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Win has Niagara women raising expectations

LEWISTON – Niagara’s women’s basketball team finished its non-conference season Tuesday on track to meet winning expectations this season.

The Purple Eagles routed Mount St. Mary’s, 78-60, to improve to 6-5.

It’s the best start in coach Kendra Faustin’s eight-year tenure and sets Niagara up – it hopes – to contend for a high finish in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Niagara was picked for fifth in the 11-team MAAC and has started out 2-0 in conference. Big tests await. Niagara plays conference co-favorite Quinnipiac (10-3) twice in the next 12 days – on the road Friday and at home Jan. 10.

Senior guard Meghan McGuinness led the Purple Eagles with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting. She hit five three-pointers, giving her 223 for her career. That’s tied for second in Niagara history. McGuinness was second team all-MAAC last season.

“I think this is the best team in my four years here, just the way we work,” McGinness said. “Everyone has a really, really good work ethic.”

“We had our season-high in points, but it was created by our defense,” Faustin said. “We got a lot of easy things in transition. In the first half we really dug in on the defensive end.”

Defense was a worry for Niagara last season, when it finished 8-12 in conference and allowed 68.9 points a game in conference. That ranked 10th in the MAAC.

Niagara held Mount St. Mary’s (2-9) to 33.9 percent shooting. Niagara was ahead, 31-9, 12½ minutes into the game and never looked back.

For the season, Niagara’s foes are scoring 60.8 ppg and shooting 34.4 percent.

“We’re certainly better,” Faustin said of her defense. “We have a lot more answers.”

Niagara’s next home game is Jan. 9 against Siena.