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Bonnies' offense gains respect in NCAA Tournament

CORVALLIS, Ore. – St. Bonaventure coach Jim Crowley couldn’t help but laugh after he was asked about his team’s motion offense in the NCAA Tournament. He wondered how he became a better coach when crossing the Mississippi River and showing up with a funky style.

Actually, the five-out motion is a simple offense that causes problems because it’s unconventional for teams that have bigger players. The Bonnies start with all five players on the perimeter who eventually make cuts off a series of screens that often leave shooters open on the outside.

“It’s interesting,” Crowley said. “Back home, we’re kind of the kings of the backhanded compliment. People are like, ‘They’re so deliberate, and they’re not very athletic, but they’ll execute.’ They treat us a little like the redheaded stepchild.

“Here, it’s, ‘You play with pace and it’s tough to play against in a tournament setting.’ I like it out here.”

At full efficiency, all five players are in continuous motion while searching for the right mismatch and open shots. The offense is played at high tempo, which forces defenders to switch players they’re guarding. The goal is finding an offensive player in scoring position with a distinct advantage over the defensive player, leading to a balanced attack.

It may sound and look complex, but it’s fairly basic and more commonly used by mid-major programs. For teams that have taller, more athletic players who can defend in open spaces, it’s also easier to shut down. Oregon State posed a problem Sunday because it had versatile players who knew how to play defense.

Crowley has been running the offense out of necessity. Most teams from bigger conferences run traditional offenses with their taller players near the basket, setting screens off them and playing a pick-and-roll game. Bona can’t operate the same way because it usually lacks height inside.

“In our mind, the way we play is set up to beat the best team on our schedule,” Crowley said. “Our belief is do the best at what we do. Sometimes, it’s going to work. It got us here. And sometimes it’s not.”

Early Exit: Katie Healy took her share of grief from confused teammates and friends who watched her bolt for the locker room after the first quarter Friday. ESPN video of her leaving made the rounds and gave her some national, and unwanted, attention that she laughed off.

You couldn’t blame her for the mishap. Healy was so productive in the first quarter that she must have figured it took her a half to score 10 points. Healy, who finished with 23 points, has been the face of the program during her career. She couldn’t resist taking a jab at herself over getting the extra camera time.

“I got enough crap for that,” she said. “It was funny. I really had no idea that it was the end of the first quarter. I thought it was halftime. Obviously, it was all over Twitter, and I got a lot of text messages. … I didn’t get enough attention. I needed a little bit more.”

Prospect Watch: Bona coach Crowley Jim Crowley wasn’t trying to trick anybody with a secret weapon against Oklahoma State when he inserted freshman McKenna Maycock into the game in the first quarter. Maycock had been keeping the bench warm before getting more minutes in the NCAAs.

Maycock, who left Randolph High as the all-time leading scorer in Western New York, played 13 minutes against the Cowgirls. She had played only 13 minutes in the previous four games but played well in practice leading into the tournament. Suddenly, she was guarding Big 12 Player of the Year Brittney Martin.

“She deserved a shot,” Crowley said. “When she got the shot, she did well. It was a tough spot to put her in. … The results were good. I was very pleased.”

Looking Ahead: The St. Bonaventure-Oregon State winner will play DePaul next week in Dallas. The winner of that game advances to the Elite Eight. The women’s Final Four will be held April 3-5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

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