Bona women close out La Salle for first A-10 win

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Nic Gelyon

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — “Hopefully, this breaks the dam and we’re on to a really good run here.” 

That’s what St. Bonaventure women’s basketball head coach Jesse Fleming had to say following his team’s 65-60 win against La Salle at the Reilly Center on Friday. 

Fleming’s hope is warranted, as his team managed to exercise some of its demons against the Explorers. The Bonnies won their first game since Dec. 16, a home victory against Binghamton. They won their first conference game, finally getting themselves out of the Atlantic 10’s basement. SBU hadn’t beaten La Salle in nearly seven years.

The Bonnies’ veterans continued to contribute in notable ways. Asianae Johnson had 15 points, four rebounds and four assists, leading the Bonnies in scoring and icing the game by knocking down 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch. 

Senior forward Emily Calabrese finished with five rebounds and three assists to go along with four points. 

For the Explorers, junior Kayla Spruill led the way shooting, going 4-for-5 from the field for 16 points while hitting a perfect 6-of-6 shots from the foul line. Sophomore Claire Jacobs made an impact on the glass for La Salle, notching a team-high nine rebounds with 11 points and four assists.  

But it was up-and-comers like Olivia Brown, Kaitlyn Parker, Maddie Dziezgowski, and I’yanna Lops who glued the game together for the Bonnies. All played key roles at different points in the game, particularly in scoring and rebounding, as the Bonnies continued to not rely solely on the veterans to do the heavy lifting. 

Fleming knows it was the team’s balance that made this game different. 

“I thought that everybody who came in really did something positive,” he said after the game. “I love the 19 assists number, really shared the basketball; the shooters came out shot ready, good shots.” 

Right out of the gate, the Bonnies dominated their way to a 22-4 lead, playing fast and taking advantage of some fantastic looks gifted to them by La Salle. Brown, a sophomore, led the first-quarter charge. One of the Bonnies’ more reliable shooters this season, she scored 11 points in the first quarter, aided by three wide-open looks from beyond the arc. 

But even as the Bonnies shot over 60% from the floor in the first half, their defense is what allowed them to build an 18-point lead. Limiting La Salle to just eight points in the first quarter, the Explorers couldn’t find a way to penetrate the Bonnies’ zone. Forcing them into long-range shots, the Bonnies played to La Salle’s weakness as a team, shooting just under 30% from three. 

Fleming spoke about the Bonnies’ defensive stand in the first half. 

“Love the defensive energy,” he said. “[La Salle] played down in Drexel on Wednesday, and then they came up here… we came out and said, if you guys aren’t going to have the energy, we’re going to have twice the energy.”  

The Explorers found some energy of their own in the second half. The Bonnies’ 18-point lead was cut to single digits by a dagger three from Deja King to bookend the first half. But, fresh out of halftime, Brown answered back with a three of her own. She’d finish the game with 14 points and five rebounds. 

Rebounding was also a team effort for SBU on Friday. Six Bonnies had four or more rebounds in the game, as St. Bonaventure outrebounded La Salle, 37-25, with a dominating plus-six advantage in offensive boards. It was a different look for a team that had ‘t dominated the glass this season. 

What kept La Salle in the game was their knack for getting to the free-throw line, hitting 17 of 19 on the day. But as La Salle began to capitalize on some of the Bonnies’ errors, and as they eventually cut their deficit to two points, the Bonnies exercised one of their more evil demons: their inability to close out games. 

This season, the Bonnies have blown a late lead against St. John’s on the heels of a Brown technical foul. They’ve failed to maintain their momentum during comeback efforts against Dayton and Richmond.  

And the Bonnies could have faltered amid a wave of Explorers after an Asianae Johnson turnover midway through the fourth with La Salle threatening to take the lead. Instead, they gathered themselves. They returned to what had worked the entire game, setting up their offense, working inside the paint, and asserting themselves on the glass. 

Resilient, the Bonnies successfully stood their ground on Friday, conquering the demon that has haunted them all season. 

“We could be licking our wounds after a couple tough losses,” Fleming said. “People were ready to step up… and we needed that.” 

Deja Francis, who had 11 points, four rebounds and six assists on Friday, agreed with her coach that this win could be the start of change for her team.

“It feels really good… just to finish this one out,” Francis said said. “We’re really close. It feels really good to just take that next step and get the win.” 

After a Sunday slate against Saint Joseph’s was canceled due to COVID-19 concern within the Hawks’ program, SBU will begin a two-game road trip that begins by visiting Fordham on Jan. 22.

Bona women fall to VCU in overtime

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Mistakes can be crucial late in any college basketball game, and that proved true for the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team on Sunday.

