By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13
St. Bonaventure women opened up 2014 with a loss to Duquesne. The Bonnies fell behind early, and despite a strong second half surge could not make the comeback. Tomorrow afternoon, the Bonnies take on the Richmond Spiders at 4:30. I’ve been away from this team for over a month now. The Duquesne game had been broadcasted on CBS Sports Network, and they had two home games streamed on GoBonnies.com, so I’ve had the chance to watch this team grow despite my absence from Bonaventure over break.
With 11 wins, the Bonnies have eclipsed their win total from last year. Five players average at least 9.5 points a game, led by Katie Healy who has risen her game this year. ESPNw recognized Healy’s game last month when it included her as a player who has stepped up from last season. Healy leads the team in points and blocks. As Healy continues to improve, Atlantic 10 coaches will be sure to tightly defend her. That’s where Healy’s teammates come into play.
Nyla Rueter looks to be a major difference maker in the regular season. She had a career high in points (20) last week. She has shot 40 percent from three, and continues to be a great playmaker. A nucleus of Healy, Rueter, Hannah Little, Gabrielle Richmond, Chelsea Bowker and Emily Michael has so much potential in league play. It would have been great for the Bonnies to steal one in Pennsylvania on New Year’s Day against a very good Dukes’ team, but the Bonnies will only get better as the season progresses.
Even though the team is 16 games into its schedule, it remains unknown how good they actually are because they are still facing new situations, and will continue to do so. Who knows how well certain players will respond to other coaches’ scouting and game plans? League play is a total different animal from nonconference.
The Atlantic 10 has some real solid teams, and there’s no reason why the Bonnies shouldn’t be close to the top before the regular season ends. Four teams, VCU, Fordham, George Washington and La Salle, enter Wednesday 2-0. La Salle beat two of the weaker A-10 teams (George Mason and Rhode Island), but wins are wins, and like coach Crowley says you can’t take wins away from teams.
Given that the top three scorers (Healy, Richmond and Little) play inside bodes extremely well for the Bonnies. The Bonnies are sixth in the conference in field goal percentage, but struggle from the line. Free throw shooting can improve, obviously, and it’s something that I’m sure coach Crowley wants to see get better.
They don’t rely on outside shooting even though the Bonnies are 3rd in the conference in 3-point shooting percentage. There have been games where Bowker hits three or four 3-pointers—and I’m sure coach Crowley would love to see a few more of them during the regular season. Bowker is one of the top 3-point shooters in Bonaventure history. Her ability to knock down threes at will gives Bonaventure a very important weapon.
The Bonnies definitely play to their strength. Little and Healy are excellent rebounders, and the Bonnies as a team lead the conference in rebounding defense. On offense, guards Michael and Rueter to a great job at finding Little and Richmond cut, and Healy on the block. Healy, who had been leading the team in assists for some of the season, has a keen ability to locate the open woman. She isn’t just a gifted scorer, which makes her that much more dangerous.
Michael hasn’t been asked to score, but her role on the team might be the most important. She manages the game, makes the right passes, play tight defense and knows where everyone should be on the court. She plays 78 percent of the game, which should tell you how important she is to coach Crowley. Last season Michael shot a high number of three pointers, but that number is down as she has made seven of 19 so far this year. It’s just a new role that Crowley has given her—a role that has so much importance.
Unfortanely, school does not resume until next Monday, so I won’t be at the Richmond game tomorrow. The following home game, against La Salle, The Intrepid will begin to have full coverage up until season’s end.
Richmond v. St. Bonaventure can be viewed on GoBonnies.com