Talk to the coaching staffs and neither is overwhelmingly pleased with the state of their team. There are so many things they’d like to be doing better, places along the learning curve they thought they’d already have reached.
“I probably sound like every coach in America,” Kendra Faustin said.
Faustin doesn’t think her Niagara women’s basketball team has consistently played up to its potential. Terry Zeh feels the same away about his Canisius team.
That means today’s rivalry clash (1 p.m., Koessler Center) provides the opportunity for someone to have a breakout game and make a significant move in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings.
The Golden Griffins are the ones who enter the game on a roll. They are off to a 5-2 conference start and are tied for third place with Iona in the conference standings.
The Griffs are coming off a 60-46 win over Loyola in Baltimore on Thursday. In that game they hit a season-high 11 three-pointers while the 46 points by the Greyhounds are the fewest allowed by Canisius this season.
Still, Zeh sees lots of work ahead of the Griffs.
“We’re OK,” Zeh said. “We’ve won games in different ways, which is a good thing, but I still don’t think we’re playing great. We need to do a better job of getting the kinds of shots we want when we want them. Right now, we’re just taking the shots the defense gives us.”
The Griffs overall are averaging just 57 points a game but Ashley Durham has been solid in MAAC games. Her 17.6 points per game rank second in scoring in conference games.
Canisius has found success with some gritty defense, especially late in games. The Griffs are giving up just 56.7 points to conference opponents, third-best in the MAAC, and opponents are shooting just 32.4 percent.
Niagara, meanwhile, slipped to 3-4 in conference play after losing a 60-58 decision to Iona in New Rochelle on Thursday night. That dropped the Purple Eagles into a tie for sixth place with Rider.
“I think there are a couple games that had we played up to our potential, it would have been a different outcome,” Faustin said. “We’re still solidifying the group. I’m a little disappointed by that. I thought we’d be a little further along by now. But also we’ve seen glimpses of how good we can be. We just haven’t done that for 40 minutes.”
In the loss to Iona, Niagara’s post players came up big, combining for 46 points, paced by 20 points from Lauren Gatto and 16 from Val McQuade.
Gatto ranks in the top-10 in the MAAC in scoring (15.7) and rebounding (7.6) in conference games while Kayla Stroman is second with 5.0 assists per game.
“We’re doing a lot of scoring by committee,” Faustin said. “At the beginning of the season, we wanted to be able to score so we spent a lot of time on scoring. That puts you back on defense a little bit. We had to get back to focus on some defensive principles and in the last three weeks we’ve gotten dramatically better.”
Both Niagara and Canisius lost last weekend to Marist, which continues to be the power in the league. The Red Foxes are 6-0 but when it comes to the rest of the standings, it’s a wide-open race.
“Our conference is still Marist and everybody else,” Zeh said. “The rest of us are all within a couple of buckets of each other. They’re all going to be good battles. They may not be pretty games, but they’ll be close games.”