(Mariah Ruff Photo Credit: Cameron Hurst)
By Cameron Hurst @CameronNHurst
At the half, the new-look St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team found itself down 13-11 to Division II Edinboro, leaving many at the Reilly Center stunned.
However, after a solid second half effort, the Bonnies silenced critics by defeating the powerhouse Pennsylvania program, 50-25, in a preseason exhibition matchup.
“I was really happy with how Edinboro really, really pressured us,” said head coach Jesse Fleming after the victory. “It’s gonna give us some stuff to focus on this week. It really made us get our feet underneath us.”
Leading the turnaround for St. Bonaventure was junior guard Mariah Ruff, who finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Ruff’s performance helped the Bonnies finish the game on 36-4 run after she converted back-to-back-to-back three point field goals at the end of the third quarter.
“I was really proud of [Ruff] in the second half,” said Fleming. “She just kinda took the team on her back and made some shots and then everybody else started to come along.”
The Bonnies showed some sloppiness at the beginning of the game, turning over the ball five times during the first quarter. Thanks to two points from Ruff, a free throw by Matea Britvar and three points from freshman Jalisha Terry, the Bonnies led 6-2 after the first quarter of play.
The Fighting Scots came into the second quarter hot, however, forcing five more turnovers and receiving all nine of the ensuing points from senior Katie Fischer, who would finish with 12 on the day.
“We’re growing,” said Fleming. “We’ve gotta clean up these sections where we’re not getting the ball in the paint or we’re not finishing around the basket. We’ve gotta be more than a 18 to 19-minute team. We’ve gotta be a 40-minute team and hopefully this week we will make some strides.”
After the half, however, after falling behind 19-14 after contributions by Fischer, Whitney Allen, and Nicole Johnson, the Bonnies would finish the quarter on a 16-0 run, beginning with a lay-in by Ruff just over four minutes into the quarter.
“We just started playing better as a team,” said Ruff, who credited fellow junior Matea Britvar after her four straight points that brought the Bonnies to within one and also gave them the defining lead.
“We started putting things together and that just really got us going,” Ruff said. “Then we started making some plays and we just got going and that was a big part of [the win].”
Besides Ruff and Britvar, the Bonnies received quality play from three of their five freshmen: Rhianna Council, who finished with 6 points, Sarah Hart, who finished with two points, and most notably Jalisha Terry, who despite only finishing with 3 points fought her way onto the floor after what was described as by Fleming as a “rollercoaster” preseason.
“She was in the starting lineup for a stretch and then there was a point a couple weeks ago where we weren’t going to put her on the floor, and then she worked her way back,” said Fleming. “I was really, really proud of her.”
The Bonnies now look ahead to the regular season opener on Friday on the road at Niagara University, and despite the exhibition victory, will look to make some adjustments this week. That game will tip off at the Gallagher Center at 5 p.m.
Said Fleming, “We’ve just gotta get better at doing what we do.”