(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team will look to keep its season alive on Sunday night when it faces host Oregon State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Bona pulled off an impressive 65-54 upset against Big 12 Player of the Year Brittney Martin and Oklahoma State on Friday night. A victory against the sixth-ranked, two-seeded Beavers on Sunday night would be more than impressive; it would arguably be the biggest in school history.
The 29-4 Beavers have been nearly unstoppable in the friendly confines of Gill Coliseum, with a 15-1 home record. They have won 19 of their last 20 games overall, lost to powerhouse Notre Dame by just a point and were the regular season champions of the Pac-12, the best conference in women’s basketball.
Coach Scott Rueck’s team wins with size; nine of its 13 players are over 6-foot to SBU’s five. In turn, it owns the nation’s sixth-best rebounding margin at plus-11.8.
In OSU’s 73-31 win in the tournament opener with Troy, 11 different players got on the score sheet. 6-foot-6 senior center Ruth Hamblin led the way with 18 points and 18 rebounds, while 6-foot-5 sophomore center Marie Gulich, registered 12 and 6-foot-1 junior guard Sydney Wiese scored 10.
Senior guard Jamie Weisner is the Pac-12’s Player of the Year and leads the team in scoring, but was held in check against Troy, scoring just two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the floor. That was a rare off-night for the 48 percent shooter, who is an obvious focal point for Bonnies coach Jim Crowley and his staff.
Stopping, Hamblin, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, is going to be a tall task for Bona, literally and figuratively.
“She’s fun to watch,” Crowley told Jeff Madigan of the Olean Times Herald. “She’s emotional, she gets excited. How much fun to have her as a teammate and to have her to be a fan … see her have that energy and passion. And she’s a mechanical engineering major who’s going to graduate early. It’s like she was created. It’s what sports is about and should be. She’s talented, she’s a great student. She appears to be just a really special kid. I could never coach someone that smart.”
Bonnies forward Katie Healy noted that the team played another 6-foot-6 standout when Candice Agee and Penn State came to the Reilly Center on Dec. 12. Agee was held scoreless in that matchup.
“We know what we need to do,” she told Madigan. “We don’t go for steals in the post. When (Hamblin) gets you high side she’s really good so we’re going to try to limit that. We’re going to team-defend her.”
When Bonaventure had a size disadvantage against Oklahoma State, Crowley opted to go with a speed-oriented lineup. That lineup included one of the fastest players on the team in freshman guard Mckenna Maycock, who played 13 minutes; her season average is 6.6.
The pace and tempo Bona brought against the Cowgirls was quick yet efficient, resembling what the team will need to do against the Beavers.
“We got here moving the ball, having tempo and knocking down some jump shots,” Crowley said. “If they’re good enough to take that away, are we then good enough to find another way? We’ll find out.”