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McGuinness powers Niagara women past Canisius

LEWISTON — Meghan McGuinness is a talented three-point shooter.

But if she was going to help Niagara win basketball games, she needed to expand her game and be able to score in different ways.

Oh, but she can still shoot the three.

McGuinness finished with 22 points and went 5 for 10 from three-point range to pace the Purple Eagles to a 69-60 win over Canisius in front of 254 at the Gallagher Center Wednesday night.

It was the fourth 20-point game of the season for McGuinness, who added a two-point field goal and went 5 for 6 from the free throw line.

“In particular Meghan is getting very good with spacing and using screens,” Niagara coach Kendra Faustin said. “She’s not just scoring from the three-point line now. She can put it in off the bounce. She did a little post up tonight and had some slips that I think is a big difference in making her more than a three-point shooter.”

“In the offseason I worked hard with the coaches and the other guards to expand my game,” McGuinness said. “I worked on getting into the paint and to the foul line a little more so people weren’t just chasing me and my only option was the three-point shot. Now I’m able to get open and get more shots off.”

“We let her have too many shots,” Golden Griffins coach Terry Zeh said. “We can’t let her take 10 threes. That can’t happen. We have to guard her closer. It was defensive breakdowns and I know a couple of them were off offensive rebounds and that’s a problem.”

With a 27-25 halftime lead, Niagara put on bursts of runs. They used a 14-4 run to take a 41-32 lead but Canisius responded with its own 8-2 run.

Niagara then went on a 13-5 run to open up an 11-point lead, 56-45, with 6:03 left. But Canisius responded to that with a 6-0 run to sprint back into the game. A quick 6-1 burst from the Purple Eagles solidified their lead and Canisius could never get over the hump.

The Purple Eagles led by as many as seven in the first half, going up 21-14 with 7:33 to play. Niagara builY its lead on three-point shooting, hitting 6 of 9 from behind the arc, including three from McGuinness.

But Canisius was persistent in the low post, scoring 14 points in the paint in first half. Some of those came from drives and some came from impressive post-ups.

While guard Tiahana Mills led Canisius with 12 points, the best offense came from forwards Jamie Ruttle and Courtney VandeBovenkamp who each netted nine points.

In the final tally, Canisius scored 24 points in the paint and 22 off turnovers, but shot just 6-for-20 from three-point range.

But the problem for the Griffs came as Niagara made adjustments on defense and collapsed around the ball when it went into the low post. While the post players were able to kick the ball back out to the perimeter, the Griffs were unable to hit long-range jumpers or generate dribble penetration.

“I was able to seal down low and that made them double team,” Ruttle said. “We then found people on the outside, but we weren’t able to knock down as many as we’d like. For the most part we moved the ball inside-out and had the right idea.”

On the other end, Faustin would have liked her team to drive more and create more in the low post, but the team did shoot 58.8 percent (10 of 17) from three-point range. Chanel Johnson added 14 points for Niagara.

Niagara improved to 5-6 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and 7-13 overall.

Canisius dropped to 4-8 in the MAAC and 8-13 overall.