After a pair of losses to one-loss midmajors who will both likely find their way to postseason tournaments, UB Women's Basketball remains to Western New York, though not Alumni Arena, tonight for a rivalry match against St. Bonaventure. Coached by Jim Crowley, the Bonnies match UB's 6-2 record and boast a five-game win streak after a 1-2 season-opening performance in the Preseason WNIT.
Last year's game between the teams was a highlight for Bulls fans, as UB used a stingy 1-3-1 defensive adjustment and clutch late shots from Alexus Malone and Rachael Gregory to top the Bonnies 51-44 and hand Crowley's group their first loss against Western New York competition in 23 games. Buffalo erased an initial 13-0 deficit in that one after failing to score for the first 8:10 of the game.
This season, the Bulls are almost entirely different, losing of course the heroes from this contest and three other top contributors. The changes haven't stopped the team from winning, however, as the group's excellent defense led to six straight wins in November. The Bulls are led in scoring by Joanna Smith, Stephanie Reid, and Katherine Ups, the only three players seeing more than 20 minutes a game in floor time, and use a smart, unrelenting defense to make their most of their limited offensive firepower.
St. Bonaventure, on the other hand, returns their cornerstones from last season. Katie Healy, who scored nearly half of the Bonnies points in the 2014 matchup, is averaging 15 points a night, while three other starters and four subs from last year's game are still on the roster.
UB's recent losses to Duquesne and Hofstra have revealed (somewhat unsurprising, given UB's youth) weaknesses to frontcourts with multiple six-footers and press defenses. It's good news for the Bulls that the Bonnies are only forcing opponents into 10 turnovers a game, but their two leading scorers are each 6-1 in Healy and sophomore Miranda Drummond. As a team, they're getting plenty of high-qualtiy shots; enough to shoot 44.5% from the floor and earn 11 further points a game from the line.
This will be a good litmus test for the Bulls and their program strength. St. Bonaventure's frontcourt isn't as deadly as Duquesne's, but it is the strength of their team, and Healy may be the best player in the Big Four. Tipoff is at 7:00 this evening, with Sloane Martin's radio call available on the UB website.