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Cavo helps Canisius women beat Niagara

Amanda Cavo seemed terribly comfortable with the rims in the Gallagher Center.

Then again, the Canisius freshman certainly had seen enough games in the building. Both her parents are Niagara graduates, and her brothers, Phil and Andy, played there for Siena.

Perhaps, then, there was some sort of genetic understanding of the ins and outs of playing a basketball game on Monteagle Ridge. Cavo netted a career-high 28 points -- 21 in the first half -- to help the Golden Griffins close the season with a 76-65 win over Niagara on Sunday afternoon.

The win solidified the second seed for Canisius (17-10, 14-4) in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament, which begins Thursday in the Pepsi Arena in Albany. Niagara (3-24, 2-16) is the 10th and last seed.

The 828 in the Gallagher Center saw Cavo catch fire in the first half. She hit six three-pointers -- tying the Canisius record for most threes in a game by a freshman -- and seemed to be the only player on the floor who could knock down shots with regularity.

In the first half, the teams combined to hit just 20 of 62 overall and just 7 of 33 from two-point range.

"It really wasn't just me, it was my teammates," said Cavo, who also had a career-high eight rebounds. "My teammates kept running things to get me open and getting me the ball. I just took what was open."

"That's the thing about Amanda," Canisius coach Terry Zeh said. "She just takes good shots. It's not like she's just throwing them up there. I've told her, she doesn't look like a freshman. She hasn't really all year."

After Cavo took the open shots in the first half, it opened up the inside for Canisius in the second half. The Griffs needed every bit of that inside game to avoid the upset.

Niagara showed why head coach Bill Agronin feels his team is better than its record.

Fueled by 17 second-half points from Shaunna Ambrose, Niagara hung around and took a 55-52 lead with 7:20 left.

That's when Canisius went on a 10-0 run to regain control. In that run was a key to the Griffs' success -- Becky Zak missed the back end of a two-shot foul, and Abby Radunske got the rebound and layup for an unconventional three-point play.

"We won so many games last year off missed free throws," Zeh said. "We talked about getting back to doing that. . . . Today we had some trouble getting room inside, and Cavo caught fire. That opened things up for us in the second half."

Megan Lyte had 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Radunske finished with 10 points. Helping the Griffs' cause was their ability to drive to the basket and get to the free throw line. Canisius hit 23 of its 32 foul shots.

"I didn't think it was that physical of a game, but I guess it was," Agronin said. "We can't send a team to the line 32 times, and we've got to be more aggressive to get to the line."

Despite some poor spurts, Niagara had bright spots to build on for the MAAC Tournament. Chantelle Wilson had 15 points -- all on three-pointers -- and Sarah Wilson added eight points off the bench.

"I'm not as unhappy as I've been in the past 23 losses," Agronin said. "We just didn't hit the shots when we needed to."

Niagara will need to find a consistent offensive groove when it plays in Thursday's first-round game against fifth-seeded St. Peter's (13-14, 9-9) at noon.

Canisius, which gets a first-round bye, will begin the defense of its MAAC title at 11:15 a.m. Friday when it meets the winner of the Siena-Fairfield game.


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