By Robert Janish
Senior Sports Writer
In their 2016-17 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule, the Canisius women’s basketball team suffered a tough loss to the Rider University Broncs and celebrated a 20-point win over the Monmouth University Hawks to sit at a 1-1 overall record in conference play.
The team will now get a small break from conference play, but will play two formidable opponents this week in the University at Buffalo Bulls, currently 7-0 and reigning Mid-American Conference champions, and the nationally-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, currently ranked 12th in the country with an overall record of 6-3.
However, on Thursday night, the team fell short by a score of 65-52 to the Buffalo Bulls, now at an overall record of 8-0, which is now their best start in program history.
Head Coach Terry Zeh believes his team made great improvement in the first two conference games of the year. From changing rotation to working on game deficiencies in practice, “and those were clearly getting better in both of those games, we’re one possession away from two MAAC wins.”
However, Zeh says, while the team played a great physical matchup against Rider, they “had some mental lapses in key situations that cost us that basketball game.” In their victory over Monmouth, Zeh said not as much attention was needed to detail as in the matchup against Rider, but he “thought we got better from where we were playing and that’s important.”
Junior Saliah Serette believes it’s important to take each game at a time and prepare immensely for their opponents. “They’re undefeated and they’re a real physical team, so I think we’re going to work a lot with our practice players, being strong in there, being physical, and matching their compete level,” Serette said about Buffalo and how to prepare for them.
Zeh said it’s important for the team to focus one game at a time and believes Buffalo will be a formidable opponent for his team. “They do know we play Buffalo and they do know that they’re undefeated and they’re playing really well,” he said, “and so I think it’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
Facing a team that reached the NCAA tournament last season and is returning most of its players, Zeh is excited for the challenge of playing Buffalo and “would be hugely disappointed if we were not excited about that challenge.” Zeh continued, “I would be really disappointed if we weren’t excited to play the cross-town rival who is in a great place right now, and they’re one of 19 teams that’s undefeated.”
“Ohio State, obviously being a top team, we have to be smarter rather than being more athletic and being more physical,” said sophomore Sara Hinriksdottir. She also believes it’s also important for this team to be able to play a more physical game in order to be successful.
“I always thought that [Hinriksdottir] was one of the most talented players in our league, and now she’s really starting to understand the flow of the game at this level,” Zeh said.
He also said Serette “showed early on in practice and in the preseason how good she could be.” Zeh said she had a good game against St. Bonaventure, but then went into a little slump for a week or two, “and to her credit, she answered it, she absolutely answered the bell..so to see somebody make a change when you talk to them about something, I think that’s just tremendous.”
Serette, the reigning MAAC Player of the Week, says it’s important to work on defense and rebounding, an area of the game her team needs to improve upon. Hinriksdottir agreed that working on defense is pivotal, but “my problem is boxing out,” and she believes that in order to succeed, improvement in that area is key.
Hinriksdottir says the defense was much better overall in the game against Monmouth, and has been better than it was in the opening stretch of the season. Serette believes this team could be near the top of the MAAC, and “we’re doing better with our defense and rebounding, boxing out, that’s been our problem, so I think we’re more focused on that now and that’s going to help us going into MAAC play.”
“Against Buffalo, there’s going to be a lot of defensive pressure, so we’re going to have to be very clean with our executions,” Zeh said. He added that with Ohio State, “you’re talking about a team that has an athletic level and speed that’s far and above anything that we face across the board.”
“I think the remaining non-conference games we have left are pretty tough,” Zeh said. “You’re talking about an undefeated UB team whose already beaten two teams in our conference, that’s a really good mid-major team so that’s going to prepare you.”
While Ohio State may be above us in a majority of categories, “so you’re going to go down and play the best you can, sometimes you can learn things from those games and sometimes you can’t, depends on how it goes.”
Serette said a goal for their team in practice is to always keep the compete level high and to always work hard at it, “and when you practice like that, you’re going to perform better in games.”
Zeh said after these tough couple of games coming up, they play teams like Cornell and Morehead St., which are similar to teams in the MAAC and playing them on the road “will prepare us as well.”
Zeh added that in these next couple games, “We’ve got to be even more particular about how we execute and what we do in a very specific way or we get our doors blown off by fifty because that’s how good they can be.” These matchups will also “cause us to be mentally and physically focused to be competitive in those games.”
After a 13-point loss to their cross-town rival in the Buffalo Bulls, the Griffs look forward to this Sunday against the nationally-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Coincidentally, they beat Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March, and are looking for a massive upset in Columbus this weekend.