(Mariah Ruff Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies women’s basketball team, which has won 12 straight games, hopes to improve to 3-0 in Atlantic 10 play at 5 p.m. on Sunday, when the UMass Minutewomen enter the Reilly Center.
The Minutewomen are looking for their first conference win. They lost their first two A-10 contests to VCU and St. Joseph’s, both at home, and come in at 6-8 overall. Their program vastly improved last season, recording a 12-18 record, eight more wins than a 4-27 2013-14 season.
Bona has been downright dominant at home this season, with a 9-0 record in the comfortable confines of the Reilly Center. It’s the longest home win streak to start a season in program history, while UMass is 2-4 on the road this year.
Can the Bonnies win their 10th home game this season and extend the win streak to a lucky 13, or will the Minutewomen pull off the upset? Here’s the full breakdown:
St. Bonaventure- Jim Crowley. 247-225 as Bonnies head coach.
Massachusetts- Sharon Dawley. 40-123 as Minutewomen head coach.
Key players for UMass:
Cierra Dillard- 5-foot-9 sophomore guard. Dillard is leading the team in scoring and steals, averaging 14.2 points and 2.3 swipes a game. She also has also contributed by dishing out three assists a game and grabbing 2.9 rebounds a contest. The Rochester, N.Y. native was one of the best freshmen in the conference last year and has improved on both sides of the court this season, making her a player to watch in every facet of the game.
Bria Stallworth- 5-foot-6 freshman guard. Stallworth, the other half of this talented young backcourt, has attempted 13 more shots than Dillard this season, averaging 12.6 points on 38.3 percent shooting from the field. The Chicago native also leads the team in assists, averaging 3.8 and carrying a 1.20 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Rashida Timbilla- 6-foot-1 senior forward. Timbilla, who hails from Ottawa, is the team’s top defensive player, with 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks a game. She can also chip in offensively, averaging 7.9 points a game. With seven double-digit rebounding games and four games with double-figure scoring, Timbilla could pose a formidable challenge to SBU’s bigs.
Keys to victory for UMass- The Fordham and Rhode Island Rams provided an incomplete blueprint for how to beat Bonaventure: grab the rebounding edge. In both games, the Bonnies were outrebounded in the first half as the respective Ram teams went into the locker room with a slim deficit. The brown and white pulled away in the fourth quarter, but most of the game was a tight battle.
Rebounding has not been UMass’s strength, as the women are 12th in the A-10 in rebounding margin, but to beat SBU the boards have to be a place of emphasis; you’re not leaving with a win if you get dominated on the glass.
Keys to victory for Bonaventure: Keep knocking down those free throws. SBU is second in the league in free throw percentage at 73.7 percent, and Miranda Drummond is first individually at 85 percent. Accuracy at the stripe can be the difference between the NCAA Tournament and WNIT, and Crowley’s team is making sure it is strong in that aspect.