The University at Buffalo and St. Bonaventure overcame large deficits while Canisius was a front-runner all the way and Niagara trailed most of the way in Big 4 women’s basketball Saturday.
UB (14-9, 7-5 Mid-American Conference) erased a 13-point lead midway through the second half and went on to a 66-57 victory over Northern Illinois (8-14, 4-8 MAC) in Alumni Arena. It was the largest deficit the Bulls overcame to win this season. UB was led by a career-high 20 points by freshman Alexus Malone.
An 18-0 run by Northern Illinois turned an eight-point UB lead in the first half into a 48-35 deficit with less than 12 minutes to play in the second. UB converted three three-point plays after that in a 20-1 run. In the second half, Malone had 13 points, and Kristen Sharkey scored 12 of her game-high 21.
Malone, a 6-foot forward, was UB’s glue as the Bulls fought back and sustained their drive for one of four Mid-American Conference Tournament byes straight to Cleveland. Malone, a native of Oxford, Miss., was the catalyst. She went 6 of 8 from the field and 8 of 10 from the foul line. She pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to lead UB in that category for the sixth time. Most impressive of all might have been the six steals that doubled her previous career high, with three of those coming as UB rallied from its deficit.
At the Reilly Center, the Bonnies (20-7, 9-3 Atlantic 10) rallied from 22 down in the second half to stun Duquesne (16-9, 8-4 A-10), 63-62, in a battle for second place in the conference. Katie Healy (Lancaster) led the Bonnies with 26 points, one under her career high. Hannah Little added 15 points as SBU shot 61.5 percent in the second half.
Healy (10 points) and Little (8) combined for all but three of Bona’s 21 first-half points. Duquesne closed the first half on a 12-1 run to take a 35-21 lead into the break, then expanded the advantage to 47-25. Threes by Emily Michael, Nyla Rueter and Chelsea Bowker were part of the Bona comeback. Healy, who had 16 second-half points, scored a basket on a putback that finally put Bona in front with 1:11 remaining.
The victory assured Bona its fifth 20-win season in Jim Crowley’s tenure as head coach.
Canisius (10-15, 6-10 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) scored the first seven points of the game and shot nearly 55 percent in defeating Siena (7-18, 2-14), 75-66, at the Koessler Athletic Center. Sophomore Tiahana Mills scored a career-high 16 for Canisius, which led by as many as 21 in the second half.
“I liked our aggressiveness to start the game but that came with playing within ourselves. That’s a combination we have struggled with this season,” Canisius coach Terry Zeh said. “We got a little sloppy with the basketball in the second half, but players stepped up and made plays when we needed them.”
In Lewiston, Manhattan (8-17, 7-9 MAAC) earned its second sweep ever in Western New York road swings, defeating Niagara, 64-56. Chanel Johnson had 16 points for the Purple Eagles (8-17, 6-10 MAAC).