BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Victories have been few and far between for the Canisius women’s basketball team in recent years. Monday night, the Golden Griffins opened the season with a notable triumph.
Coming back in the fourth quarter to beat Buffalo 57-55, Canisius ended a decade of dominance in the Western New York rivalry. UB had won the past nine meetings by an average of 24 points. The past eight were all double-digit victories, and last year the Bulls won by 60.
“It’s a great feeling to know that we are changing this program at Canisius,” said junior guard Dani Haskell, who led the Griffs with 17 points, seven coming in the final quarter.
“It shows that this is who we are now,” added Haskell, the Franklinville native who is WNY’s all-time leading scholastic scorer. “We are now going to be a winning team. And we have in our heads that it doesn’t matter who we play. We could be seen as the underdog. But we are definitely going to put up a fight, no matter who it is.”
The Griffs had lost eight consecutive season openers. Over the past 10 years, Canisius has won fewer than a third of its games, compiling a 90-188 record. Winless in five games before shutting down the season in 2021, the Griffs went 6-25 in their first season under coach Sahar Nusseibeh.
Starting Nusseibeh’s second year with a win against UB signals that the Griffs are going in the right direction. Canisius last beat the Bulls in their first season coached by Felisha Legette-Jack, who would win more than 200 games over the next decade, leading UB to the NCAA tournament three times.
With Legette-Jack now coaching at Syracuse, the Bulls have an almost entirely revamped roster under new coach Becky Burke, who was frustrated with the result in her UB debut.
“I’m results-oriented,” Burke said. “I want to win. Point blank, period. That’s unacceptable to me. It’s unacceptable for Buffalo. There are no excuses this year. I don’t want to hear about our team, all of the challenges, and all that stuff.”
Burke did recognize that the Bulls are still learning how to play with each other, and meet her expectations for toughness, competitiveness, and togetherness.
“I don’t think this group is going to be an instant gratification-type group,” Burke said. “I think we are going to be up and down this year. And hopefully be playing our best basketball in March.”
Burke was impressed with Canisius. “They were the aggressors,” she said. “They didn’t give up. They kept fighting. They had a little chip on their shoulder. They had a great crowd here tonight.”
Even though UB wasn’t at its best in the opener, the Griffs were proud to end their losing streak in the local rivalry.
“Obviously UB is a different team, but so what?” Haskell said. “It’s still UB. It’s a really good feeling that we can prove to be one of the best teams in the Big 4.”
Canisius plays another Mid-American Conference opponent Friday at Toledo, while UB retrurns to action next Monday at Stonehill before its Nov. 19 home opener against nationally-ranked Princeton.
Niagara opened a season with high expectations by winning 64-55 against Loyola in Baltimore.
Cardinal O’Hara graduate Aaliyah Parker led the Purple Eagles with 17 points, while her sister Angel Parker added 14 points, and Maddy Yelle scored 12. Jade Rutledge, a freshman from O’Hara, was in the starting lineup and had three of the Purple Eagles’ 12 steals. Niagara forced 33 turnovers that led to 32 points.
The Purple Eagles play their first game at the Gallagher Center on Saturday against LaSalle.
St. Bonaventure lost 77-61 to Bowling Green it its home opener. I’yanna Lops and Nikki Oppenheimer each scored 14 points. The Bonnies are now 3-4 in season-opening games under coach Jess Fleming, who has a 50-119 overall record. They host East Tennessee State on Friday.