No. 1 seed St. Bonaventure (28-2) won its opening game vs. La Salle (14-17), 68-53, in the quarter final today at Saint Joseph’s Hagan Arena.

Five Bonnies scored 10 points or more vs. the Explorers — Megan Van Tatenhove leading the way with 13 on 6-of-8 shooting — en route to advancing to semifinals for the first time in program history Sunday vs. Saint Joseph’s. 

[Video by Tony Lee]

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Lee-aving Nothing Behind: ‘They deserve more,’ says Crowley

By Tony Lee, Editor In Chief, @sHecKii

With a soft chuckle, coach Jim Crowley reflected on what he thought his St. Bonaventure career might have been after his 200th-career win.

“I didn’t think I’d stay here this long,” Crowley said on Dec. 7 after defeating Indiana, 65-45. “I thought people would get tired of me and move me out.”

That’s because Crowley once had a 57-119 coaching record, a winning percentage of 32.4 percent. He said he didn’t look at his record because he didn’t want to see it.

Now, all Crowley gets asked is about this season’s record and how a team picked sixth in the preseason Atlantic 10 Conference poll sits on top of the conference with a 16-2 record.

“I’m not sure people realize how good our players are,” Crowley said Saturday after winning a program-best third-straight A-10 game against St. Louis, 64-52. “They understand the value of the basketball.”

Crowley, despite his team receiving Associate Press Poll votes for a program-best fourth week in a row, answers questions about his team’s success as if he solved a century-long, unsolvable math equation.

I distinctly remember a media member saying, “I thought they were a fluke” before the coaches came in for a press conference after the 74-65 win at Temple on Jan. 11.

The Bonnies are legit, but that’s not the story.

“I’m so glad that coach gave me an opportunity to play here at St. Bonaventure,” said senior Armelia Horton, who has won a men’s and women’s basketball program-best 101 wins. 

“The coaches and the assistants,” she said, “they believe so much in the system that I just knew it wasn’t going to fail.”

That system, one Crowley admitted derived from when his back was against the wall, has not only changed the women’s program, but NCAA Division I basketball, too.

“We were in a situation in a few years ago where we it was the last of three-straight one-year deals — and there was new people coming in,” Crowley said of him and his staff. “If we didn’t have success and show progress, I was going to have to find a new career.”

But Crowley, who received a three-year extension prior to this season, didn’t just create a system.

The coaches believe. The players trust. The team wins.

“They’ve always been for real,” said Temple coach Tonya Cardoza on Jan. 11. “And most of the guys on their team weren’t recruited by a lot of schools, but they know that. And (Crowley) puts it into their heads. (He) has some workhorses that want to show everybody that have something to go out and prove to everybody. And that’s why they are so good.”

At their own school, NBA-prospect Andrew Nicholson and the men’s team out shadowed the women’s team. 

Despite making three-straight Women’s National Invitation Tournaments, the women’s basketball team averages around 600 attendees per game.

St. Bonaventure faces Richmond (14-3, 2-1) today at 7 p.m. The teams with the best A-10 records kick off the first basketball game since winter break at the Reilly Center.

Saturday’s game against St. Louis drew 479 people at the RC — but it’s far less than the 3,317 the men’s game had last Wednesday.

“I saw a lot of new faces there, which was really good,” Crowley said. “Obviously we’d like more — we appreciate all that come — but they deserve more, but we’re thankful for the ones that come. We just hope people try to find reasons to come than reasons not to.”

As long as the players continue to believe, Crowley and the Bonnies will see my mug on press row or in the stands consistently.

I’m obviously a believer. Now what about you? 

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Senior Armelia Horton, who achieved a program-best 101st career win Saturday, gave The Intrepid an exclusive interview after St. Bonaventure (16-2, 3-0) defeated St. Louis (6-12, 0-3), 64-52, at the Reilly Center.

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“I enjoy being the underdog. I like being overlooked. I’m OK being picked sixth.”

