Women’s basketball: Atlantic 10 tournament preview

St. Bonaventure heads to the Atlantic 10 tournament for the second straight year, but this year find themselves playing on the first day.

The Bonnies had Wednesday and Thursday off before beating La Salle to advance to the Atlantic 10 semifinals a year ago.

It’s a different feel for St. Bonaventure this time around.

Last year, as the no. 2 seed, people wanted to beat them. This year, however, they’re an afterthought.

“(The) Pressure’s off, so hopefully they just play,” said head coach Jim Crowley.

The Bonnies finished the season with consecutive losses to La Salle and Duquesne. St. Bonaventure didn’t play that hard against La Salle, but Crowley hopes the effort his team gave against Duquesne carries over to the tournament.

“How could it not?” said Crowley. “You don’t want your season to end without giving it at least your best shot, so hopefully you will.”

Effort has not been constant this year, but it was in Sunday’s loss.

“I thought we played really hard. People were getting on the floor,” said Crowley. “We played tough. We played the way I want us to play.”

It’s the way Crowley hopes continues no matter how many games his team plays this week.

“(I want) to be able to enjoy watching us play,” he said. “That hasn’t been the case all the time this year. Although was lost (on Sunday) and it was frustrating at times, I liked watching us compete and (last Wednesday) I didn’t, so if it’s one day, two day, three day whatever, I just hope when I watch us I enjoy watching how we’re playing because we’re competing, we’re playing hard, we’re playing the way we’re supposed to play and we’re playing for one another.”

St. Bonaventure meets UMass for the third time in 2015 tomorrow afternoon during the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

The Bonnies beat UMass twice, and each time fairly dominantly winning by 12 and 20 points.

“It is vital that we defend,” said Crowley. “They have some really talented offensive players and we got to make those players beat us, not just whose guarding them. We’ve done that the last two times.”

UMass finished fourth in conference play in field goal percentage, led by Kim Pierre-Louis who averaged 18.3 points per game on 53.9 percent shooting. The Bonnies limited her to 21 total points in the two previous games.

And it had to do with how hard they played on defense.

They played team defense against UMass, which is something they didn’t do in last Wednesday’s loss to La Salle.

A good offense remains ultra-important in allowing Bonaventure to play team defense.

“We got to take care of the ball. We can’t beat ourselves,” said Crowley. “In some ways (last Wednesday,) not just the effort, but the execution, we beat ourselves, and we just can’t do that.”

No matter how bad some of this season has been for St. Bonaventure, the conference tournament’s a new beginning. No team has a win or a loss. Everything is earned, and for St. Bonaventure it’s a chance to prove people wrong.

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