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The Niagara women’s basketball team played its first game of the new year and rang it in with its first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference victory of the season Friday afternoon.

The Purple Eagles opened the game on a 9-0 run and cruised to a 78-46 rout of Saint Peter’s before 150 at the Gallagher Center. This was NU’s first win by at least 30 points since it drubbed Colgate, 78-39, in Kendra Faustin’s first game as coach Nov. 10, 2007.

“Top to bottom I thought we kept our intensity the whole game,” Faustin said. “We don’t care what the score is, we’re going to do what we do and I thought we really did that.”

Ten different players scored for Niagara in this one, but senior Chanel Johnson put on a shooting clinic during the first half, canning all six of her shots from the floor and also grabbing a team-high four rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. Johnson missed her only shot attempt of the second half and finished with 12 points and five rebounds.

“She’s really comfortable with her role and she’s certainly capable,” Faustin said of Johnson. “I’m just really proud of her leadership. She’s the one who when things aren’t going right or our team needs something that I can’t say, she says it and she does the right things.”

Johnson had six of the nine points during Niagara’ opening blitz. Meghan McGuinness (11 points) started it off with a three-pointer.

The Purple Eagles shot 54.5 percent from the floor and went 4 for 9 from beyond the arc during their 42-point first half. NU led by 12 at the break.

Victoria Rampado provided the spark during a 10-0 run to open the second half that enabled Niagara to squash any Peahens (2-10, 1-2) comeback hopes. The freshman had five of the points, including a traditional three-point play 1:20 into the half, made a steal that set up Tiffany Corselli’s three-pointer and also grabbed a defensive rebound that led to her capping the run with a layup. She finished with nine points and eight rebounds.

Niagara (3-9, 1-2) led by 35 points with 3:41 left. Sylvia Maxwell also had 11 points for the winners, sinking 5 of 6 shots.

The Purple Eagles host Iona at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Griffs fail to slow Gaels

Canisius bolted to early leads of 16-6 and 21-9 against Iona, but the visiting Gaels rallied to earn a 69-57 win at the Koessler Athletic Center.

Tihanna Mills’ third trey of the first half gave the Golden Griffins a 21-9 edge with 13:42 left. Iona regained its bearings, however, thanks to Damika Martinez (27 points) and Aleesha Powell. They proved to be too much for Canisius, combining for 46 points on 17-of-29 shooting, with Powell sinking 8 of 10 from the floor en route to her 19 points.

The duo scored 12 of the Gaels’ 17 points to close the first half, which trimmed a 27-14 deficit to 33-31 at the intermission.

Powell’s layup tied it early during a second half that featured six lead changes until the Gaels took the advantage for good on Powell’s trey with 13:56 left, which made it 43-42.

Powell followed with another layup as part of an 12-2 Iona run with 9:42 left to give the Gaels (10-2, 3-0) a 52-44 lead.

Mills and Crystal Porter each had 14 points to lead the Griffs (4-9, 0-4), who have lost five in a row and host Saint Peter’s at 2 p.m. Sunday.

UB opens MAC play

Last year, the University at Buffalo surprised some by going 8-8 in Mid-American Conference play after a 2-10 non-conference slate.

This year, the Bulls (7-4) not only enter MAC play with a winning record but they head into the Stroh Center, when they face perennial contender Bowling Green (10-2), coming off a 93-58 rout of Division II Roberts Wesleyan on Wednesday.

Mackenzie Loesing leads UB with 17.6 points per game. The Bulls, picked to finish third in the MAC East, average 71.5 points per game, which ranks fifth in the conference. Bowling Green, picked to finish second in MAC East, is right behind UB, scoring at a clip of 69.9 per game.