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Niagara women continue to sputter; Turnovers cripple NU against Albany

Albany made sure to leave a good first impression at the Gallagher Center Saturday afternoon.

It was the team's first-ever meeting with Niagara and the Great Danes ran away with the win, 63-47.

The Purple Eagles (1-8) failed to take care of the ball, turning it over 24 times as Albany (7-3) stayed in control the entire game.

Albany's Cassandra Callaway and Niagara's Katie Gattuso led all scorers with 13 points each, while Julie Forster grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds for Albany.

The Niagara offense struggled to find chemistry without sophomore guard Kayla Stroman, who was averaging 12 points per game before injuring her MCL in the Purple Eagles' Dec. 9 loss to Hofstra.

Niagara coach Kendra Faustin said it was more than just the absence of one player keeping her team from executing.

"I think that we're just not used to playing with the personnel that we have on the court right now," Faustin said. "It's going to take some time to figure out what's the best way to make this group and this personnel work for us."

With Stroman out of the lineup, freshman Noelle Zletni was asked to step up.

Zletni, who had played in four games this season, scored a career-high 10 points in 28 minutes.

"It was good at first," said Zletni. "We did a good job moving the ball around and when we did slow it down we got some pretty decent open looks."

But after the first half the Great Danes pulled away, turning a 13-point lead into a 27-point margin with 7:45 left in the game.

Niagara's Liz Flooks, who was honored before the game for becoming the 21st member of the university's 1,000-points club, was held to just four points. She also added nine rebounds.

"I think certainly they came out in the second half and turned up the defensive pressure and we did a poor job of taking care of the basketball," Faustin said. "That's the bottom line. We need to do a better job of handling the pressure.

"We're going to continue to work and continue to stay positive and continue to learn. With such a young group who has never played college basketball before, we're helping them to learn."

Faustin said Stroman is expected to be out until after Christmas.

Niagara will face UB on Tuesday night at Alumni Arena.