After missing the last three games and four out of the last five with concussion-like symptoms, senior Megan Van Tatenhove returned to the court Tuesday in a 67-63 victory against Sacred Heart. 

Despite going 1 for 4 and missing both her free throw attempts, Van Tatenhove grabbed a key rebound with under a minute that sealed a program-best 13th non-conference win. 

Van Tatenhove gave The Intrepid an exclusive interview about her health, the Atlantic 10 Conference and the state of the Bonnies.

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Chris Johnson scored six out of the last eight St. Bonaventure baskets to close out George Washington in its Atlantic 10 Conference debut. 

Johnson, a transfer from Kilgore College (Texas), finished the game with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting (1-of-2 from three), 4-of-4 free throws, three rebounds and a steal.

The junior forward gave The Intrepid an exclusive interview after the game.

Column to follow soon. 

Lee-aving Nothing Behind: Nicholson needs to be a superstar

By Tony Lee, Editor In Chief, @sHecKii

Andrew Nicholson has made only one out of six shots, committed four fouls and forced three turnovers in the last four minutes of St. Bonaventure’s five losses.

In those games, the senior forward converted just 3-of-14 jump shots in the second half. On top of scoring 4.4 more points per game in the five wins, Nicholson shoots 58.8 percent from the field compared to 42.4 in the losses. He nearly doubles his free throw attempts (18, 34) and nearly triples the amount made (10, 29) in the wins, too.

The heartbreaking 67-65 loss to NC State (7-4) Tuesday featured Eric Mosley having a breakout game, Demitrius Conger continuing his hot streak, Da’Quan Cook dunking over players and Matthew Wright hitting a big three to tie the game despite a horrid shooting day prior to it.

But where was Nicholson — the Bonnies superstar, potential NBA lottery pick and a Naismith Preseason watch list player?

By no means do I suggest Nicholson chokes or doesn’t play hard — he scored and grabbed a team-high 16 points and 6 rebounds Tuesday.

But superstars are graded on an unrealistic, and somewhat ridiculous, curve. Just ask LeBron James who can get a triple double in the NBA Finals, but get vilified for “choking” in the fourth quarter.

Nicholson at Cleveland State converted 6-of-8 shots with zero fouls and three blocks in the first half. In the second, Nicholson fouled out with 3:32 left after converting just 1-of-3 shots. 

Nicholson against Virginia Tech and Arkansas State played better in the second half, but missed all three of his shots with three minutes to play.

At Illinois in the last four minutes, he committed two fouls, turned the ball over twice and missed a potential game-tying three — albeit a tough task for a 6-foot-9 post player.

Nicholson could have tied the game on Tuesday, but missed a jumper with 24 seconds left. If not for Alex Johnson missing the front end of an one and one, the game could have been lost with Nicholson’s brick.

Nicholson, a preseason John R. Wooden Award watch list player, deservedly receives most of the accolades. But this season, there are no signs of the Nicholson who drained consecutive game-winning jumpers against University at Buffalo and St. John’s last season.

Nicholson has been a warrior, playing through bronchitis. His 30 turnovers this season is lower than last season’s total up to this point (33), despite facing more double and triple teams than he ever has.

However, he is scoring about six less points and grabbing 2.3 less rebounds per game than last year after 10 games. But most alarmingly, Nicholson has not lived up to the absurd expectations placed upon him.

With injuries to Marquise Simmons and Michael Davenport, his role on both sides of the court is amplified. NBA scouts now come watch him play almost on a game-to-game basis.

He doesn’t have the luxury of playing with a vocal, fiery captain like Ogo Adegboye, either.

Schmidt at press conferences has not given a straight answer about what the Bonnies could do to win these close games.

Though unfair because it seemingly discredits what Nicholson has accomplished this season, a lot of the blame has to go onto St. Bonaventure’s superstar.

The 2011-12 St. Bonaventure season’s fate — as well as Nicholson’s draft stock — may depend on how he responds after Tuesday’s heartbreaking loss.

tony.lee@theintrepid.org