Asianae Johnson was issued a technical foul in the overtime period of a 59-57 loss to VCU at the Reilly Center, and the Bonnies had a shot to win the game on its last shot, but a Tori Harris three-point attempt rimmed out as the overtime clock expired.

Despite the mistakes throughout the game, the Bonnies had four players reach double-figure scoring on Sunday. Harris, a junior guard, led the way for SBU with 18 points and six rebounds. Johnson, a junior, followed closely behind with 15 points. Sophomore Olivia Brown and junior Deja Francis joined with 12 and 13 points, respectively. 

Brown hit three clutch three-point shots, shooting 4-for-8 from beyond the arc on the day, which kept the Bonnies in the game after trailing early in the second half.

Despite the efforts from his team, head coach Jesse Fleming had a strong message during his press conference following the loss. 

“Close doesn’t matter,” Fleming said. We need to find a way to start winning games. There are tears in that locker room and it’s tough for them, but life’s not fair. Win, lose, whatever, we go back to work. That’s all you can do.” 

Although Fleming acknowledged there was some slopy play throughout the game, he also acknowledged the ability of his team to acknowledge the mistakes and improve on them as the contest progress.

“We need to do a little better job on reads late,” Fleming said. “We need to be a little more locked in to defend some assignments. We got screwed up in (the defense) that we were in, and that’s a coaching mistake.”

The Rams were led by Sydnei Archie and Tera Reed with 17 and 15 points, respectively. Maddison Hattix-Covington added 10 points for the Rams.

The Bonnies, who fell to 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the A-10, will welcome La Salle to the RC on Friday at noon. The game’s broadcast of the contest can be seen on ESPN+. 

Bona women unable to complete comeback vs Richmond

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Despite 18 points from Asianae Johnson and a game-high 11 rebounds from Tori Harris, the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team fell to Richmond, 59-58, at the Reilly Center on Friday. 

The Bonnies trailed by four points at the halftime and needed a momentum swing. Instead, they found themselves facing a ten-point deficit entering the fourth quarter.  

Sophomore Olivia Brown took things into her own hands to get SBU back into the game, however, and hit back-to-back three pointers before Johnson made a free throw to tie the game at 54. Ultimately, Richmond freshman Grace Townsend scored the game-winning basket and sunk a clutch free throw afterward to put the Spiders ahead for good.

“I just give (Brown) a ton of credit for fighting back in the fourth quarter,” Bona head coach Jesse Fleming said. “She made a couple shots but, she rebounded and she got on the help side and she was there.” 

With seven seconds showing on the clock, Richmond’s Kate Klimkiewicz missed two big attempts from the free throw line. Deja Francis took the ball down the court after the second miss and tried to find an open Brown on the wing, but the Bonnies couldn’t get a shot off before the game clock expired.

“I didn’t want to call a timeout, we had two ball handlers on the floor,” Fleming said. I thought it was a layup, it was a slot drive we practice every day.” 

Fleming said he explained the expectations to his team in a timeout before the free throws. 

“I thought we won the game; I thought (Francis) was going up with the layup. We just have to learn from it,” Fleming said. 

One of the biggest challenges for Fleming and his staff going forward is finding what the best player rotation is going to be down the stretch. 

“Right now, (the team is) still trying to figure out the lineups and who is going to be there and who is going to be consistent for us,” Fleming said. “We can be dangerous if we can get nine or 10 people playing their role.” 

I’yanna Lops was able to chip in 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting and one freebie from the charity stripe to tie her career high. 

“We think she has a really high ceiling,” Fleming said of Lops. “I think we are just scratching the surface with her.” 

Klimkiewicz finished tied with Johnson for a game-high 18 points, and pulled down nine rebounds. Claire Holt and Addie Budnik each scored 12 points for the Spiders, while Harris had 12 points for SBU.

The Bonnies will return to the RC on Sunday to meet VCU at noon on ESPN+. 

Harris shines, Bona women win in return to Reilly Center

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — It had been nearly nine months since head coach Jesse Fleming and the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team took the floor at the Reilly Center. 

The Bonnies took care of business on Tuesday night with a 67-57 victory over Binghamton, despite giving Bearcats senior forward Kaylee Wasco 14 points in the opening half. 

 “I feel really good about us going forward,” Fleming said after the win. “Once we knew we could do it, I thought we played really well for a lot of stretches. We (made mistakes); we still have to trust exactly what we are trying to do.” 

The Bonnies were able to come out of the gate strong and attacked the boards early in the first half, winning the rebounding battle 21-10 at halftime. By the final buzzer, SBU had 50 rebounds to Binghamton’s 33.  

However, to start the second half, Fleming watched his players give up a 10-0 run to the Bearcats.

“I want to grade every possession on, ‘Hey did we play the way we wanted to play that possession’,” Fleming said. “I never sit there and say ‘here we go again.’ It is just about how can we get back to being us.”

