CORVALLIS, Ore. – Losing is always difficult, but certain defeats are easier to digest for teams that know they left everything on the court. St. Bonaventure had plenty of time to gather their emotions Sunday night after coming to the understanding they fell to one of the best teams in the country.
The Bonnies stayed around for as long as possible before sixth-ranked Oregon State came through as many expected in a 69-40 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament before 6,074 fans in Gill Coliseum. St. Bonaventure needed a near-perfect game and fell short largely because the Beavers insisted.
Oregon State (30-4) was better, much better, and will advance to the Sweet 16 against DePaul next weekend in Dallas. Bonaventure finishes its season at 24-8, a successful year considering where they began and how long they lasted. The Bonnies remained upbeat to the end, clapping with fans who gave Oregon State a standing ovation.
Katie Healy finished her career as one the best in Bona history. She’s one of two players with more than 1,600 points and eight rebounds. Her final game was one to remember, her final performance one to forget. She missed 10 straight shots after making her first and finished with eight points. She left with 4:55 remaining.
Pac 12 Player of the Year Jamie Weisner, who was held to two points in the first round, had 23 points for Oregon State. She controlled the game with her ability to penetrate the Bonnies defense. She scored from inside and out and found her teammates on the perimeter when needed.
One tough game does not take away from a terrific career. The same goes for thee Bonnies and their season.
St. Bonaventure knew going into the game that overcoming Oregon State’s considerable size advantage would be – terrible pun alert! – a tall order. The Beavers could have had inserted a strong lineup in which their shortest player was taller than anyone the Bonnies had on their roster.
Bona plowed over bigger teams this season, including Oklahoma State on Friday, because they had more athleticism. Oregon State was blessed with size and speed and talent and depth and experience and, good heavens, there seemed no end. Plus, they were playing in their own barn, where they were 15-1 during the regular season.
If that’s not enough, the Beavers were still stinging from a second-round defeat at home last year to 11th-seeded Gonzaga. Any thoughts about them looking past Bonaventure were addressed when they examined the recent past. Oregon State had everything covered but the final score.
But, as they say, that’s why they play the game.
Bonaventure fans could draw optimism from the upsets in the men’s tournament, but the truth was it was far less likely to happen with the women. The disparity between the 10th-ranked men’s team and an opponent in the Top 50 is considerably less than the divide separating two such teams on the women’s side.
Only women’s four teams seeded 10th or higher advanced in the 32 games played in the first round. One was Albany, which was sent home Sunday with a 17-point loss to Syracuse. Oregon State lost one game all year to a team currently not among the Top 25, and that was to a Tennessee team ranked 14th at the time.
Simply, the Bonnies needed the biggest win in school history. Four years ago, they beat playing 13th-seeed Marist to reach the Sweet 16.
Oregon State attempted to establish an inside game but had only mild success before wearing down Bonaventure. Hamblin had four rebounds in the first 5½ minutes, but the Bonnies did a good job collapsing and making her life difficult inside. Her backup, 6-5 Marie Gulich was more effective than Hamblin.
That’s what depth does, and that’s what Oregon State had.
The Bonnies flirted with foul trouble Friday and survived. They could not afford to be shorthanded Sunday against a great team. Healy was whistled for a borderline charge for her second foul, forcing her to the bench less than eight minutes into the game and limiting her to six minutes in the first half.
Bona was fortunate to be trailing, 31-21, at halftime after shooting only 32 percent in the first two quarters. They needed to double their effectiveness to stand a chance. it was a matter of time before Oregon State talent and toughness took over. The Beavers outscored the Bonnies, 21-4, in the third quarter and ran away with the game.
The size difference was a major issue.
The Bonnies could have lost by 40 points, and it really wouldn’t have mattered. They had a successful season in the books long before they stepped foot on the Oregon State campus. Two weeks ago, after a premature from the Atlantic 10 Tournament, they thought the NCAAs were out of reach.
Remember, Bona was picked to finish ninth in the A-10 in the conference preseason poll. Instead, they finished fourth in the A-10, received an at-large bid for the NCAAs, were the only team from the Big 4 to win their game in the first round and had a chance to beat the sixth-ranked team in the country.
For the third time in five years, they won 24 games or more. The top six single-season win totals in school history have come since 2008-09. On a certain level, their success this season soothed a basketball fan base that was hurting after the men were unjustly left home in the men’s tournament.
Success is determined by standards. There were no illusions along the Southern Tier about winning a national championship. The objective is competing for an A-10 title and playing in the NCAAs, which is lofty enough, while growing as a team. The Bonnies met their goals, and then some, before buckling to the inevitable.
In the end, it was a great season.