Thursday, April 24, 2014

Team Report: Canisius Women Need Post-Play Help

Here's another in the "Team Report" series, taking a look back and a crystal-ball look ahead at conference teams.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 9-11 in MAAC play, sixth place; 13-17 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A one-game improvement over the previous season's 8-10 MAAC record, the best conference record since a 14-4 finish in the 2008-09 season and the highest finish (fifth, by virtue of tie-breakers) in the league standings since '08-09 ... All of that was accomplished with an impressive late-season flourish, a 4-1 record that began in mid-February through the end of regular-season play. Included was a showdown 66-63 victory over Rider in the final game of regular-season play that captured the fifth seed (and a first-round tournament bye) for Canisius and relegated the Broncs to sixth place ... Rising junior point guard Tiahana Mills turned in arguably her best game of the season in that win over Rider, scoring 19 points (7-of-8 shooting), and getting five rebounds and five assists. She had at least six assists nine times during the year, the second-most six-assist games in program history ... Rising 5-10 junior forward Crystal Porter was also at her best late, averaging 12.2 pints and 6.4 rebounds in the team's last five regular-season games. She had a big 23-point explosion in one of those games, against regular-season champion Iona ...  Rising senior guard Kayla Hoohuli had a nice season, leading the team in scoring (10.8 ppg.), in steals (33 overall) and in three-pointers made (48). She also had one of her best performances late, scoring 23 points in the MAAC Tournament loss to Quinnipiac ... Graduating senior 6-3 post Jamie Ruttle finished off a solid career with 1,180 career points ... Rising senior 6-1 forward Courtney VandeBovenkamp (3.9 points, 3.9 rebounds) came back from missing the previous season with a knee injury, got back into the starting lineup by midseason and provide solid play after that.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Despite some slight improvement over the previous year, it was the program's fifth-straight sub-.500 finish, a 35-57 record in MAAC play (60-93 overall) during that stretch. And, despite the nice late season surge, the season came to a resounding stop with a 72-61 setback to Quinnipiac in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC Tournament, a game in which the the winners had a 44-21 lead at halftime and were never threatened ... This looked like it might be the season in which the Griffs really challenged for better. The roster included four fourth-year players, all of whom had won MAAC Rookie of the Week awards as freshmen. But, none of the four made dramatic improvements off their freshmen seasons ... Also lacking was the team's traditional three-point barrage. At one time the program held the national record for consecutive games with a made three-pointer (a string that ended a couple of years ago). This year, though, its 154 made three-pointers was only ninth-best in the 11-team MAAC ... Injuries also played a minor role as VandeBovenkamp wasn't 100 percent early, Porter played through some injury issues most of the year and one of the team's best outside shooters, reserve guard Emily Weber, (3.5 ppg.) only got into 16 games because of recurring injury issues ... Rebounding was also an issue. Despite two 6-3 players and another at 6-1 in the playing group, the Griffs were outrebounded by 2.3 per contest.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Some rebuilding, and probably a restructuring of how the team plays. Ruttle and 6-3 reserve Jen Lennox are done, leaving only VandeBovenkamp and rising 6-1 sophomore Laniere Coleman, who only got into three games this season, as the only forwards on the roster taller than 5-10. The team also got an early signing period commitment from another 6-1 player, forward Abby Schwenk of Ohio. If the team can get some contributions from the post, it could approach this past season's record. Porter, a 5-10 forward, will also help. She led the team in rebounding (4.9) this past season. Its top perimeter players are all returning. With Hoohuli at off-guard and Mills at the point, the Griffs has one of the better starting backcourts in the MAAC. There should be good depth, as well. rising sophomore Lauren D'Hont is deadly from long range (23-of-47 on treys this season), and Weber has the potential to be just as good from the perimeter.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: The lack of both height and experience in the front court will cause issues in 2014-15. A likely greater emphasis on perimeter play could surprise some opponents on specific nights. But, there doesn't seem to be a strong enough inside game to expect the string of sub-.500 seasons to end. Most prognostications will have Canisius finishing near the bottom of next season's standings, as will this one. A bottom-four finish seems likely at this point.

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