With seven minutes left in the first half, Canisius coach Terry Zeh rightly decided he’d seen enough. He called a timeout and let his listless troops have it, then released the rest of his anger by casting his clipboard to the floor.
Thwack. It was anything but a wasted show of emotion.
Canisius snapped to then and there, ended the first-half with a blitz that carried through the start of the second half and went on to defeat Niagara, 62-53, on Friday in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game at the Koessler Athletic Center.
Senior forward Jamie Ruttle scored a game-high 19 points and freshman Lauren D’Hont added a career-high 14 as Canisius improved to 9-13, 5-8 and avenged a nine-point loss to the Purple Eagles on Jan. 29. Val McQuade scored 14 to lead Niagara (7-15, 5-8), but the number of note was the scant five points managed by scoring leader Meghan McGuinness, who went for 22 in the first meeting and averages almost 16.
“We were very disciplined with the defensive game plan and taking away what they wanted to do,” Zeh said. “Guinness really hurt us up at their place and we weren’t going to let her shoot shots. She just was not going to get open shots. She had to work for the seven that she got.”
“I thought that their ball pressure was good,” Niagara coach Kendra Faustin said. “They chased every screen and it took Meghan and Val a while to figure that out.”
Canisius was an offensive wreck when Zeh called time 6:62 before halftime. The Griffs trailed, 15-8. But Canisius emerged a different team, scoring twice as many points in the last seven minutes as they scored in the first 13 and opening a 25-19 halftime lead.
“We’ve been off for 10 days so I thought we started a little bit sluggish or slow, just trying find our rhythm,” Zeh said. “We were just afraid to go play defense. We were so sluggish. We guarded really well in practice with such great intensity and then we didn’t bring it in the beginning of that game.”
Kayla Hoohuli, D’Hont and Courtney VandeBovenkamp were key to the reversal. Hoohuli, a junior, nailed the first Canisius three with 5:18 left to draw the Griffs within 15-13. D’Hont, a freshman from Pittsford, hit consecutive threes to open a 21-17 Canisius advantage. And VandeBovenkamp found room inside, scoring six points, including two free throws with four seconds left. She also had three first-half blocks.
While Canisius heated up from long range, Niagara didn’t produce another three after McGuinness’ with 6:52 left put the Purple Eagles up, 15-8, and forced that momentum-changing timeout that sparked an 18-4 Canisius blitz.
“Niagara-Canisius is always a big rivalry,” Ruttle said. “It’s always good, especially that was our last time as seniors, the four of us. It was just a good win.”