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Five keys for women's basketball's first round matchup against Monmouth

Sophomore Dani Haskell will play in her first MAAC tournament game on Tuesday when the Griffs face off with Monmouth. Canisius Athletics via GoGriffs

By Adam Gorski

The Canisius women’s basketball team enters the MAAC tournament in Atlantic City, N.J. after a lackluster regular season that saw the Griffs go 5-24 overall and 3-17 in conference play, securing them the No. 11 seed for Tuesday’s opening round, set for a 1:30 p.m. tipoff at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.

Canisius faces off with No. 6 Monmouth, a side they lost to twice this season, 62-52 on Feb. 10 and 60-48 on Jan. 22.

Since the MAAC women’s basketball tournament expanded to 11 teams in 2014, a No. 11 seed has never won a game – so what’s it going to take for the Griffs to make history and pull off an upset? Here are some potential keys:

-Don’t let Monmouth’s Clark get too involved

The Hawks are led by graduate student and All-MAAC Second Team member Stella Clark, who has done a bit of everything for her team this season, leading her side at 11.7 points per game, 4.2 assists per game and 1.7 steals per game. She also averages 5.6 rebounds per game, which ranks second on the roster.

A large portion of what Monmouth does runs through Clark, and she’s on the floor for just over 33 minutes per game. If the Griffs can get her into foul trouble early, or try to put pressure on and prevent her from orchestrating, it could prove beneficial.

-Efficiency from beyond the 3-point line

If there’s one thing the Griffs have done rather well this season, it’s 3-point shooting.

Canisius ranks second in the MAAC in 3-point percentage at 32.1 and first by a large margin with 234 total 3-pointers on the season. Dani Haskell also ranks second in the MAAC with 62 3-pointers made.

You often hear the key to any upset in basketball nowadays is making your triples, or that teams live or die by the three, and it’s no different for Canisius. In the two games combined against Monmouth this season, the Griffs were 24.8% from beyond the arc. It’s imperative that number is higher when the final buzzer sounds.

-Find a way to battle on the boards

One of the knocks on this Canisius team all season is that they’re undersized – with only two players standing 6-foot or taller.

In their last meeting against the Hawks, the Griffs lost the rebounding battle 47-31 which contributed to 14 second chance points for Monmouth. With the Hawks fourth in the MAAC in total field goals attempted per game at just over 58, winning the battle on the boards, or at the very least keeping it close, could directly lead to fewer Monmouth points and alleviate the pressure on an underwhelming Griffs defense.

-Play a complete 40 minutes

It’s been a common theme for Canisius this season: one poor quarter destroying their chances for a victory, particularly in the second half, and it’s happened in both games against Monmouth this season.

The Griffs led at halftime 26-25 back on Jan. 22 against the Hawks before losing the third quarter 21-8 and eventually the game. They also were ahead 25-19 at halftime in their second matchup with Monmouth and even led by three entering the fourth, before falling in the final frame 29-16.

Overall, the Griffs are 4-6 this season when they hold a halftime lead. With this being a win or go home game, Canisius cannot afford any extended lapses like they’ve seen happen to them.

-Don’t let the moment overwhelm, start strong

This will be the first conference tournament experience for five of the nine Griffs that get regular minutes, as well as the first MAAC tournament for seven of the nine, with Erika Joseph and Shaunae Brown both playing on the 2019-20 team that fell to Siena in the first round.

In particular, two of Canisius’ most important players in recent months, Haskell and freshman Athina Lexa, will be getting their first taste of postseason college hoops on Tuesday.

Also of note, the Griffs have not won a road game this season, going 0-15 away from home.

As this is potentially their final game of the season, the pressure will be high, but Canisius cannot afford to come out shaky and nervous. A poor first quarter may result in a deficit too large to overcome.

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