LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. - For the third straight season Siena is victorious in its conference opener. Cristina Centeno scored a season-high 20 points and made all the key plays down the stretch as the Saints fended off Canisius 67-61 at the ARC to ring in the New Year.
Centeno scored the go-ahead basket with 8:53 remaining, sparking a 7-0 run as the Saints (3-7, 1-0) overcame their only deficit of the second half. She scored nine of her points down the stretch hitting a variety of tough shots, making clutch free throws and forcing several key turnovers that aided the win.
Siena got off to a hot start to 2012 and built an 11-point halftime lead. After Canisius (6-6, 0-1) scored the first basket of the game, the Saints responded with a 13-2 run and would lead by no fewer than six points until midway through the second half.
But Canisius failed to go away. After shooting just 25% in the first half, the Golden Griffins erupted to shoot 56% (14-25) in the second half and erase the Siena lead.
Ashley Durham and Kayla Hoohuli combined to score 13 points during 16-4 Canisius run midway through the second half. Hoohuli capped the run with a three, giving the Golden Griffins their only lead of the second half at 47-45 with 9:45 remaining.
But Centeno ignited the decisive run on both ends of the court as the Saints held Canisius scoreless for the next four minutes.
Siena took advantage down the stretch on second chance points, outscoring Canisius 10-3 in the final half. The Saints held a decisive 39-28 rebounding advantage including 17 offensive rebounds against the mammoth Canisius front line.
Centeno added six assists for the second straight game and added three steals as the Saints improved to 24-7 all-time at home against Canisius. Lily Grenci added 18 points and eight rebounds and Maja Gerlyng chipped in with 14.
Clara Sole Anglada gave the squad a much needed boost with eight points and seven rebounds off the bench including a clutch three in the closing minutes.
Durham led four Golden Griffins in double figures with 14 points off the bench. Hoohuli added 13 as did reigning MAAC Rookie of the Year Jamie Ruttle as Canisius saw its three-game winning streak come to an end.
Siena has little time to savor the victory as the team hits the road tomorrow en route to a Wednesday night showdown at Iona.