By Cameron Hurst @CameronNHurst
Coming off one of the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team’s biggest victories of the year, a 55-38 rout of UMass on Thursday, head coach Jesse Fleming has a lot to be excited about heading into Saturday afternoon’s home matchup with Duquesne.
“I was just really pleased with the way we played [against UMass],” said Fleming. “I thought the kids were really confident. They were stepping into their shots. The kids just played really, really hard. You watch the film, we won every 50/50 ball, we flew around, we had multiple deflections …. we deserved [the win on Thursday].”
The victory for the Bonnies brings them to 7-12 on the season and 2-5 in the Atlantic 10. It also gives the Bonnies their first road win of the season, something Fleming looks at as a true challenge.
“It’s hard to win on the road. It’s a different level, just like it’s easier to play at home,” said Fleming. “But, it’s no excuse. To be a good team, you’ve at least got to be a .500 team on the road. We haven’t been there yet.”
It is not secret that the win gives a very youth-filled Bonnies team a great deal of encouragement following a 60-44 defeat against Fordham on Sunday at the Reilly Center. It also marked the end of a scoring drought by Mariah Ruff, who went scoreless for the first time in 62 games during the loss on Sunday.
However, while such a streak could be perceived as being a mental lapse by the player, Fleming took full blame for Ruff’s cold streak, noting the game plan did not place the team’s leading scorer in the best positions to be successful.
“It’s on me. It’s not [Ruff’s fault] for going 0-20. I wasn’t getting her in the best position for her to score,” he said. “She was having to create a lot of stuff for herself and I really thought yesterday we did a good job of [getting her in position to make a play]. I’ve got to keep doing a better job of, when team’s are face-guarding her and stuff, to put her in a position where she can have success.”
Also encouraging in Fleming’s eyes was the leadership that emerged from freshman Jalisha Terry. According to the first year head coach, Terry is slowly beginning to come into her own as the leader of the St. Bonaventure offense.
“[Her leadership running the offense] is getting there,” Fleming said of his young point guard. “I told Jalisha that I thought [Thursday] was her best game …. she ran our team. I think I called six or seven plays the whole game … I just thought she did a great job that way of finally taking control of the team. She’s getting to the understanding that the ball needs to go here at this time. She’s not calling the same four plays every single time. Stuff that older point guards have to learn and it’s neat to see her growing up and take control of our team.”
The Bonnies now look ahead to take on Duquesne this afternoon at 4 p.m. in their first Saturday home game at the Reilly Center since “Exhibition Saturday.” Challenges arise, however, in only one full day of preparation for the Dukes, coming almost immediately after a road trip to Amherst on Thursday.
“This is kind of new for me,” said Fleming on the quick turnaround. “We did two days of prep in one day. They do some different stuff and we had to be prepared. It is what it is and we just are going to go get after it.”
And, though their record only shows 10-10 overall and 3-4 in the conference, the Dukes have shown the potential of their team in a Jan. 7 73-51 victory over Davidson and a 94-65 thrashing of the Saint Louis Billikens this past Wednesday.
“The scary thing is with Duquesne is when it’s going, it is going … and when it’s not, they’ve struggled a little bit,” said Fleming. “They want to outscore you. I don’t know if they have a lockdown defensive mentality. They have a lot firepower and they want to get it going up and down and stretch you out and I think that’s what can make them so scary is that they’re such a streaky team.”
While Saturday’s game will certainly not be a cakewalk in any sense, it seems as though the Bonnies experienced quite the wakeup call after the Fordham matchup. And, while the season has been a struggle, Fleming still believes this team has the potential for their game to improve come playoff time.
“I knew there would be ups and downs. There have been games I thought we should’ve got and there’s other games that I was pleased that we played well and we got. I really didn’t have the expectations of what we were going to be. I’ve always said since the start of the year that I hope we’re playing our best in March and yesterday shows a little bit of a reflection that we’re starting to play better. [Thursday] shows a little bit of a reflection that we’re starting to play better. That’s my goal.”