LOWELL, Mass. – A balanced team offensive effort, coupled with stalwart defensive play in the second half, helped 7th-seeded St. Bonaventure (20-10) to a first-round victory in the Atlantic 10 Women's Basketball Championship over 10th-seeded Fordham (12-19) Friday evening at the Tsongas Center, 48-41.
The Bonnies put just two scorers in double figures, but it was more than enough as they got the job done at the defensive end in holding Fordham to 29.1-percent shooting and just 17 second-half points. The win creates a matchup with 2nd-seeded Temple (22-7, 13-1 A-10) in the quarterfinals on Saturday evening at 5.
Junior Megan Van Tatenhove, who scored her 1,000 career point with her first basket of the game, registered a game-high 14 points, while sophomore Chelsea Bowker netted 10 to establish a career-high fourth straight game in double-figure points. Their offensive effort was nearly matched by sophomore Alaina Walker who fell just one point shy of her first career double-double with nine points and a career-high 12 rebounds.
Half of those rebounds were at the offensive end, but Walker once again led a Bona defensive effort which proved why it is statistically the best in the A-10. Coming into the game, the Bonnies were holding their opponents to just 55.1 points per game, and the 41 Fordham points represents the fifth time this year they have held an opponent below 45 points in a game.
It's also the fifth time this year that St. Bonaventure has held an opponent below 30-percent shooting for an entire game, as the second-half defensive effort was vital in recording that statistic. After Fordham had gone on a 8-0 run to take a 32-30 lead with 14:18 left in the contest, the Bona defense, and Bowker, stepped up huge.
The Salem, Ohio product hit a 3-pointer with 13:12 left to spearhead her own personal, game-altering 8-0 run. Little did anyone expect that 3, which made the score 33-32, to be the last time the lead changed hands, but that's exactly what transpired as the Bonnies stretched the Bowker 8-0 run to a team 10-0 run following two free throws by Armelia Horton.
But the story was at the defensive end as the Bonnies did not allow the Rams to score a single point for nearly seven minutes – from the 14:18 mark until the 7:25 mark – to put the game out of reach. Fordham was able to get its deficit to just three at 40-37 with 6:37 left, but that's as close as it got the rest of the night as the Bonnies won their opening-round A-10 tournament game for the third straight year.
Walker scored seven of her nine points in the opening half as Fordham's defensive effort was focused on slowing down St. Bonaventure's outside shooting. The Bonnies were coming off 16 team 3-pointers in their last game against Charlotte – including a program-record nine from Jessica Jenkins – but got off a season-low eight attempts against Fordham. Bonaventure hit just three 3-pointers on the night, tying for the fewest in a winning effort all year.
However, the perimeter concentration on Jenkins and Bowker – who hit a career-high-tying five 3-pointers against Charlotte – opened up the paint for Walker and Van Tatenhove. And while Jenkins got off a season-low five attempts, she got her teammates involved by issuing a team-best three assists, tying her season high in that category.
St. Bonaventure held Fordham to just one double-figure scorer as junior Becky Peters finished with 13. The Rams had fewer turnovers than the Bonnies, 17-13, marking just the fifth time this season that Bona's has won a game when giving the ball away more than its opponent. However, the Bonnies controlled the glass as they held a 43-30 advantage, and are now 13-2 on the year when out-caroming their opposition.
Game Notes: The victory gave St. Bonaventure 20 wins on the season for the third straight year … the last three years are the only seasons in program history in which 20+ wins have been achieved … the 17 second-half points by Fordham are tied for the fewest in the second half by any Bona opponent this year (Canisius) … junior Jennie Ashton scored two points, the first points she has tallied since Jan. 22 opposite Rhode Island … St. Bonaventure has never advanced past the quarterfinal round of the A-10 tournament, a streak it will be looking to snap on Saturday.