(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Cameron Hurst @CameronNHurst
It’s been no secret the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team has been lead chiefly by a youth movement during the first twelve games of the 2016-17 campaign, thanks to solid play from freshmen starters Jalisha Terry and Sarah Hart
However, in Wednesday afternoon’s 78-69 victory over the Rhode Island Rams, it was the upperclass combination of Mariah Ruff, Matea Britvar, and Gabby Richmond that led the Bonnies to victory in their conference opener.
“It was a players’ game,” said St. Bonaventure head coach Jesse Fleming on the caliber of Wednesday’s matchup. “It was just really impressive. Our leadership stepped up. They’re the only ones who really know what it’s like to be in an Atlantic 10 game and it really showed, and I’m hoping they can get everybody else along and get three or four people along with them and that we’ll continue to have success in the A-10.”
The trio of upperclassmen each surpassed career highs as Britvar led the Bonnies offensively with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Richmond chipped in 22 points. Ruff joined Britvar with a double-double, logging 19 points and 10 assists.
Putting up one of the best overall performances of the season, Britvar attributed her personal performance to her teammates.
“[Ruff] had some crazy assists,” said Britvar. “Moving the ball around is what got me open and looking for the open gap to grab rebounds to give it to other players.”
Ruff also attributed her successful afternoon to putting her teammates above herself.
“It’s all for my teammates and for them to make the shots,” said Ruff, whose 12 points in the third quarter helped swing momentum in the Bonnies’ favor.
“Everybody got me the ball when I was feeling hot,” Ruff said. “Then, when I cooled off, everybody else was getting open so it worked out.”
While the Bonnies eventually proved their strength offensively, they struggled to find a rhythm early in the game as they faced a 13-10 deficit after the first quarter. Fleming believes some of the struggles could be attributed to the weeklong layover since the team’s most recent game against Buffalo, with a holiday break in between.
“I hate excuses but I definitely think [being on break and not playing in a week] was part of that,” he said. “I just felt like we weren’t locked in. Thank God we got the win out of it, but I definitely think, you’re coming off break, you’re coming off finals, and I think with the scheduling where it happened isn’t ideal. But, I’m proud that the older kids stepped up and put those excuses behind them in the second half and made some plays.”
St. Bonaventure would rebound following the first quarter, though, and eventually surpassed the Rams with 42 seconds left thanks to a drained three-pointer by Ruff that gave the Bonnies a 23-21 halftime lead. While the lead changed again in the third quarter, the Bonnies would never look back after taking a 28-27 lead following another trey by Ruff with 7:25 left in the third quarter.
Additionally, the team shot a season-best 21-of-25 at the free-throw line and record 23 assists, their most since a matchup at UMass on Feb. 8, 2014.
The Bonnies now look ahead to a 2 p.m. New Year’s Eve matchup with George Mason, but can certainly be proud of their strong performance to kick-off conference play.
“The players stepped up and came to play [Wednesday],” said Fleming. “The ball found the energy and our seniors and our upperclassmen made some shots for us which is great.”