Women’s basketball vs. Marist over before it started

Terry Zeh needed an alibi Friday night, but it turned he had a good one.

It’s a good thing Terry Zeh has a crazy story to tell.

The Canisius women’s basketball coach needs an explanation – and maybe some comic relief – after the 81-52 beat down his team took from the Marist Red Foxes Friday night at the Koessler Athletic Center.

Marist opened the game with a 17-0 run and put it on cruise control the rest of the way, going up as many as 38 points in the second half before improving to 14-1 in the MAAC, one win away from clinching the top seed in the conference tournament.

It’s not uncommon for a women’s basketball coach to search for answers after a game with Marist. The Red Foxes are working on their seventh MAAC Championship in a row, and embarrassing an opponent along the way is nothing new.

But of all the reasons coaches have used for why their team lost, the one Zeh gave may be one of the more legitimate explanations.

After Canisius’ overtime win at Rider last weekend, Courtney VandeBovenkamp and Amani Mostiller contracted the norovirus that is sweeping through Princeton and Rider universities. The two had to stay at the hotel while the rest of the team went to play Saint Peter’s in the second game of the trip.

Most of the other players on the team contracted the virus on the ride home, Zeh said. Even the bus driver got sick and lost his lunch at the wheel. The team eventually had to rent a second bus – one for healthy people and one for sick people.

“It was horrific,” Zeh said. “The comment they said to me was ‘Coach, we would have rather been dead.’ It’s that violent.”

The virus, reported as being highly contagious and causing diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramps, kept many players from eating or drinking fluids most of the week. The only team activity they had during prior to the game was a very brief meeting on Thursday.

“I don’t know if you’d even call it practice, really,” Zeh said. “[More of] a walk through.”

Zeh pointed to the crazy week as the reason his team came out so flat, missing its first nine shots and committing five turnovers before Courtney VandeBovenkamp hit a layup to get the Griffs on the board, 7:35 into the game.

“It was very clear from the beginning that our bout with the norovirus last weekend [affected us],” Zeh said. “You could see it when the game started. I could see it. We could not get up and down the floor.”

Jen Morabito hit the Griffs’ second field goal with 8:37 to go in the first half before the Red Foxes pushed their lead to as many as 24 prior to the break. It only got worse in the second half, where Canisius would never get closer than 16 points and got down more than twice that many.

Although the Griffs entered the game leading the conference in three-point percentage and three-point percentage defense, they made only 7 of 22 from behind the arc (31.8 percent) while giving up 14 of 29 treys (48.3).

Marist’s Kelsey Beynnon hit 4 of 5 three-pointers and 10 of 12 field goals for a career-high 26 points in only 27 minutes of action.

“I felt pretty normal,” Beynnon said. “I guess I was just hitting shots today. I got lucky.”

The loss drops the Griffs to 6-9 in the conference and puts them in seventh place, an unfavorable position to be in because seeds 7-10 go to the play-in round at the conference tournament. The Red Foxes have now beaten Canisius eight in straight meetings.

“If we’re 100 percent healthy, do we beat Marist? I don’t know,” Zeh said, “but I think if we were healthier we certainly might have been able to compete a little bit better.”