Fleming thought his team needed to be “cleaner” defensively and in the post, but he likes what he has seen thus far. 

Despite some struggles defensively and issues with the pace, the Bonnies impressed Fleming with 50 rebounds. Tori Harris, a redshirt junior guard who transferred to the program from James Madison, was instrumental in the win, racking up 10 boards to accompany 20 points. Junior guard Asianae Johnson followed right behind with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Deja Francis scored 13 points.

“Whenever I see a chance to go get a rebound I try to,” Harris said. “We always make it a big deal to rebound during practice. We talk about how last year, we didn’t focus on rebounding enough.”

Fleming stressed the importance of rebounding to his team’s success.

“We have no chance if we cannot rebound the ball,” Fleming said. “Today we went 4-for-15 from three and won the game because of the way we rebounded the basketball. I am thrilled about the rebounding.” 

Bona improved to 1-1 with the win, while BU fell to 0-2 with the loss. The Bonnies will travel to Buffalo on Saturday, where they will take on the Bulls at 2 p.m. 

What we learned from Bona women’s loss to Duquesne

photo: Dave DeNoma

By Dustyn Green

PITTSBURGH, PA — The St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team led much of its contest against Duquesne in on Friday before falling, 71-63, to the Dukes. Below are four takeaways from the contest.

Guard the paint

One of the areas the Dukes dominated without any issue was the paint, and the Bonnies did not come prepared to ace the paint test in Pittsburgh. SBU gave the Dukes 32 points in the paint, with 18 in the first half. The Bonnies protected the three-point line very well and limited other damage. If damage control was activated this already close game, may have been closer.

Glimmers of hope

Early on, Duquesne hung on to a lead, but St. Bonaventure took command of the game afterward and retained it through much of the contest. In the first half, rising sophomore Amanda Kalin was silent and could not get on the scoresheet. However, the second half was a much different story, and Kalin put seven consecutive points on the board. The Bonnies showed promise when responding to plays on either side of the ball before giving up a 15-0 run to the Dukes.

Cut down turnovers and capitalize

One of the leading contributions to losses in basketball is the presence of a large number of turnovers. In this game, the Bonnies committed 18 turnovers and gave up 32 points on those turnovers. The Dukes were responsible for 13 turnovers, however, the Bonnies only cashed in for 11 points off of them.

Dziezgowski makes good first impression

In college sports, first impressions are crucial. Dziezgowski had the opportunity to give her’s in the contest, and it was a solid one. In 19 minutes, the freshman put up eight points, three rebounds, one assist and two steals. For the last several seasons, Fleming has lacked someone who can fill the entire stat sheet. If she can continue to do that down the stretch and for the next four years, her presence may pose issues for opposing teams.

PREVIEW: Bona women open season with Friday slate at Duquesne

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Dustyn Green

PITTSBURGH, PA — It has been over nine months since the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team and head coach Jesse Fleming have played an official game. However, that will change on Friday afternoon when the Duquesne Dukes and head coach Dan Burt play host to the Bonnies.

The Dukes have an immediate advantage, as they have played two games already this season, facing Ohio State and St. Francis (PA). The Dukes fell to the then-20th ranked Buckeyes, 82-47, before edging St. Francis, 69-67. This will be the team’s “home” opener, as the game will be played at La Roche University.

In each of the first two matchups, at least three players tallied 15 or more minutes off the bench for Duquesne. Tanaya Beacham had 23 minutes against the Buckeyes, and Jada Dupaa clocked in for 20 against St. Francis. Despite seeing a significant amount of action in those games, the bench only scored a total of 42 points.

Amanda Kailin has averaged 13.5 points per game to lead the team over its first two games, while Laia Sole has been a double-double threat, averaging 7.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

The Dukes have seen a total of 116 points on their side of the scoreboard. Of those 116 points, 96 of them have come from either in the paint or on the free-throw line. The Dukes have made 81.8% of their shots from the charity stripe.

If they’re going to find success, the Bonnies need to take the paint away from Duquesne and exhaust the Dukes on defense to force them into tough situations.

The game commences at 2 p.m. on Friday, and will be broadcasted on ESPN+.

Bona women work through preseason; await schedule

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Sean Casey

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team still does not know exactly when it will play its first game, but that does not mean that the team has been taking practice lightly.

After eight months without a competition, the 2020-21 regular season seems within reaching distance, and the team is prepared for it. 

“There have been some recent changes to our schedule, and it’s going to come down to the wire I think,” said SBU head coach Jesse Fleming.

Regardless of when the Bonnies play, one thing we do know is that there will not be any fans in attendance at the Reilly Center this season.

