The Canisius women’s basketball team has made the best of a bad point-guard situation and gotten on a late-season roll.
The Golden Griffins won for the fourth time in the last five games Thursday with a 54-45 decision over Niagara.
The Griffs lost starting point guard Tiahana Mills to a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 17. Two weeks later they lost her replacement, Tamara Miskovic, to a season-ending knee injury.
Canisius coach Terry Zeh has used a committee approach this month, with good results.
Margret Halfdanardottir, a 5-foot-9 sophomore from Iceland, got most of the point guard duty against Niagara and scored a team-high 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. Halfdanardottir had four assists and six turnovers.
“We really just do it by committee,” Zeh said. “It’s almost position-less basketball, and it does create an issue. They all can shoot the three, so it creates a little bit of a spacing issue for teams.”
Halfdanardottir plays point guard for the Iceland national team but has been mostly a shooting guard for the Griffs. She’s enjoying a breakout season, averaging 9.7 ppg.
“It’s kind of a transition coming back into it,” Halfdanardottir said. “If I’m playing the 2, I’m scoring more. If I’m playing the 1, I’m more focused on making my teammates score and setting up the offense.”
Records: Canisius improved to 13-15 overall and 8-11 in the MAAC. Niagara fell to 6-22 and 4-14.
Rematch: The two teams likely will play in the first round of the MAAC tournament Thursday in Albany. Canisius is assured of an eighth-place finish. Niagara stands ninth with one game to go in the regular season and will face the Griffs if it holds that spot.
Sharp-shooter: Canisius’ Lauren D’Hont, a junior guard from Pittsford, scored 10 straight points in the third quarter to break the game open, giving the Griffs a 37-29 lead. D’Hont hit two straight three-pointers from the wing, then sank four free throws.
“I missed three layups in the first half,” D’Hont said. “I think it was just my teammates had confidence in me to knock down those shots and they didn’t come out and guard me.”
D’Hont carries a 4.0 grade-point average as a chemistry major.
She scored 12 points. Canisius got 11 points and six rebounds from freshman guard Maria Welch.
Defense: Canisius held Niagara to just four points in the third quarter and took a 39-31 lead into the fourth. Niagara shot just 28.6 percent for the game.
“The third quarter was big for us defensively,” Zeh said. “It led to some good shots for us on the other end.”
“We started out with three turnovers in the first four possessions,” said Niagara coach Jada Pierce. “With us turning the ball over, that led to scores for them. They hit some threes. That was the difference for us.”
Top Eagles: Niagara got 17 points and nine rebounds from sophomore forward Kaylee Stroemple. Senior center Sam Lapszynski had eight points and seven rebounds but was limited to 19 minutes due to foul trouble.
Battle of the Bridge: Canisius and Niagara conduct an all-sports annual competition between each other, and the winner gets to keep the Canal Cup in the lobby of its basketball arena. Canisius’ victory clinched the competition for a sixth straight year, even before the spring season begins. Each basketball meeting counts two points. Other sports are one. Canisius leads 17.5 to 4.5.
Series: Canisius holds a big edge in the series with Niagara, leading 53-35. Zeh is 21-7 against the Purple Eagles, and Canisius is 9-1 against Niagara in MAAC Tournament play.
Up next: Canisius closes the regular season at third-place Marist on Saturday. Niagara closes at sixth-place Siena on Saturday.