Durham’s 29 lead Canisius to Kid’s Day comeback

Ashley Durham outshined Damika Martinez Monday afternoon, finishing with a career-high 29 points.

You might as well call it a Kid’s Day miracle.

The Canisius women’s basketball team trailed by 14 points in the second half but stormed back to tie the game on an Allison Braun jumper with five seconds left and then won it in overtime in front of 2,196 screaming Buffalo public school children Monday afternoon, all of whom received free admission as part of the annual Kid’s Day promotion.

Canisius didn’t have the lead for any of the regulation period but never trailed in overtime as 29 points from Ashley Durham and a late surge from Jamie Ruttle lifted the Griffs to a 85-74 win, much to the delight of the screaming  fans who may never have a better school day the rest of their lives.

“I feel like the kids definitely give us an extra energy that we need, especially being down 14. It’s like you don’t want to disappoint them,” Durham said.

“That’s a really great thing for women’s basketball because we get a feel of what it’s like,” Canisius coach Terry Zeh added. “You want to know why Duke wins every time on [its] home court? It’s because they get that every night.”

Iona coach Anthony Bozzella and his Gaels have had more than their fair share of feeling “what it’s like” this season – this was the third time just this year that they were scheduled as the Kid’s Day opponent, losing all three.

The 14-point comeback matched the largest of Zeh’s career, a 70-60 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore in December 2007. The Griffs trailed 40-26 at halftime in that game but had the entire second half to mount the comeback. Monday afternoon, the deficit was still 12 points with just over seven minutes to go.

“I try not to [think about it],” Zeh said. “We just kind of want to have our heads down and keep grinding. If you’re down 30 or up 30, you should just try to continue to play the same kind of basketball that you want to play.”

The Griffs’ leading scorer, Jamie Ruttle, was held without a field goal for the first 31 minutes of the game but turned it on late, adding eight points before the end of regulation and seven more in overtime to seal the deal.

Ruttle hit two free throws to open scoring in the overtime session, giving Canisius its first lead of the day, and Durham hit a 3-pointer 40 seconds later put Canisius up five. Then Ruttle hit a jumper and Jen Morabito got a runner to fall to give Canisius a 9-0 start to overtime as Iona missed its first five shots.

The Griffs ending up outscoring Iona 18-7 in overtime and 44-19 since the 12:23 mark of the second half, when the Gaels went up 55-41.

According to Durham, the most important thing for her team was “believing in each other.”

“We trust each other to another level,” she said. “We’re really close. We can tell each other stuff during the game and say ‘you did this wrong and you need to change it’ and we take it the right way.

“Trusting each other makes it easier … I trust when I dish them the ball that they’re going to make it every time.”

Durham’s career-best 29 points that led the comeback stole the spotlight and headlines from Iona’s freshman guard Damika Martinez, who hit 10 of 17 from the floor for 28 points, giving her consecutive 28-, 29- and 28-point performances in her last three games.

The Griffs are now 8-7 overall and 2-2 in MAAC play. The team has also won eight of its last 10 Kid’s Day games at the KAC, with one of the losses coming last year at the hands of the nationally-ranked Marist Red Foxes.

The final seconds of regulation were crazy. After an Iona timeout, the Griffs let Damika Martinez get open right under the basket and she converted the layup to put the Gaels up 67-65 with 13 seconds left.

Terry Zeh joked after the game that letting her score was exactly what his team wanted to let her do so it would have enough time to come down the court and make a shot without any timeouts.

Durham had the hot hand but couldn’t get free, so she turned and passed to Allison Braun, open from about 15 feet out.

“Everyone asks what I was thinking when I took that shot, and I think most answers you find when you ask players that happens to is ‘nothing,’ ” Braun said. “It’s just simple thoughts, what did they give me, am I open, and knock it down.”

Zeh, Canisius’ all-time wins leader for women’s basketball and a former assistant on the men’s team, couldn’t say enough about Braun. “She makes that jump shot better than any player I’ve ever coached. Men’s, women’s, doesn’t matter.”

Braun, in turn, couldn’t say enough about Durham.

“Ashley made me feel calm. I think that’s the most important thing with a point guard is you should make your players feel calm, and that’s what happened today. She gave me confidence to shoot that, really.”

Iona’s Aleesha Powell raced down the court to try for a buzzer-beater but had her shot blocked by Melissa Gardner, who didn’t get off the bench in the first half but played strong in the second half and overtime.

It took the Griffs 40 minutes and 49 seconds to take the lead, but once they got it they held it the rest of the game.

