By Peter Neville, Contributor
Canisius women’s basketball traveled to Illinois late last week over Thanksgiving break where they took on their first Big Ten opponent since facing Ohio State back in 2016. The matchup proved to be a tough one for the Griffs, as they lost 90–58 to the Fighting Illini, dropping their record to 2–3 on the young season.
The game started out positively for Canisius as five minutes into the game the Griffs were leading Illinois 11–9 as a three-pointer by Mackenzie Amalia capped off the strong start for the Griffs giving them a slim lead ahead of the first TV timeout.
Head coach Sahar Nusseibeh was pleased with the strong start by the Griffs in her postgame interview praising her team's resilience against a Power Five opponent. “I'm really proud of the fact that our team punched first. How we opened the game is exactly how we expect to open games, whether it's a Power 5 team, a Division One team, mid major or Division Two. I'm really, really proud that we punched first, and I thought our first five minutes were really, really great.”
This would be the last lead Canisius held in this game, as after the game resumed following that media timeout, Illiois went on a 14–0 run to end the quarter, giving the Illini a lead they would not relinquish.
“[Illinois] came with some pressure and responded exactly like they should have,” said coach Nusseibeh. “I wish we hadn't turned the ball over so much. I think we spotted them quite a few points, and I think we could have done a better job making them earn their points,” she continued.
Sisi Eleko once again led scoring for the Griffs, finishing with 13 points and six rebounds, continuing her strong start to the season despite seeing her four-game streak of double-doubles come to an end.
On the other end, Illinois were led by senior Genesis Bryant, who after scoring 31 points against 16th-ranked Notre Dame, continued her strong start to the season against the Griffs with 21 points and two assists leading the Illini in scoring for the third time this season.
The game was a reunion of sorts for the Griffs, as head coach of Illinois, Shauna Green, the all-time leading scorer for Canisius with 2012 points, got to coach against her former team for the first time. Coach Nusseibeh talked about the importance of getting to play against the former Canisius star.
Nusseibeh said of Green, “She’s doing a phenomenal job, and so I think it was an incredible experience for our Griffs to be able to play against one of the greatest Griffs to come through our program.”
The Griffs next game takes place against St Bonaventure at the Reilly Center this Thursday at 7 p.m., where they look to get back to .500 against their Little Three rivals. The Bonnies come into the game sporting a 2–4 record on the season, with former Canisius star Dani Haskell majorly contributing to the team after transferring this summer. Last year, Canisius took care of the Bonnies, comfortably beating them by a final score of 85-47.