The Canisius women’s basketball team defeated Rider University 66-63 on Senior Day in the Koessler Athletic Center on Sunday afternoon. The Golden Griffins close out the regular season having won four of their last five games and finish with a 13-16 overall record and 9-11 record in the MAAC.
Canisius finishes in a tie with Rider for fifth place in the MAAC standings, but the Golden Griffins swept the season series from the Broncs. Canisius will be the No. 5 seed in next week’s conference tournament and receive a first-round bye. Canisius will face No. 4 seed Quinnipiac in the quarterfinals on Friday, with tipoff in the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass. set for 2:30 p.m.
Sophomore Tiahana Mills had a career-high 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting to go along with five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Sophomore Crystal Porter scored 16 points while junior Kayla Hoohuli added 11 points.
“That felt like a MAAC Tournament game with the intensity and what was on the line. It’s easy to see how little plays make the difference,” Canisius coach Terry Zeh said. “We set the goal at the beginning of the year to finish in the top five. We had our backs against the wall down the stretch, but got some help from other teams and took advantage with two huge wins this weekend. I’m proud of our team for getting to that goal.”
Canisius scored 24 points in the paint in the first half, getting touches inside and also driving to the basket. Canisius used an 8-0 run, including two baskets from Mills and layups from senior Jamie Ruttle and freshman Tamara Miskovic, to take a 21-13 lead. Rider cut the deficit to 23-22, but Canisius used a 6-1 run to take its biggest lead of the half on a layup by senior Jen Morabito at 29-23. Canisius got two free throws from Porter in the final second of the half to take a 33-28 lead into the locker room.
Rider (13-16, 9-11 MAAC) made six of its first 10 shots to start the second half and went up 43-39 on a 3-pointer from Shereen Lightbourne five minutes into the second half. Canisius used a layup from Hoohuli and two free throws from Mills to take a 47-45 lead with 10:14 left, a lead the Griffs wouldn’t give up.
After Rider tied the score at 49-49, the Griffs used a 15-6 run to build the biggest lead of the game at 64-55. During the run, Mills drained a 3-pointer from the wing to make it 58-51 with 4:31 left. Porter scored back-to-back baskets to put the Griffs up by nine with exactly two minutes remaining.
Just like the first meeting, Rider didn’t go away quietly, scoring the next six points to make it a three-point game with 30 seconds left. Hoohuli drained two free throws to make it a 66-61 with 17 seconds left. The Griffs forced Rider to use 13 seconds before a layup by MyNeshia McKenzie made it 66-63 with 4.3 seconds left. Hoohuli missed the front end of a one-and-one, but a desperation 3-point attempt hit high off the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
McKenzie had a double-double for Rider with game highs in points (26) and rebounds (11).
Notes: Canisius defeated Rider for the seventh consecutive meeting and improved to 16-2 all-time against the Broncs in Buffalo… Canisius shot 47.2 percent in the game, going over 40 percent for the 14th time on the season… Canisius improved to 6-0 this season in games decided by five points or less or games that went to overtime… Ruttle made her 108th career start, tied for third all-time… Canisius went 14-for-19 from the free-throw line and is shooting 82.1 percent from the line in the last five games.