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The St. Bonaventure women’s basektball team hasn’t had to deal with this situation much in the last few years — a losing record.

But the Bonnies enter tonight’s game at the University at Buffalo with a 4-5 mark, battle worn from a brutal road trip and looking to get back on track in Western New York. The Bonnies and the Bulls meet at 7 tonight in Alumni Arena.

Bona has played its last six games on the road, going 1-5. But the real learning came not just in losses but in the way they lost. In losses to North Texas and Delaware, the Bonnies had double-digit first half leads.

“We had a let down before halftime that carried over into the second half,” Bona coach Jim Crowley said. “We’ve had leads or very close games that we lost and you can’t replicate that really in practice. That level of learning that only comes from going through the expereince of having a team come at you or facing a home team or facing a desperate team that is throwing everything at you. Those are the experiences they had to go through in order to learn it.”

While this will be the seventh straight road game for the Bonnies, it will have a slightly different feel with a day-of trip rather than more time together in a hotel. That forced team bonding was on purpose, and has paid off.

“I think we felt the need to hurry along the process of investing in each other and the best way to do that was to stick them on the road together,” Crowley said. “It’s been positive. It hasn’t shown with wins like we’d like, but in the long run, we’re going to get there. We just have to stay with the process.”

Juniors Doris Ortega (10.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and CeCe Dixon (10.2 ppg) pace the Bona offense which is scoring just 54.8 points a game. The defense, however, has been a bright spot, allowing teams to score just 55.4

Bona will face a Buffalo team that is 1-7 and still searching for its identity under first-year head coach Felisha Legette-Jack.

Freshman Rachel Gregory leads the Bulls, averaging 11.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. Freshman Mackenzie Loesing and sophomore Kristen Sharkey are both averaging 8.4.

“They are going hard on everything and that’s what I love about this group,” Legette-Jack said. “We’re not coaching effort. We’re coaching them on the game and skill set they need. They have the effort. My job is to show them where they can use their creativity, were they can grow and continue to love the game.”

Big 4 Men’s Games

Niagara will face defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Loyola at 7:30 tonight in Baltimore. The Purple Eagles (2-5, 0-1 MAAC) are looking to snap a three-game losing streak. They have won 10 of the last 13 meetings with the Greyhounds (7-2, 0-0 MAAC).

T.J. Cline of Niagara was named the conference’s Rookie of the Week after grabbing 11 rebounds with nine points in a 66-64 loss at Central Michigan, Sunday.

Loyola is off to its second-best start in its Division I history is are led by preseason player of the year Erik Etherly (15.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg).

Meanwhile the University at Buffalo plays Milwaukee (2-5) in the return game of the 2011 ESPN Bracketbuster. The teams tip off in Klotsche Center at 8.

The Bulls (2-7) are coming off an 82-79 loss at St. Bonaventure. Junior forward Javon McCrea (16.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is nine rebounds shy of becoming the seventh player in school history to reach 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.

email: amoritz@buffnews.com