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Bona gets matchup it wanted -- Syracuse

While they were intently focused on their first-round WNIT matchup with Lehigh, there was something which caught the eye of many of the St. Bonaventure women's basketball players -- the possibility of a second-round matchup with Syracuse.

Testing themselves against one of the big names in college athletics, and one of the emerging programs in women's basketball, looked like just the kind of challenge the Bonnies love to face.

It comes to fruition at 7 tonight in the Carrier Dome when the Orange will host St. Bonaventure in the second round of the WNIT.

"It doesn't matter who we're playing but that we're playing and [Syracuse] is obviously a well-known name," Bona coach Jim Crowley said. "They're a very good program. We're going to go. We're going to play hard, do what we do and see what happens. Frankly, I think our kids saw that [potential matchup in the bracket] and were excited about that opportunity."

It's an opportunity and a challenge for the Bonnies, who breezed through their first-round game against Lehigh in the Reilly Center on Thursday.

Many were surprised when Syracuse, with an RPI of 54, was left out of the NCAA Tournament field and instead ended up in the WNIT for the third straight year.

The Orange (23-9) advanced to the WNIT quarterfinals last year and after a slow first half, played to its strengths in the second half of a 77-53 win over Monmouth in its opening win.

"Obviously, we believed we belonged in the tournament and we didn't get in, but we knew that we needed to come out and win basketball games," Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said after the Monmouth win. "We just want to extend our season. We just want to keep playing.

"It was fun last year, when you're in the Sweet 16 and there are only 32 teams playing in the country and you're one of them. You want to be one of the last teams playing at the end of the month and into April. The more we play, the better it is for our players and for our program."

Syracuse won without its starting point guard, senior Erica Morrow, who missed the game with a sprained knee. Morrow, who averages 9.7 points and 3.4 assists per game, could be ready for the meeting with Bona.

As if a senior backcourt for the Orange isn't enough to contend with, the Bonnies will have their hands full with center Kayla Alexander. The 6-foot-4 sophomore averages 14.4 points a game and netted 26 against Monmouth, shooting 10 of 18 from the field.

The Orange like to get the ball inside, dominating the low post with their size and talent. In that opening-round win, Syracuse shot 54.7 percent (29 of 53) thanks in large part to 44 points in the paint.

Bona (21-11) continues to sport one of the best defenses around, allowing just 54.9 points per game.

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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