St. Bonaventure might lose this game last month.
Rhode Island did not care that the Bonnies made six first-half threes. The Bonnies struggled to score in the final eight minutes, and the Rams ended the first half on a 17-10 run to lead 33-29 at the break.
The Bonnies have folded before in similar situations, but on Sunday the Bonnies had an answer.
“I was really proud that we had an answer,” said head coach Jim Crowley. “We had an answer when we were down at halftime with how we played. We had an answer every time they caught up, which is a hard thing to do at any point, (and) when you’ve been struggling it’s a really hard thing to do, so I thought it really showed the competitiveness of our kids, which was good to see.”
The Bonnies beat the Rams 73-59. They shut down two Rhode Island players, Charise Wilson and Tayra Melendez, who combined to score 19 first-half points to a combined two second-half points.
The Bonnies defense held Rhode Island in check the second half. The Rams’ Wilson averages 16.8 points per game. She fouled out in 27 minutes played, but the Bonnies did a superb job shadowing her as she shot 4-of-11 from the field for 10 points.
“That kid is really good, and between Emily (Michael) and Imani (Outlaw) we did a phenomenal job on her,” said Crowley.
Michael has always been known for her defense. She’s the girl who plays the opponents’ best guard, and then doesn’t shoot too many shots. On Sunday, Michael not only locked down offensive players, but she made an offensive footprint.
Defensively, she had the privilege of covering Wilson for much of the first half.
“She has a really nice handle and is really creative with her moves, so just keep her in front and gap defense which my team was really good with (Sunday) and I could go up a ball pressure more and trust that they would be there if I needed,” said Michael.
After scoring zero points on zero attempts in the first half, Michael erupted for 11 points, including three big-time threes.
Michael benefited from her teammates finding her for open looks, but it’s something Bonaventure has sorely missed this season. The Bonnies hit 12 on Sunday, 10 of which came from its starting backcourt.
The other guard in the backcourt, Mariah Ruff, had the best game of her young Bona career today. She scored 25 points, including seven triples, had four rebounds and three assists. The Bonnies took advantage of Rhode Island’s pressure defense and found open shooters, and that showed as Bonaventure had 19 assists on 25 made field goals.
“We’re not a big assist number team, but they force you to do that,” said Crowley. “We had people ready and we did a good job of taking care of the ball and getting things where we needed to.”
St. Bonaventure moved the ball well. Five players had two or more assists, including Nyla Rueter who led with six.
They played like a team.
“For the first time consistently we are playing for one another,” said Crowley. “We’re making the extra pass, we’re covering for each other (and) we’re getting excited for each other—all those little things that help a team go.”
It might have taken longer than expected, but St. Bonaventure has finally played good basketball.
It’s better late than never in a marathon-type season. It won’t matter how they played last month if they continue to play like they did on Sunday.
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