OLEAN – Play hard, be true to yourself, push your comfort zone and don’t get hung up on the results.
It’s the mentality that built St. Bonaventure into the most successful women’s basketball program in the Big 4. But it’s easier to buy into when you’re winning. The challenge for the Bonnies this year has been to stay focused on what they do best and let the results take care of themselves.
The Bonnies gave a gutsy performance, particularly from the freshmen, on Wednesday night, but couldn’t get the result they wanted against an experienced Charlotte team. The 49ers hung on for a 64-57 win in front of 356 at the Reilly Center.
Charlotte has been one of the top teams in the Atlantic 10 for the last few years. Picked to finish third in the conference with five returning starters, the 49ers were more experienced than the Bonnies. They were bigger than the Bonnies. They came into the game playing better than the Bonnies.
And yet the Bonnies (9-12, 2-4 A-10) held their own.
“I’m encouraged. It was a great effort and we really played hard,” Bona coach Jim Crowley said. “We battled. We scrapped. … One of the things it came down to was [Charlotte] having players taking shots they’ve been making for two and three years. Our players are taking shots they’ve made for two or three months.
“Our offense is getting better.”
Charlotte took a 31-26 halftime lead that grew to 12 points, 54-42, on a jumper by Amanda Dowe with 8:46 left to play.
But the Bonnies weren’t quite done.
“We wanted to keep attacking the rim, draw fouls and get free points with stopping the clock,” freshman Nyla Rueter said. “Coach also wanted us to stay tough defensively and keep the effort level up.”
That’s exactly what the Bonnies executed for next the five minutes.
Junior Doris Ortega began taking the ball to the basket with authority and drew some calls. Rueter made some big plays and her free throw cut the lead to five, 56-51, with 4:47 left to play. A free throw by Ortega got the Bonnies within four, 56-52, but a three-point play by Jennifer Hailey put Charlotte up by seven.
A three-pointer from Hillary Sigmon with 1:20 left sealed the win for the 49ers (15-4, 4-1 A-10).
Rueter scored a career-high 15 points while fellow freshman starter Katie Healy (Lancaster) added 14, which tied her best in an A-10 game. The two combined for 13 rebounds and showed flashes of why it might pay to be patient with this St. Bonaventure team.
The progress the freshmen are showing in games is something they link to their performance in practice.
“I think in practice, we do go hard and sometimes we might not make the shots we’re good at,” Healy said. “We constantly go hard. The pace we go at during practice gets us all going.”
“Also in transition, it’s a lot different pace in college,” Rueter said. “It’s been a journey to get up to that level and try to consistently stay there. It’s just hard effort in practice.”
The Bonnies travel to Xavier on Sunday and then play at Duquesne, which is receiving votes in the national polls.
For more on this game, go to the Campus Watch blog at buffalonews.com.