OLEAN – At shootaround Saturday morning, St. Bonaventure’s first team beat up on the second team.
The good news for the Bonnies – it was a wake-up call for the reserves.
St. Bonaventure got quality contributions from new sources, including junior guard Ashley Zahn and sophomore forward Katie Healy, to open the season with a 61-34 win over Binghamton in front of 1,121 at the Reilly Center.
Starters Doris Ortega and Alaina Walker, who figure to be prominent offensive options for the Bonnies this season, combined to go just 1 for 10.
But Zahn, getting her first career start, had a career-high 14 points while Healy netted 12 off the bench.
“I have a lot of confidence in our team and I have no confidence in our team,” Bona coach Jim Crowley said. “I know how good they are and I know what they’re capable of doing, but can they do it all the time? I see it in spurts in practice and we saw today that we can do some really good things in spurts.
“This morning at shootaround, the first group really beat up the second group and I think it woke the second group to the reality that they had to perform well in the game. That helped us a ton.”
It helped because the Bonnies came out painfully flat. It was not a surprising start for the first game of the season particularly after the returnees stood at half court 10 minutes before tip-off to watch as last year’s Sweet 16 banner was unfurled from the rafters. Binghamton jumped all over a passive Bona team to take a 10-3 lead.
But true to the form that has been developed in the program, there was no panic button for the Bonnies to push. It was sophomore guard Tatiana Wilson who created one of the first aggressive plays for the Bonnies, driving the lane for a bucket and cutting the lead to 12-7. That sparked Bona on the defense end. Jordan McGee went on her own four-point run.
“We were a little bit slow when we started and when we came out our shorts were short,” Zahn said. “We got our legs and started to play together and get pace off each other. We set screens, got good looks and had a good flow after that.”
More importantly than the offense in the Bona scheme of things was the defense.
The 34 points Bona gave up matches the Division-I era mark for best defensive performance, which also came against Binghamton last year. The Bonnies converted 16 turnovers into 22 points and held the Bearcats to just 25.5 percent shooting (12 of 47) from the field for the game.
Then there were the contributions of the freshmen.
Healy scored 12 points on 5 for 8 shooting, knocking down both free throw attempts for the game while leading the team with seven rebounds. Emily Michael scored six points, both on three-pointers.
“As a freshman, it’s a little intimidating to come into, especially with how well developed the program has been and last year going to the Sweet 16,” Healy said. “In practice we’re going hard and the returning players are giving it right back. They push us around. They’re not easy on us on both offense and defense and that allows the freshmen, including myself, to be able to get better.”
The Bonnies make their first road trip of the season Monday when they play at Niagara in the Gallagher Center at 7 p.m.