SPRINGFIELD. Mass — The Canisius College women’s basketball team brought its shooting touch to the MAAC Championship.
On Thursday, the No. 7-seeded Griffs shot a season-best 50.8 percent from the floor and made 11 three-pointers on 19 attempts in a 79-55 win over No. 10 Saint Peter’s in the MassMutual Center.
Six Griffs scored at least eight points and nine played at least 12 minutes. Senior Ashley Durham had 15 points, making four of her five three-point attempts. Junior Jen Lennox had 10 points in 13 minutes off the bench. Senior Ashley Wilkes had eight points and eight rebounds while sophomore Kayla Hoohuli had eight points and seven rebounds. Jen Morabito and Jamie Ruttle each finished with nine points.
Sophomore Brooke Angelos handed out seven assists, which matched her season high.
Canisius (12-18) advances to the quarterfinals, where it will play No. 2 seed Iona College this morning at 9:30.
“We had to take Saint Peter’s out of its rhythm early in the game when they were making shots, and I felt our zone did just that,” Canisius coach Terry Zeh said in a story on the school’s website. “We made some timely three-pointers, and hopefully can keep shooting the ball well in this tournament.”
Saint Peter’s (2-28) made seven of its first 10 shots, which helped it take a 16-15 lead less than six minutes into the game. Canisius would hold the Peacocks to 6 of 20 from the floor for the rest of the half. The Griffs created some separation by scoring nine straight points after the score was tied, 24-24. Durham and Morabito, a junior, drained three-pointers during the run, which was capped by a jumper from Lennox. Ruttle scored the last five points of the half, which ended with the Griffs leading, 40-29.
Ruttle scored on a putback and Hoohuli made a three-pointer to give Canisius a 45-29 lead just over a minute into the second half. The lead would not fall below 10 points the rest of the game.
The 79 points for Canisius matched a season high set at Iona on Feb. 16. The 24-point win was the largest of the season for the Golden Griffins.
After a first-round bye, Niagara will face Rider in the MAAC Tournament quarterfinals at 3:30 p.m. today. The Purple Eagles (14-15, 9-9 MAAC) enter the tournament as a No. 5 seed for the second consecutive year, and third out of four.
Last season, NU topped Loyola, 77-63, to advance to the semifinals. In 2010, the Purple Eagles beat Manhattan, 66-54, to reach the semifinals. Both years, Niagara then ran into a Marist team that went onto win the tournament.
The Broncs bring a 15-14, 10-8 MAAC record into the matchup. Niagara is on a three-game winning streak against the Broncs after winning the last game of the series in 2011-12 and sweeping the series this season.
Despite more than doubling their offensive output in the second half, the Purple Eagles fell in their regular season finale, 61-52, to Manhattan on Sunday. The Broncs enter the tournament as winners of three of their last five. They defeated Loyola (56-41), Saint Peter’s (73-58), and Siena (72-52). MyNeshia McKenzie leads the team with 13.9 ppg through 29 games.
Against MAAC opponents, she averaged 14.7 ppg, which landed her fourth in the conference, one spot behind Niagara’s Lauren Gatto (14.9 ppg).