By: Adam Gorski
The Canisius women’s basketball team has struggled to put together a full 40 minutes throughout the season, and that rang true again on Saturday afternoon – but thanks to arguably their best second half of the season, a solid final 20 minutes was all they needed.
The Griffs posted 42 second-half points in a come-from-behind 65–61 triumph over Marist at the Koessler Athletic Center, marking their second conference win on the season.
The 26 points Canisius (4–20, 2–13) put up in the pivotal fourth quarter tied the most they’ve had in a stanza this season.
“We didn't start the game too hot,” Griffs head coach Sahar Nusseibeh told GoGriffs.com. “We challenged them as a coaching staff early on in the game. Our entire staff is extremely proud of how we chose to respond. It shows a lot of maturity. It shows a lot of growth. It also shows a lot of grit.”
Canisius found themselves in a hole midway through the second quarter, as a 12–4 run to open the frame from the Red Foxes (6–16, 4–10) saw them take a 28–15 lead with just under six minutes until halftime.
The Griffs would battle back to cut their deficit to just seven, 30–23, at the half before a swift 7–0 run out of the break — capped by a Dani Haskell 3-pointer — tied the game at 30 apiece. Marist answered with a 7–0 run of their own and used it to carry a 44–39 lead into the fourth.
After an Athina Lexa 3-pointer tied the game at 47, the freshman would hit on another triple just under two minutes later to give Canisius their first lead of the game, 52–50, with 4:28 to play.
Both teams exchanged baskets down the stretch, with neither leading by more than one possession, but it was freshman Rhay Porter’s two free throws with 12 seconds to play that gave Canisius a 62–61 lead before the Griffs got a stop on the defensive end and iced the win at the charity stripe.
“Our team collectively was gritty down the stretch and they just had a ‘find-a-way’ mentality,” Nusseibeh told GoGriffs.com. “Every single person contributed to this win. … When we get in our flow, and we're just playing basketball, I think we're really good.”
Leading the way with a standout performance was Lexa, whose 26 points, including 16 in the second half, marked a career-high and tied the most points in a game by a MAAC freshman this season.
The product from Greece has seen her minutes rise as the season has progressed, and she’s become a staple in the starting lineup since her first entry into it, back on Jan. 22 against Monmouth. Over the past nine games since becoming a starter, she is averaging 11.8 points per game, second to just Haskell in that span.
"Athina is a wonderful player,” Nusseibeh told GoGriffs.com. “She's good kind of checking it out, making the extra pass and not taking over games, but her talent level has the ability to take over games. Whether she's at the '4' spot or a guard spot, she's just a tremendous player. She's very skilled, and I think it's just a matter of continuing to infuse her with that confidence and she's starting to feel it now, which is really fun to see.”
Haskell and Erika Joseph chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the Griffs, while Anabel Ellison led Marist with 19.
Canisius resides last in the MAAC standings and will require a string of wins down the stretch to secure any seed but No. 11 for the upcoming conference tournament. In the coming week, they travel to Rider to face the Broncs at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and then to Siena to play the Saints at 7 p.m. on Thursday.