League-leader Marist too much for Griffs on Kid’s Day

The Marist Red Foxes opened the second half with a 15-2 run and never looked back Friday afternoon in the Koessler Athletic Center, defeating Canisius 59-40.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s fourth-leading scorer Erica Allenspach had 18 points for the Red Foxes and 6-foot-4 Kate Oliver had 12. Freshman Jamie Ruttle led Canisius with 10.

A rambunctious crowd of 2,196 was on hand for Kid’s Day at the KAC, where students from schools across the city got to cheer on the Griffs free of charge.

“It’s a fun atmosphere for our team,” head coach Terry Zeh said. “The kids are great. [Associate Athletics Director] John Maddock and his staff have done a really good job because it’s really grown over the years.

“We sort of started this a long time ago… and now the whole league is doing it. But we do it the best, by far.”

There was plenty to cheer for early on. The Griffs played Marist tight and briefly took the lead on the five-time defending MAAC champions.

After falling behind 16-8, the Griffs went on a 9-0 run to take the lead with 8:39 to play in the half. Two free throws from Ruttle put Canisus up by one, but it was the only lead the Griffs would have in the game.

The Red Foxes heavily outrebounded Canisius, 48-30, and pulled down 20 offensive boards.

Canisius struggled mightily from the floor, shooting just 28.3 percent from the field and 26.3 percent behind the arc. The Griffs made only 13 field goals and matched a season-low 40 points.

“The key to the game was certainly the glass,” Zeh said. “They controlled the rebounds. On a night they didn’t shoot well and we played good defense, they got all the offensive rebounds, and that hurt us.”

Marist entered the contest averaging the fewest turnovers per game in the country (11.3), and gave the ball away only 12 times on Friday. The Griffs scored 10 points off the Marist turnovers, while the Red Foxes scored 23 on Canisius’ 19 giveaways.

The visitors struggled from the floor in the first half (22.9 percent), but got it together in the second before coasting to victory. Marist improved on its MAAC-leading team free-throw percentage, hitting 14 of 15 from the line.

Up next for the Griffs (5-11, 1-4 MAAC) is a home game this Sunday at 2 p.m. against Siena, which is tied with Marist atop the league standings at 5-0. The Saints are fresh off a 40-point drubbing of Niagara Friday afternoon.

Zeh sets coaching record as Canisius picks up MAAC win

Terry Zeh has been with the program since 1997, and head coach since 2004. Now in his seventh season, he has compiled a record of 109-89. Although Sister Pares set her mark in five seasons, she had three All-Americans.

Zeh passes Sister Pares in career wins, plays it cool

As head coach Terry Zeh walked off the court Tuesday night at the Koessler Athletic Center, he was greeted with a bear hug—first from Roy Drysdale, and then from Wayne Ruttle.

Fittingly enough, it was their daughters who helped Zeh defeat Saint Peter’s, 60-56, to become Canisius College’s all-time winningest women’s basketball coach, passing Sister Maria Pares with his 109th career victory.

“I really haven’t thought about it at all,” said Zeh, who also mentioned he wasn’t even aware of the record until Griffs play-by-play announcer Mike Scott mentioned it to him. “I think about our players that have been here, and that’s who won these games. It’s the people that were here, Mere Mullins…Becky Zak… Cheri Wittlieb… those are the people that have wins. I don’t have any wins.”

Senior Micayla Drysdale led all players with 15 points and added five rebounds while freshman Jamie Ruttle and sophomore Ashley Durham both scored nine points.

The Griffs (5-8, 1-1 MAAC) fell behind early but used a 15-1 run midway through the first half to claim the lead. Canisius led 29-25 at halftime and never trailed the rest of the way.

Sophomore Ashley Durham’s 3-pointer with 12:18 to play gave Canisius its largest lead of the night at 46-30. The Peahens fought back and brought the score within three points but Zeh’s bunch was able to hold off the comeback attempt and claim the victory.

Twenty-three of Canisius’ points came from the free-throw line. Drysdale led the way hitting 9 of 10 from the line while freshman Jen Morabito was a perfect 3 for 3, upping her team-leading free throw percentage to .897.

Canisius scored 27 points off 20 Peahen turnovers, although the Griffs turned it over 21 times themselves.

“It was a little messy but we came out with the win,” Drysdale said. “Keeping our cool and sticking together, that’s what won us the game.”

The women play again this weekend with a road trip to Loyola and Rider. Loyola was ranked third in the preseason poll and has won two straight, bringing its record to 5-8 (2-0 MAAC). Rider, picked to finish last in the league, is winless on the year.