By Ryan Lazo
BRONX, N.Y. — Looking to snap a season-high eight-game losing streak and keep their faint playoff hopes alive, St. Bonaventure ran into a Fordham squad that is in the midst of a historical season and the Rams educated the young Bonnies right from the opening tip.
After gaining possession after the opening tip, Katie Healy missed her first shot attempt, opening the door for Fordham to rush out on offense and Erin Rooney did not waste the opportunity. The junior guard utilized a deadly cross-over and step-back to leave Alaina Walker off-balance as she nailed a 3-pointer.
While Bona would use a 20 to 9 run in the second half to close to within one point, the Bonnies would never sniff the lead as they fell to Fordham, 62-50, at Rose Hill Gym.
Fordham (21-7, 11-2) raced out to an early 12-4 advantage, but the Bonnies attempted their first comeback effort as they brought themselves back into the game by not relenting. The leader in this comeback — CeCe Dixon.
Dixon had entered the contest shooting just 12 percent over her last two games, but quickly found her shooting touch. Dixon fired off two long-range 3-pointers, nailing both, including one in which she was fouled on and completed a four-point play.
St. Bonaventure (9-19, 2-11) would pull to within just one point at 14-13, but the Rams then went on an 8-0 run utilizing back screens to get easy buckets.
“That’s us,” Bona coach Jim Crowley said of his team battling back. “That’s been the most frustrating thing this year is we haven’t embraced that, but the last three games we have. We can control how hard we play.”
The Bonnies would continue to receive lessons from the Rams throughout the contest. The Rams starting lineup consists of all upperclassmen and it shows on the court as the program has eclipsed the 20-win mark and won more than five Atlantic 10 Conference games for the first time in program history.
Arielle Collins did not record a single point in the first half, but she ran the Fordham offense to perfection from the point guard position. The senior guard compiled four assists and found numerous open teammates from beyond the arc.
Fordham nearly eclipsed their season-high in 3-point field goals in the first half as they drained nine-of-13 attempts for a blistering 69 percent as the Rams took a 41-27 lead into the locker room.
“We were a little too worried about them going off the bounce and not reacting well to getting back,” Crowley said of his team’s defense. “But I thought we did a great job of fixing that in the second half.”
Meanwhile, Bona seemed bothered by the Rams half-court pressure defense.
Fordham’s No. 3 ranked scoring defense confused Bona as no Bonnies’ player were allowed enough room to even breathe offensively. St. Bonaventure’s offense was held together by the combination of Dixon and Doris Ortega who combined to score 17 of the Bonnies’ 27 first half points.
But those offensive struggles would turnaround in the second half.
Bona would roar back into the game on the strength of 16 to 2 run spanning eight minutes of the second half. The Bonnies defense tightened, limiting Fordham to just shooting from the field and just two 3-point field goals after surrendering nine in the first half.
However, it would not be enough as Fordham’s guards were too much to handle.
Rooney entered the game leading the Rams with 16 points per game and she eclipsed her season-average by the end of the night. Utilizing crossovers, step-backs and deft drives to the hoop, the senior scored 19 points on 5-for-15 shooting from the field.
“I think she’s the Player of the Year in the league,” Crowley said of Rooney. “We did a great job of not making it easy on her and making her earn her points. She makes big plays for one of the best teams.”
However, she was not alone as Bona could not devise a plan to stop Abigal Corning who also eclipsed her season scoring average of 8.3 points per game with a 15-point effort on 5-for-7 shooting from the field.
With the loss, Bona is eliminated from Atlantic 10 Tournament participation, but they have shown glimpses of how talented this team can be as early as next season.
While Healy is just a freshman, she is already garnering comparisons to a certain Bona forward who was an integral part of their Sweet 16 team. The freshman displayed the nice range from the outside and deft footwork on the inside to score nine points on 4-for-11 shooting and grabbed 10 boards, narrowly missing a second consecutive double-double.
Dixon also chipped in 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting while Ortega led the Bonnies with 13 points on 6-for-17 on shooting from the field.
But even more impressive was the stat-line of Alaina Walker who scored 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds, four of those on the offensive glass to lead the young Bona squad in another upset attempt.
The Bonnies return home to the Reilly Center on Sunday to take on La Salle as they celebrate senior day and attempt to end their season on a winning note.
Ryan Lazo can be reached on Twitter @RMLazo13