“It sucks,” Fleming said. “It’s out of our control, and if people think that’s the best thing to do from a science standpoint, then I am 100% behind it. Obviously, you want to play in front of your friends and family… practicing at 6: 30a.m every day to play in front of fans. It’s a bummer and I really feel bad for the kids.”

The team has been practicing for months now, and according to sophomore guard Olivia Brown and junior guard Asianae Johnson, improvement has been noted.

“We have gotten better with our execution and transition defense,”Johnson said. “We are thriving as a team and are more connected than we were last year, knowing each other better and influencing each other in being better players.”

Brown said that she feels the team is more experienced than it was a year ago, and that they’re looking “really good.”

Experience seems to be a positive that the entire team is confident in and happy with. 

“They’ve been through the fire in a lot of close games,” Fleming said.

Johnson, who is poised to be a key contributor for the team, will continue her role as a team leader this season. Fleming recalled a story from practice in which Johnson expressed how important to teammates diving on the ground for loose balls is.

“That’s the type of leadership you don’t develop by just telling someone to be a leader or telling someone to read a leadership book,” Fleming said. “(Johnson) has been through that.” 

Johnson was named second-team preseason All-Atlantic 10, as voted on by the league’s head coaches.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity, and being noticed, but it’s always come to the point where I wouldn’t want to be second. At all,” Johnson said. “That’s always been my mindset, I wouldn’t want to be second, and I feel like I have the ability to be first team, and I have the ability to be first in every category.” 

Fleming said that Johnson is in the gym “more than anyone,” and that she “deserves it with her work and her mentality.” 

With so many questions going into this season, the team is just on working on what they can control: playing basketball and working hard. 

“We’re going to try and take it one game at a time,” Fleming said. “One game might get taken away, but we want them to have a fun time and show up and compete. “

Previewing SBU’s women’s basketball roster

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Tom Doyle

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team is looking to bounce back from a down year.

Head coach Jesse Fleming enters his fifth season as head coach for the Bonnies, coming off of a 7-23 record (including 4-12 in the Atlantic 10) last year.

The Bonnies have four new players this year and eight returning players, including two seniors. They lost three seniors last year.

SBU added a graduate transfer, Star Fitzgerald-Greer, a 6-3 forward from Howard University.

The Bonnies, like every other NCAA program, were allowed to begin practicing on Wednesday, with the possibility of games beginning no earlier than Nov. 25. As the Bonnies take the court for the first time together this season, here’s a brief overview of what their roster will look like.

RETURNING PLAYERS

Asianae Johnson | G | Junior | Brooklyn, NY
Johnson emerged as the leading scorer for the Bonnies last year averaging 12.7 points per game. She was also second in rebounding at 5.5 per game showing she can do it all. She scored in double figures 21 times for the Bonnies last year. Look for her to continue to score at will and help on the glass again this season.

Deja Francis| G | Junior | Queens, NY
Francis led the team in assists with 74, and was second in scoring last year. She averaged 9.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Her freshman year, she totaled 104 assists, which is the most in 20 seasons for SBU and was fourth among A-10 players. Look for her to continue to get teammates involved this year and keep improving her game as a junior.

Tori Harris| F | R-Junior | Dix Hills, NY
Harris had to sit last year out after transferring from James Madison. During her first two collegiate seasons, Harris played in 47 games for the Dukes and had a career-high 15 points against Delaware State her sophomore season. In high school, she was named the 2017 Long Island Player of the Year. Her brother, Tobias, plays forward for the Philadelphia 76ers.

I’yanna Lops | F | Soph. | Stamford, CT
Olivia Brown| G | Soph. | East Grand Rapids, MI 
Carrie Jornlin| F | R-Sophomore | Hagerstown, MD 
Emily Calabrese| F/C | Senior | Wyckoff, NJ
Kaitlyn Parker| G | Sophomore | Suitland, MD
Jurnee President| G | Senior | Fort Worth, TX 
Claire Cody| F | R-Freshman | Carmel, NY

New Players

Star Fitzgerald-Greer| F | Senior | Bronk, NY
Fitzgerald- Greer, Goddaughter of Bonnies men’s basketball legend Fred Crawford, is looking to help the Bonnies this year. She is a 6-3 transfer from Howard, where she averaged 3.6 points and 3.3 rebounds as a junior. She can stretch the floor with her shooting after sinking 21 threes her junior season.

Maddie Dziezgowski| G/F | Freshman | Bethel Park, PA
Dziezgowski averaged 14.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game as a junior in high school. She was selected to the All-WPIAL First Team and lead her team to a 22-4 record in 2018-2019.

Morgan Gentile| G | Freshman | Elmira, NY
Gentile averaged 15 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists per game at Elmira High School. 

Mia Kulenovic| F | Freshman | Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina