By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13
Today at 5 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament, St. Bonaventure takes on the La Salle Explorers.
St. Bonaventure (22-9) finished second in the A-10 and spent Thursday on a bye while La Salle (15-14), as a seven seed, beat Saint Louis 65-56.
The Bonnies and Explorers meet for the third time this season.
St. Bonaventure beat La Salle in western New York in January.
La Salle defeated St. Bonaventure last Saturday in Philadelphia.
The Bonnies forced La Salle to shoot 20.4 percent from the field in the January win. La Salle’s Alicia Cropper, a second team All-Atlantic 10 member, shot 2-14 for seven points.
Again, Cropper struggled shooting the ball in La Salle’s home win over St. Bonaventure (she shot 5-17), but she had three triples and made four free throws to finish with 17 points.
The Bonnies defense had been fantastic against the Explorers last week, forcing them to shoot 35 percent, but their offense had been out of sync all afternoon.
Nyla Rueter and Chelsea Bowker failed to provide the usual outside spark, combining to shoot 2 for 12 from three.
Bowker stretches the floor for the Bonnies, while Rueter serves as a primary distributor and efficient scorer.
La Salle likes to work the ball inside to All-Rookie Team member Micahya Owens and Leeza Burdgess. Owens and Burdgess averaged 22.9 points on the season.
But it is Cropper who La Salle features most in their offense.
Cropper has been inconsistent from the field all season (32.7 percent), but she remains a high usage player for the Explorers.
Cropper and Owens have taken 50.7 percent of La Salle’s shots this season.
La Salle has impressive wins over VCU, George Washington, Duquesne and St. Bonaventure, so the Explorers have shown the ability to beat good teams.
Katie Healy scored 27 points in the January win over La Salle. She missed two shots all game (a free throw and a field goal). The Explorers simply did not have an answer for her.
Healy should have opportunities throughout today’s game to showcase her skills that made her a First Team All-Conference selection. La Salle played honest against Healy before since St. Bonaventure has formidable options in Rueter, Bowker and Hannah Little.
The road struggles have been well documented this season. Bona’s five conference losses came away from the Reilly Center.
Even for a second place team, growing pains can occur. After finishing 2-12 on the road last year, St. Bonaventure has yet to figure out how to win on the road on a consistent basis. Although today’s game will be considered a home one, it’s far from New York.
Today marks the first conference tournament for every player on the team besides Bowker.
The winner plays the winner of Duquesne/Fordham on Saturday afternoon.