When Canisius lost at Loyola last weekend, Cheri Wittlieb learned a valuable lesson -- the Greyhounds' defense likes to play tight.
Concentrating on being strong with the ball, one of the Golden Griffins' all-time best three-point shooters created all different kinds of shots for herself Sunday afternoon.
It led to a career-high 26 points, helping to pace the Griffs to an 87-81 win over Loyola in front of 591 in the Koessler Center.
The win moved Canisius (12-9, 9-3 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) into sole possession of second place in the conference and ended a six-game winning streak for Loyola (13-8, 8-4), which dropped into a tie with Iona for third place.
Wittlieb, who recently became a 1,000-point scorer and is just the second person in program history (along with Toby Foster) to hit 200 career three-pointers, went 7 of 11 from the field, including hitting three of her four treys. She was 9 for 10 from the free-throw line, adding one steal she converted into a fast-break layup.
"I knew from last week that their defenders would be up in my face," Wittlieb said. "My focus was to be strong with the ball, especially bringing it up the court. I drew some fouls and was able to get by them other times to hit open jump shots."
The game stayed close for the first 25 minutes, then Wittlieb scored seven points in a two-minute span to fuel a 10-2 Canisius run. The Griffs took a 48-37 lead with 13:38 remaining, and though a slew of fouls in the final four minutes gave Loyola late hope, that run effectively was the deciding factor.
"We missed some defensive assignments, and they took advantage of that," first-year Loyola coach Joe Logan said. "They made some shots and got some open looks. Canisius is very good on the perimeter, and they penetrate and do a good job of passing. Give Canisius credit, we made some mistakes and they made us pay for it."
The Griffs cashed in on a solid offensive performance, shooting 51 percent. They had 19 assists on 24 baskets and were 32 of 42 from the free-throw line, hitting foul shots late in the game. Canisius led by as many as 19 in the second half, but three-pointers by the Greyhounds got them back in striking distance before time ran out.
Also turning in a steady performance was part of the Canisius sophomore class -- Laura Granzo finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, and Mere Mullins added nine points and five rebounds. With Katie Thorner adding quality minutes off the bench, the Griffs seem to have fixed some of the gaps that injuries had left in their lineup.
The trio entered the game averaging 17.4 points off the bench during the previous five games.
"We've certainly known that they can play, it's just a matter of being able to get different people playing time," Canisius coach Terry Zeh said. "It takes a while to feel comfortable in games, and I think they're in the flow right now."
Krystle Harrington led Loyola with 20 points, while Jill Glessner added 19 as the Greyhounds shot 49 percent from the field but were whistled for 30 fouls. Senior Katie Scherle scored her 1,000th career point in the first half. She finished with eight points, five rebounds and two steals.
The Griffs go on a two-game road trip this weekend, at Fairfield and league-leader Marist. They return home to host St. Peter's on Feb. 17.