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Canisius, Niagara bow in MAAC openers

For Canisius and Niagara, Sunday afternoon was a disappointing start to the conference season while St. Bonaventure and Buffalo picked up key program wins.

At the Koessler Athletic Center, Canisius failed to value the basketball on both ends of the floor and dropped a 60-51 decision to Fairfield on the opening day of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play.

Fairfield never trailed and though the Stags (8-3, 1-0 MAAC) shot just 30 percent from the floor for the game (18 of 60) they had 19 offensive rebounds and scored 18 points off turnovers to earn the win.

"I thought we had a lack of focus to the start the game and it stuck with us," Canisius coach Terry Zeh said. "We didn't rebound the ball. We ran and chased instead of boxing people out. We need to work on valuing possessions and boxing out."

Fairfield led by as many as 13 midway through the first half, but the Golden Griffins (4-8, 0-1 MAAC) made a game of it, thanks in large part to freshman forward Jamie Ruttle's career-high 19 points.

But the Griffs failed to generate offense when they had the chance and Fairfield pounced on loose balls, particularly off missed shots.

"I think personally, I need to focus more on getting into the body of someone instead of going right to the rim," said Ruttle, who had just two rebounds. "I think we're a strong team. We need to come to play more focused."

Niagara dropped a 59-55 MAAC opener to Saint Peter's at the Gallagher Center. The Peahens (1-11, 1-0 MAAC) held a 51-31 advantage on the boards.

Meghan Waterman's layup with 27 seconds left tied the game, 55-55, for Niagara but Aminah Davis hit two free throws with nine seconds left for the St. Peter's win.

Liz Flooks led Niagara (1-11, 0-1 MAAC) with 14 points.

In non-conference play, St. Bonaventure picked up its 10th win of the season, 67-52 over Kent State (9-3) in the Reilly Center.

The Bonnies (10-5) reached double digits in non-conference wins for fifth straight year, continuing the longest streak in program history.

Bona took a 35-19 halftime lead, but Kent State made a charge in the second half. With the Bonnies up, 46-41, with 9:29 to play, Jessica Jenkins hit back-to-back three-pointers to spark a 12-2 run that sealed the win.

Senior Cara Gustafson came off the bench to score a season-high 12 points with six rebounds, both totals one off her career-bests, both of which came in her freshman year against Kent State.

Gustafson's play, particularly during a key stretch of the first half, helped settle the Bonnies.

"The first half there was a chance of the game getting away, and Cara just did a phenomenal job," Bona coach Jim Crowley said. "She raised the level of everyone and just showed terrific leadership and everyone else was able to jump on board."

Jenkins finished with 15 points, while Chelsea Bowker and Alaina Walker each added 11.

The University at Buffalo closed its non-conference slate with a 58-53 win over Brown in Providence, R.I.

At 7-6 overall, the Bulls have already equaled their win total from last year, and they did it with their first single-digit victory margin this season.

"[Brown is] a very aggressive and smart team and they exploited some of our defensive weaknesses," UB coach Linda Hill-MacDonald said. "With that being said, we are very happy to get a win and finish non-conference play on a positive note."

UB senior Kourtney Brown recorded her 37th career double-double, with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Ashley Zuber added 11 points with seven assists as the Bulls shot 40.3 percent from the field.