After winning its home opener, St. Bonaventure begins a four-game road trip.
St. Bona women beat Canisius 62-46 on Friday night.
The Golden Griffins hung around much longer than St. Bonaventure probably would’ve liked, but the Bonnies finished on a 28-16 run over the final 15 minutes.
St. Bonaventure won’t play in western New York until November 30 against Binghamton. St. Bonaventure will learn a lot about itself over the next four games. Coach Jim Crowley planned the schedule with difficult early season games to ready his team.
“You do it early then you can learn from it positively and ways to improve,” said Crowley.
The Bonnies begin their away games against James Madison on Sunday. James Madison beat no. 23 UCLA Friday afternoon in overtime in Virginia.
James Madison returns three starters from a Round of 32 NCAA tournament team.
“When we set this up, that’s what we wanted,” said coach Crowley. “We know the game is going to be really challenging, we know the opponent is going to be really challenging and then the short turnaround and travel–challenging.”
This team used to be called “young” and “inexperienced.” They’re not anymore. All five starters began their third year with the program this year. And Ashley Zahn, the lone remaining player from the Sweet 16 team, helps off the bench.
But even if you have age and experience, there’s still things to improve upon, and one of St. Bonaventure’s issues last year surfaced away from the Reilly Center.
“I think a lot of the returners know this is what we struggle with last year,” said junior Katie Healy. “So we’re going to attack it as well as we can with the new freshmen.”
The Bonnies finished 8-7 on the road, and posted a 3-3 record in neutral court games. They lost once at home to Toledo, but that happened over winter break without any student support.
Crowley expects the road issues to go away this year once his team realizes, “that the game is the game no matter where it is played.”
“Our focus needs to be on how we play and not where or even so much who but how we play,” said Crowley. “When we fully learn that really good things will follow.”
You put your team in different situations early because those experiences could help later on in the season. Coach Crowley sent a line-up without any starters in it during last night’s first half. That didn’t happen last year since St. Bonaventure had nine healthy scholarship players.
“That’s one of the things we wanted to explore, and that was on me probably a little bit,” said Crowley. “We had some people in at times that were important times, and for them to get those minutes is what you want these games to be for, so that way we can offer some things to get better at.”
Healy finished with 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting last night. Canisius dared her to shoot jump shots, and she made them pay for it. The Bonnies start three tall girls (Healy, Gabby Richmond and Hannah Little), along with Emily Michael and Nyla Rueter. Neither Healy, Richmond or Little can shoot from the 3-point line, but Healy kept the defense honest last night.
“I was just taking shots that they were given me– in the beginning they want to sag off, so I would take open jumpers,” said Healy.
Richmond and Little attacked the paint. They combined to shoot 18 free throws. It’s no secret Bonaventure wants to work the ball inside. They have gifted inside scorers, and coach Crowley isn’t worried about spacing since they all move well without the ball.
“We want to get to the line. We want to kind of win that battle as much as we can. We have a lot of people that can get there,” said Crowley. “We have a lot of people that can play off the bounce. We have a lot of people that can play the face-up game.”
The offense revolves around attacking the paint, and if Healy can consistently knock down 18-footers than she becomes even more dangerous.
These early season games are about figuring out what works and doesn’t work.
“We want to keep getting better, and that’s what this (Canisius) game is all about, and all of these games are,” said Crowley. “We want to keep getting better, and finding things out about ourselves.”