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Griffs upset Monmouth to advance to MAAC quarterfinals

Sophomore Dani Haskell tallied a game-high 26 points as the Griffs upset No. 6 Monmouth 71-65 to advance in the MAAC tournament. Adam Gorski / The Griffin

By Adam Gorski

The Canisius women’s basketball team entered the MAAC Championships on Tuesday 0-15 on the road this season.

What a time to get your first win away from home.

The Griffs shot the lights out on Tuesday afternoon, knocking down nine 3-pointers en route to downing No. 6 Monmouth 71-65 at the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.

It marks the first time a No. 11 seed has ever won a MAAC women’s tournament game since the league expanded in 2013 and the first conference tournament victory for the Griffs since 2016-17.

“I’m extremely proud of our women and their resiliency throughout that entire forty minutes,” Griffs head coach Sahar Nusseibeh said. “I think this entire season we’ve bought into the process of progress and it is so great to reap the rewards in March.”

The Griffs led by nine, 59-50, with 6:48 to go in the fourth quarter, but Monmouth made a run late cutting their deficit to just three, 65-62, after Jen Luoro knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:59 to play.

In need of a big play, Canisius looked to their leader: Erika Joseph.

With 48 seconds left, Joseph drove, nearly lost the ball, but recovered to finish at the rim and draw a foul. She would knock down the free throw to complete the 3-point play and give Canisius a 68-62 lead, which proved to be enough to see them through to the final buzzer.

“To be quite honest, it was no surprise she was the person making that play,” Nusseibeh said. “Erika has been our leader and our anchor all year long. Erika averages the most minutes on our team for a reason … Without Erika, this game doesn’t happen. She had the biggest layup of the game with that free throw.”

While Joseph may have had the big play, it was Dani Haskell who had the hot hand for Canisius all game.

The sophomore marked her first MAAC tournament game with a 26-point, five-rebound and six-assist outing, and the Hawks did not have an answer for her all night.

“We’ve been saying we’re the best three-point shooting team in the MAAC,” Haskell said. “We weren’t being as aggressive as we should have been, and so then once we started saying, ‘shoot the ball, we’re the best shooting team in the MAAC,’ then we knew it was going to be okay.”

After a slow start that saw the Griffs trail 10-4 midway through the first quarter, Canisius embarked on a 9-0 run capped off by a Dani Haskell jumper with 1:37 left in the frame, and they clung to a 16-14 lead after one.

The Griffs continued their strong play into the second as they extended their advantage to seven points, 23-16, before the Hawks responded with a 10-3 run that tied the game at 26 a piece. A couple 3-pointers from Haskell and Athina Lexa helped Canisius take a 34-31 lead into halftime.

Canisius struggled early to contain Monmouth’s penetration and play in the paint and had a few defensive breakdowns, and that was emphasized in the second half when the Hawks made a run.

After the Griffs took a 38-31 at the start of the third, Monmouth embarked on a 12-0 run to take a 43-38 advantage, holding the Griffs scoreless for just over six minutes.

“I think finishing possessions has been our Achilles heel defensively,” Nusseibeh said. “I think we got some really big time stops when it mattered … The other adjustment was respecting their post play and their bigger guards who were going to post us up and I think we did a pretty good job limiting that.”

In a season that has seen poor third quarters be a recurring issue, Canisius found a response as an 8-2 run thanks in part to 3-pointers from Cheyenne Stubbs and Shaunae Brown, the latter tallying 14 points on the game.

A Haskell layup capped off the third quarter scoring, as Canisius led 50-46.

“I feel like the entire season everybody underestimated us,” Brown said. “Nobody expected us to win this game, and that’s what it’s all about … It didn’t matter what our record showed, we knew that we were capable of beating every single team in the MAAC.”

Stella Clark led the Hawks with 19 points.

The Griffs return to the court at noon on Thursday for the quarterfinals, where they take on No. 3 Manhattan. Canisius lost both meetings this season to the Jaspers by 20-plus points.

“We get another opportunity to compete against a very good team,” Nusseibeh said. “We can’t wait for Thursday.”

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