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Outside shooters are the key for Bona women

Many who were dumbfounded over St. Bonaventure not getting an invitation to play in the men’s NCAA Tournament were surprised the women’s team did after its one-and-done in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. That included coach Jim Crowley. “That probably puts to bed our NCAA chances,” Crowley said after losing to Virginia Commonwealth. “Trust me, I’d love to be pleasantly surprised.” In fact, the Bonnies had sound credentials for an at-large bid after going 12-4 in the conference and 23-7 overall. They earned the 10th seed against an Oklahoma State team that was 11-7 in the Big 12 and 21-9 overall. If Jim Kelly is torn between Miami and Buffalo on the men’s side, Thurman Thomas needs to make a decision between Bona and Oklahoma State on the women’s side. Feel free to offer friendly reminders to the Hall of Famers that Western New York is their home.

The Bonnies

St. Bonaventure rattled off 16 consecutive victories during one stretch this season before cooling off and losing five of their last 11 games. The Bonnies won all 16 home games this season but really struggled elsewhere. They had a 7-7 record away from the Reilly Center. The game Friday will mark the first time all season that they crossed the Mississippi River. Lancaster’s Katie Healy is guaranteed to end her career with an NCAA appearance and would like to extend her final season for as long as possible. Her performance will largely determine whether St. Bonaventure can reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011-12, when they finished with a 31-4 record. Healy, who led the team in scoring and rebounding, landed in foul trouble in the A-10 quarterfinal and scored only seven points. Her team struggled without her, particularly inside. While she patrols the paint, Miranda Drummond, Nyla Rueter and Mariah Ruff will look to relieve pressure from the perimeter. They combined for 158 three-pointers this season, which accounted for 88 percent of the Bonnies’ points from long-range. Ruff, a sophomore, is looking to bounce back from a miserable day shooting in the conference tournament. Crowley relies heavily on his starting five. Gabby Richmond and Matea Britvar were the only reserves to average more than 15 minutes per game, and both played less than 20.

The Cowgirls

Oklahoma State’s offense revolves mostly around Brittney Martin and Kaylee Jensen. They accounted for nearly 54 percent of their point total and were the only players on the roster to average double figures in scoring. The Cowgirls’ biggest advantage in this game is their size among their starters. Martin is listed as a 6-foot guard, but she scores most of her points within 12 feet. She did not attempt a three-pointer all season while leading them with 20.3 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Jensen is a 6-4 center who helps Martin on the boards and was their second-leading scorer. Another starting forward is 6-3 Mandy Coleman, who also helps control the backboard. The trio could be a handful for Healey & Co. However, the Cowgirls’ options are limited if they fail to pound the ball inside or one of their top scorers has an off night shooting. They get very little offensive production from elsewhere. Roddricka Patton is a 5-4 point guard who had five times more assists (209) than field goals made (41) while averaging 32 minutes per game. Look for the Bonnies’ guards to collapse on the forwards down low at the expense of leaving her open. Patton will shoot the three. Her problem is making them. As a team, Oklahoma State made only 27 percent from long distance. The best way for Bonaventure to negate Oklahoma State’s presence on the boards is by making shots over them from the perimeter.

Outlook

This game could shape into a matchup between St. Bonaventure’s shooters and Oklahoma State’s bangers. If the Bonnies can make shots early in the game, they will have a chance to win. Look for them to score an upset.

Prediction:

Bona 64, Oklahoma St. 59.