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MVT has senior moment; Scores team's first 15 in blowout of Xavier

Not even four minutes had elapsed on the clock and already Megan Van Tatenhove was on the second go-round in her personal game of H-O-R-S-E. She'd opened the game with an inside basket and had heaped upon that a 10-foot jumper, a pull-up 8-footer, two free throws and -- what the heck -- a swish from behind the arc. The clinic didn't end until she had scored St. Bonaventure's first 15 points, ensuring in most emphatic fashion there would be no letdown, no wavering, on Senior Day at the Reilly Center.

Two games remain on their Atlantic 10 schedule and the 22nd-ranked Bonnies still haven't found their match. One can only wonder when their national ranking might come closer to coinciding with their winning streak, which hit 14 games with Saturday afternoon's 66-48 victory over Xavier, the conference's five-time defending champion.

Xavier (7-18, 4-8) made it a priority to neutralize Bona senior and conference Player of the Year candidate Jessica Jenkins, one of the nation's top three-point snipers, with a flypaper defense. They succeeded in that Jenkins had just two first-half points. They failed in that the committed man-to-man necessary to thwart Jenkins enabled Van Tatenhove to devour defenders sentenced to one-on-one coverage. She finished the first half with a season-high 22 and certainly could have pursued her career high of 35 set last year had circumstances warranted. She finished with 24.

"Because of what she did in the first half, it opened up things for other people in the second half," coach Jim Crowley said.

"It's nice. My shot felt very good," Van Tatenhove said. "It definitely opened up things for my teammates later."

Bona honored seniors Van Tatenhove, Jenkins, Jennie Ashton and Armelia Horton beforehand and drew a standing ovation at game's end, when the crowd had swelled to 3,824. The season of wild dreams continues. Picked sixth in the preseason conference poll, Bona is 25-2, 12-0 and has, incidentally, more road victories than any team in the country (12). Its 10-2 against teams in the top 100 of the Ratings Percentage Index -- more wins than the next seven teams ranked above them. Its only two losses -- to No. 11 Delaware and Villanova -- came with a starter sidelined by injury. Yet respect has come grudgingly despite a fourth straight 20-win season under coach Jim Crowley.

"I think it's the feel-good story in the A-10 right now," said Xavier coach Amy Waugh. "What coach Crowley has done and this group of seniors, they deserve credit. They've done a great job all year long. People weren't expecting Bonaventure to be as good this year so they've just kind of started to get the recognition they deserve. I think down the road it'll pay off for them. They've kind of flown under the radar a little bit and they'll surprise a lot of teams."

Bona took the game in hand during a 13-0 run that opened a 24-7 lead. Van Tatenhove started things with a banked jumper off a spin move in the lane followed by a 15-footer. Then her teammates joined in the act. Alaina Walker scored on a drive, Horton off a rebound. "MVT" added a 10-foot jumper before Chelsea Bowker nailed the first of her two threes in the half. Xavier, rebuilding following five straight outright or shared conference titles, had become the student to Bona's teacher after winning the last nine games in the series.

The Bonnies are two wins shy of a perfect conference season in a league in which six teams rank among the top 75 in the RPI. Yet respect remains elusive.

"We still think that people kind of look past us," Crowley said. "That'll always be our mentality, that's what these guys (the players) came up with, it's what the people in our program think. So I think because of that we'll always have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder."

email: bdicesare@buffnews.com