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Johnson, Bona find range at home
Teamwork helps beat Robert Morris

OLEAN -- It figured to be an interesting night of offense for St. Bonaventure once Tiara Johnson hit two three-pointers.

After all, the senior guard had gone 0 for 5 from three-point range this season entering the game.

And these weren't just lucky heaves but quality shots in the flow of the offense.

It was another cog in the Bona machine, which rolled to a 76-50 win over Robert Morris (23-9) in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament in front of 1,723 Reilly Center fans.

The highlights belonged to Jessica Jenkins and Dana Mitchell, who combined for 49 points, nearly outscoring Robert Morris on their own. But Johnson's play is yet another example of the teamwork the Bonnies preach and the confidence the program exudes individually and collectively.

Johnson's three-pointers came midway in the first half when the teams were still feeling each other out, the score was in single digits and control and momentum were very much up for grabs.

Johnson stepped up, in a tight situation, and nailed both shots.

"She's not good at them," Bona coach Jim Crowley said of Johnson's three-point ability. "It was a surprise but that's what kids do this time of year. She had her chance and she didn't hesitate. Now she's sitting with ice on her knees. She's a kid who has gone through so much [in terms of injuries] and I don't think there is a kid on the team who has more respect and admiration and love from her teammates than [Johnson]. Today, she did more than talk and support. She came through big for us."

"That's what [Johnson] does. Coach puts her in at times when we need a boost," said Mitchell, who scored a game-high 27 points with eight rebounds. "She's a key player. We know if we get her the ball she will make something happen that we can feed off. She did that in a big way today."

Johnson's six points in seven minutes of action helped to jump-start the Bona offense against a difficult Robert Morris zone. As the Bonnies settled into their sets, they started moving without the ball, finding the gaps and getting to the basket.

At halftime, Bona enjoyed a 40-25 lead, shooting 55.6 percent (15 of 27) from the floor.

"They are the smartest and most patient team we've faced all year," said Robert Morris coach Sal Buscaglia, a Buffalo native. "We watched them on tape against the zone and they passed the ball nine or 10 times. Very rarely will they take a bad shot. Our zone really works well against teams that take quick shots but they are so darn patient and smart. They play team ball and they know their roles extremely well."

The offense looked smooth thanks in large part to Mitchell, who is just five points shy of the 2,000-career mark, and Jenkins, who netted 22. The sophomore guard went 5 of 10 from three-point range, a benefit of better movement by the entire offense and inside scores from Mitchell and forward Megan Van Tatenhove.

"When they're scoring [opponents] have to double down," Jenkins said. "That leaves anybody on the perimeter wide open and when we're passing back out, our job is to knock it down."

How well were the Bonnies passing? They had 20 assists on 30 buckets and starting forwards Mitchell and Van Tatenhove combined for seven assists.

The Bonnies (23-9) will play the Northwestern at the Reilly Center on Monday at 7:30 p.m.

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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