Canisius drops women’s basketball to 0-3

Compared to its first two games of 2013-14, the Binghamton women’s basketball team’s 66-53 loss to Canisius on Tuesday night was certainly a step in the right direction. BU earned season-bests in points scored (53), field goal percentage (35.2 percent) and turnovers committed (11).

But the Bearcats (0-3) aren’t looking for silver linings — they’re looking for results.

“Overall, I thought we played much better than our last two performances, but this team isn’t about moral victories right now,”  Binghamton head coach Nicole Scholl said.

After an 18-point season-opening setback to Buffalo and a 41-point thrashing at Bucknell, the largest margin of defeat in Binghamton’s 13-year NCAA Division I era, the Bearcats took to the Events Center hardwood against Canisius (3-1) looking to avoid putting themselves in yet another early hole.

For the first seven minutes of play, BU executed, trading baskets with the Golden Griffins on its way to a 9-9 tie.

But from there, a 3-ball from junior guard Kayla Hoohuli sparked a 9-2 run over the next 3:26 for Canisius, and the Bearcats would spend the remainder of the contest clawing back in vain.

“Basketball is a game of runs. And if they go on a run, we have to respond with a run of our own,” sophomore forward Sherae Swinson said. “I think we have to work on that.”

Sophomore guard Kim Albrecht knocked in the back-end of a shooting foul to bring the Bearcats to within 19-17 with 5:34 left in the first half, but three turnovers and a couple of missed layups by BU in the closing minutes allowed Canisius to establish a 29-23 lead heading into the break.

In the second half, the Bearcats hung around but were never able to trim the Golden Griffin’s lead to less than eight points.

“I don’t think our offense is our problem right now,” senior guard Stephanie Jensen said. “Like Sherae said, it’s just a matter of responding better when teams have runs on us. Because we do have runs, but I don’t think we utilize what we have well enough right now on the floor.”

Binghamton has had trouble taking advantage of its two bigs, sophomore forward Morgan Murphy and Swinson. Coming into the season, BU adopted an inside-out mindset, looking to feed its two forwards to create easy opportunities inside, and, if not, drawing defenders off its outside shooters.

But the Bearcats simply haven’t gotten the job done down low.

Murphy, who finished with nine points, is averaging just six points per game through Binghamton’s first three contests, and Jensen believes the team isn’t doing enough to get the most out of the 5-foot-10 forward.

“It definitely didn’t go inside as much as it should have. Morgan should have had the ball way more and Sherae, too,” Jensen said. “We draw up plays and we go in and we don’t do it. We have to be better at just following our game plan and recognize that Morgan could kill it in there if she wanted to. She could have 20 points in the paint every single game but we don’t do a good enough job of giving her the ball at the right time.”

Swinson, who leads the Bearcats with 47 shot attempts this season, is getting plenty of opportunities with the ball, but has to remain aggressive for the Bearcats’ new offensive strategy to be effective.

With 10:50 remaining in regulation, Swinson hesitated on a wide-open 10-footer, surprised by how open she was, and instead of going straight up with a shot, put the ball on the floor as she looked to dish it. After quickly realizing she was the best option, Swinson opted to shoot, but it was already to late — a hand in her face altered her shot, forcing an air ball.

But only seven minutes later, with 3:28 to go, Swinson flashed an elusive dribble cut to the basket and converted on a layup to bring BU to within 11. BU’s apprehension and hesitation with shot selection have inhibited its ability to cut into large deficits this season, according to Scholl, and being more aggressive from close distance will be crucial in the team’s turning things around.

“I think a handful of them are thinking there is a better shot when they should be the one taking the shot,” Scholl said. “The one thing I give them credit for is that they are a very unselfish team and right now, at this point in time, I wish they would be a little more selfish when it came to shot selection and that’s something that we’re continuing to work on with them.”

Sophomore guard Tiahana Mills and sophomore forward Crystal Porter, Canisius’ fourth and fifth scoring options, respectively, each finished with career-high point totals. Mills posted 15 points to go along with five rebounds, while Porter netted 14 points.

Junior guard Kayla Hoohuli, who averaged seven points in the Golden Griffins’ first three games, delivered a season-best 17 points, including a 4-of-5 performance on 3-pointers.

“In our first two games, [senior guard] Jen Morabito made a boatload of threes and [senior forward] Jamie Ruttle was scoring the basketball really well. So they drew a lot of attention,” Canisius head coach Terry Zeh said. “I thought it was nice to see Crystal Porter step up and Kayla [Hoohuli] step up and knock down some points. And obviously Tiahana [Mills] had a huge game for us.”

For the Bearcats, Swinson tied a game-high with 17 points, and senior guard Vaneeshia Paulk chipped in with 11.

On Saturday, Binghamton is scheduled to travel to Lewiston, N.Y. for a matchup with Niagara. The Purple Eagles (0-3) have lost each of their games by double-digits this season.

“Niagara is very similar to [Canisius],” Scholl said. “They’re going to be putting up a lot of shots. So defensively, we’re going to have to be prepared. But coming into somebody else’s gym, we’re going to have to be ready to go and be willing to take shots, try and get the ball inside but play that inside-outside game.”

Tipoff at the Gallagher Center is set for 2 p.m.