niagara 14-11 and needs to earn 2.5 points of a possible eight points in the spring to win the Canal Cup for the third consecutive year... The 13 points scored by Niagara in the first half were the fewest allowed by the Griffs in the opening 20 minutes... Canisius had single-digit turnovers for the second consecutive game and has 29 turnovers in the last three games combined... Canisius won in the Gallagher Center for the fourth time in the last five years and has now won three straight at the Gallagher Center for the third time in series history... Canisius leads the all-time series 48-34 over the Purple Eagles.