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Canisius women overwhelm Niagara Griffins clinch second seed in MAAC tourney

Saturday's Canisius-Niagara game won't be remembered as a classic by any stretch, but it was still memorable for the Golden Griffins.

A crowd of 1,450 inside the Koessler Center saw the host Griffins earn an easy win, 65-39, over rival Niagara in the conference finale for both teams. The win was the 22nd of the season for the Griffs, setting a school Division I record. It was also their 11th home win of the year, another school record.

Canisius used 19 offensive rebounds to overcome 27 percent shooting in the win.

"I wish we didn't have that many chances, but we did. We kept going and getting offensive rebounds and kicking it back out, which was huge," Canisius coach Terry Zeh said.

Canisius clinched the second seed and will play Rider or Niagara Friday at 9:30 a.m. in the upcoming MAAC Tournament, which gets started Thursday at the Times Union Center in Albany.

"We've been committed to each other since last summer to have a great year and we completed that portion of it," Zeh said. "Now it's a whole new season."

Senior Marie Warner led the Griffs (22-7, 14-4) with her 10th double-double of the season, finishing with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Warner scored 12 of her 15 from the foul line, helping the Griffs go 23 of 29 from the line for the game.

"Our team did a really good job of getting the ball inside and that's definitely what helped us get to the line. If it's not going in, get fouled and get to the line," Warner said.

Canisius' scoring struggles paled in comparison to the difficulties Niagara had on the offensive end. The Purple Eagles, playing without injured leading scorer Jennifer McNamee for the ninth straight game, went just 12 for 55 from the field (22 percent). And as has been the case all season, turnovers created plenty of problems for the Purple Eagles. Niagara gave up possession 13 times in the first half alone, on their way to 18 for the game.

"That was really the difference," said Niagara coach Kendra Faustin, a former assistant at Canisius under Zeh. "We just gave them way too many chances."

Canisius' other two seniors also played well in their last home game. Guard Amanda Cavo hit three three-pointers as part of 11 points. She now has 258 three-pointers in her career, just two away from the record 260 made by Heather Fiore.

Center JJ Williams, meanwhile, had seven points, including four during a 7-0 run by Canisius to start the game.

"When you have that kind of veteran leadership, your daily focus is going to be so much better because they've been there, they've been through the ringer," Zeh said.

Niagara completed a woeful regular season at 2-27 overall and 1-17 in the MAAC. The 10th-seeded Purple Eagles open the conference tournament at noon Thursday against No. 7 Rider.

e-mail: jskurski@buffnews.com

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MAAC Tournament

MAAC Women's Tournament at Times Union Center, Albany

>Thursday

Rider vs. Niagara, noon

Manhattan vs. Loyola, 2 p.m.

*

>Friday

Canisius vs. Rider/Niagara, 9:30 a.m.

Fairfield vs. Siena, 11:30 a.m.

Marist vs. Manhattan/Loyola, 1:30 p.m.

Saint Peter's vs. Iona, 3:30 p.m.

*

>Saturday

Semifinals, 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

*

>Sunday

Championship, noon

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