Jim Crowley was still flying on adrenaline after St. Bonaventure’s victory over Oklahoma State when someone asked him about Oregon State, the second seed and host for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Talk about bringing a coach back to earth. “When you’re a coach, you don’t sleep much. With the Pac-12 Network back East, it’s great. I’ve watched them over the last few years and the way they played and gotten better,” Crowley said. “Seeing them live, they’re awesome. I’m sitting there enjoying watching them and I was like, ‘Whoa, we might have to play them.’ OK, that’s good. A few years back, we were fortunate enough to play Notre Dame. I can see the similarities.” Whoa is right. Freshman Erin Wood is the only player on Bona’s roster taller than 6-foot-1, and she played less 60 seconds against Oklahoma State. Oregon State has seven players standing 6-2 or taller. One is 6-5 center Marie Gulich, who had 12 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes in the first round against Troy – after coming off the bench.
St. Bonaventure entered the NCAAs believing it was playing with house money after being on the bubble. That has not changed. The Bonnies’ offense can become a major headache for bigger teams that aren’t accustomed to playing in space. They found numerous mismatches against Oklahoma State after drawing the Cowgirls’ taller, less-athletic players outside and working the inside. Lancaster’s Katie Healy was terrific while scoring 23 points, but let’s not forget Nyla Rueter and Miranda Drummond, who had 15 points and 11 points, respectively. All three made big shots Friday to keep Oklahoma State at a distance after the Cowgirls threatened to make a run. Bona shot 52 percent from the floor in the first game. One statistic that was overlooked: The smaller Bonnies outrebounded the taller and longer Cowgirls, 33-28, a battle even they did not expect to win. Point guard Emily Michael tied off guard Rueter for the team high in rebounds with six. The Bonnies are looking to reach the Sweet 16 for the second time in team history. The last time was the aforementioned game against Notre Dame, a blowout loss. St. Bonaventure must continue making shots and stay out of foul trouble to have a chance. Healy and Drummond were in foul trouble in the second half against Oklahoma State. Losing either could have led to Bona getting bounced.
Oregon State has a passionate fan base, much like the one in the Reilly Center. About 6,000 fans showed up for the first game Friday and watched the Beavers roll over Troy in a matchup that was over in the first four minutes. Here’s a terrifying fact for St. Bonaventure fans: Oregon State scored all the points they needed when Marie Gulich converted an easy layup for a 32-8 lead with 3:34 remaining in the second quarter. Oregon State (29-4) won going away, 73-31. The Beavers know a little something about winning streaks, too. They won 14 straight games against Pac-12 teams. They have won 19 of the last 20 games overall, including the Pac-12 Tournament. Donald Trump could build his much-discussed wall by having the Beavers line up for the national anthem. Ruth Hamblin had 18 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks in 21 minutes against Troy. If that’s not convincing enough, Oregon State beat Troy by 42 points in a game in which leading scorer Jamie Weisner (16.8 ppg) scored only one basket. The Bonnies need to shoot lights out for a puncher’s chance against a Beavers team that held Troy to 12-for-74 shooting (16.2 percent) from the floor, including 3 for 22 from beyond the three-point line. Dion Wright from the Bona men’s team would have a tough time scoring inside against this Oregon State team.
If the Bonnies winning Friday was a mild upset, taking down Oregon State would be a huge upset. It will be very tough for Crowley to find players who can handle Hamblin around the basket.
Oregon State 66, St. Bona 51.