By Jonah Bronstein
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — The Niagara women’s basketball team set the tone for a celebratory ride back to campus Sunday, opening a nationally televised double-feature with its largest win over rival Canisius in a decade.
Junior center Lauren Gatto scored 17 points and her teammates shot 7 of 9 from 3-point range to lead the Purple Eagles in a 62-49 win at the Koessler Center.
The Purple Eagles (9-9, 4-4 MAAC) built a 23-10 lead early and went up by as many as 17 points in the second half, snapping a two-game losing streak and gaining traction in a league race they were predicted to finish second in before the season.
“I think we could’ve won some that we didn’t earlier but I think we learned a lot from them,” Gatto said. “We’re definitely ready for the second half of MAAC play as we get there and as we go on, we’ll definitely be ready the second time around.”
The Golden Griffins (8-11, 5-3) shot 0 for 10 from 3-point range in the first half and 1 for 10 in the second.
“I felt we let our struggles on offense affect our defensive intensity,” Canisius coach Terry Zeh said. “Niagara did some good things on their end, but at the end of the day if you don’t make shots, it is really hard to win basketball games.”
Meghan McGuinness had 16 points for Niagara, shooting 5 of 6 from the field and making all four of her free throw attempts in the final minute to preserve the win.
“Finishing this game was really important to us,” Niagara coach Kendra Faustin said. “It was something we’ve been working on all year. We also talked about winning the rebounding war and those are the two things that really stick out to me.”