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Zips shut down Purple Eagles' offense Shooting drought hinders Niagara

Are you familiar with the expression that involves being unable to hit the broadside of a barn?

Unfortunately, the Niagara women's basketball team is all too familiar with the saying these days.

The Purple Eagles suffered their worst offensive performance of the year in an 82-55 loss to Akron in front of 379 in the Gallagher Center on Thursday night.

That marks the lowest point total for Niagara this season coupled with its worst shooting -- hitting just 20 of its 71 shots (28.2 percent).

"It felt like there was a lid on the basket," said guard Michelle Manfredi, who had five points and five assists. "Everything we got offensively, our looks were open but our shots, we just couldn't hit them tonight."

"It was unbelievable," said forward Sarah Wilson who led Niagara with 14 points but hit just 4 of 15 from the field. "Even baby shots wouldn't fall."

It's been a trend of late for Niagara (2-4), now on a four-game losing skid. The Purple Eagles opened the season with two wins shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.

But in their last four games, they've shot just 34.6 percent (84 of 243) with the new low coming Thursday.

The problem seems to come in small bits of panic and with a loss of confidence.

"It's just been the momentum," Manfredi said. "We get down but not by that much. They other team will hit a shot, we'll come down and miss, and they'll hit another shot. We keep getting down and we need to build ourselves back up after that."

But more concerning for coach Kendra Faustin is the way the lack of offensive production affected the defensive end.

While the offense was notably bad, with layups and easy jumpers clanking off the rim, the defense also suffered one of its worst outings of the year. The 82 points by Akron marked the most surrendered by the Purple Eagles this season. The Zips did that on 50.9 percent shooting from the field, including hitting nine of their 14 three-point attempts.

It's the second straight game that Niagara has allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent or better from the field after Marshall hit 26 of its 52 shots in a 79-66 win Saturday.

"We did not have a good offensive night," Faustin said. "We had good looks and we're going to have those kinds of nights. We have to learn to battle through those and not allow our offense to affect our defense or our overall performance level."

"The part that I'm frustrated and disappointed in is that our defense gave up. We can't let our offense dictate our defense. Just because shots aren't falling, we can't take steps back."

For a while in the first half, defense kept Niagara in the game as the Purple Eagles forced 10 Akron turnovers.

Still, Niagara's poor shooting started to catch up and Akron was hitting its shots. By halftime, the Zips had built a 39-30 lead.

Akron then went on an 11-3 run to start the second half, taking a 50-33 lead and securing control of the game.

"I think we did a really good job in the second half of dishing the basketball when [Niagara] collapsed on us," said Akron guard Sarah Tokodi, who had a game-high 27 points and seven assists. "In the second half we were able to create from them swarming the ball and hit open people. . . . When we have the momentum, it's just a lot easier for us to be more relaxed when we shoot and drive and to make the right decisions."

Also hitting double figures for the Zips (3-4) were Keyla Snowden with 22 points and Kara Murphy with 14 points.

Niagara returns to action Saturday when it hosts Big 4 rival University at Buffalo at 5 p.m. in the Gallagher Center.


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