ST. BONAVENTURE – St. Bonaventure’s women’s basketball team is playing like a squad on a mission.
The Bonnies returned 81 percent of their scoring from last year and have one of the top five players in the Atlantic 10 Conference in senior forward Katie Healy. Yet the Bonnies were picked to finish ninth out of 14 in the A-10.
The season outlook is looking brighter than that after Bona rolled to its sixth straight victory Wednesday by routing the University at Buffalo, 59-32. Bona improved to 7-2 with four games to go before conference play starts.
“We’ll prove to them that’s ridiculous,” Healy said of the preseason forecast. “I guess you’ll have to see.”
Bona took advantage of a young UB team that is outstanding on defense but offensively challenged. UB (6-3) scored its lowest point total since an 82-32 loss at Auburn in 2003.
Healy showed off her multidimensional skills in returning from an ankle injury that kept her out the past two games. She produced 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four blocks. That’s a normal day at the office for the former Western New York high school player of the year from Lancaster.
Most encouraging for the Bonnies is how the offense is humming along. Bona ranked 12th in the A-10 in scoring last year and 10th in field-goal percentage. But the Bonnies are shooting an impressive 44.5 percent this season and are sharing the ball. Bona is assisting on 60 percent of its baskets, a rate that typically leads a conference.
“Something you can’t measure unless you see it every day is teammates want to make shots for each other,” said Bona coach Jim Crowley. “It’s contagious. If someone’s going to make the extra pass to go from a good shot to a great shot, their teammate’s going to reward them by knocking that shot down. … That didn’t exist last year. It does right now.”
Healy broke down UB’s tough zone defense by making several nice passes from the mid-post area to open players on the baseline.
“They weren’t hard passes when your teammates are getting wide open,” she said. “I drew their defenders and made dump-off passes. Those are really easy assists.”
“We’re pretty good shooters when we pass it well, and we get the shots we’re good at,” Crowley said. “When we kick it from the paint to our shooters, they’re pretty good at rhythm shots. When we get it to the high post and we get it from high to low, we’re pretty good at finishing those.”
Sophomore forward Matea Britvar had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Bonnies.
UB was picked to finish tied for the bottom in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference. The Bulls got off to an encouraging start to the season thanks to a defense that has held teams to 54.5 points a game, 28th best in the nation.
But UB’s offense was miserable against the Bonnies. A crowd of 498 at the Reilly Center saw the Bulls shoot 18.6 percent from the field and make just 1 of 19 three-point shots.
UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack was not inclined to let the bad night overshadow her team’s start.
“They caught us on a tough day, on a bad two-game skid,” Legette-Jack said. “No excuses. It is what it is.”
UB is off for 11 days before its next game, on Dec. 21 at Niagara.
UB is about to get a significant reinforcement. Transfer Cassie Oursler, a sophomore from Grand Island, will be eligible to play after the first semester ends. Oursler came to UB last December from Robert Morris. She figures to immediately go into the starting lineup and may be the best player on the team when she hits the court.
“It’s going to be neat to have Cassie join us,” Legette-Jack said. “She’s not going to be the final answer, but she’s going to be a better answer. … She gives everybody confidence.” Bona will plays host to Penn State Saturday.