Falcons move on to third round of WNIT, face Michigan Thursday

Tara Jones and Tara Jones

After jumping out to a large first half lead, the Falcons defeated St. Bonaventure 76-65 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, where they will host the University of Michigan next.

BG Head Coach Jennifer Roos said the team’s 9-0 early lead and controlling the tempo of the game were key for the Falcons’ first half success. She said it seemed the Bonnies also came out shell-shocked by BG’s home crowd at first, but came out in the second half ready to pound the ball and go at the Falcons, who were in foul trouble and playing “conservative” defense.

“We were fortunate to go into halftime with such a big lead, and if we didn’t it could be a different ending,” Roos said. “Any time you have a lead, you’re going to have a little bit of a letdown. It’s hard to maintain that intensity for consecutive minutes.”

Redshirt sophomore Erica Donovan, who finished the night with 22 points to lead the Falcons, said the team defense and scouting knowledge helped them jump out to the large lead in the first half. However, the Falcons fell apart a little bit in the second half as the Bonnies cut the Falcons’ lead to eight, but can only watch film and learn from their mistakes, she said.

“Roos always says take four minutes at a time, so that first four minutes, that’s our main focus,” Donovan said. “We can’t look down on a team just because of their size or [if] they don’t have any shooters. We play BG basketball.”

Both Donovan and Roos said the team is still a little hurt by the NCAA tournament rejection, but that now the focus is the WNIT and now, specifically, the University of Michigan.

“I will tell you there’s still a lot of heartbreak on this team, but as I told the team, I’m tired of talking about it,” Roos said. “I think a motivating factor for our team, is to keep playing at home in front of this crowd.”

Following the Falcons’ game, it was announced that BG clinched a bid to yet another home game and will welcome Michigan Thursday at 7 p.m. The Wolverines defeated Duquesne Monday night by a score of 68-52 to advance to play the Falcons.

With the win over St. Bonaventure, the Falcons improved to an overall record of 29-4 on the season and 15-0 at home. The Wolverines enter Thursday’s matchup with a record of 20-13. Earlier this season the two teams met in the Iona Tipoff Tournament on Nov. 8 where the Falcons won 63-52.

Donovan said it is going to be a battle against Michigan since they will probably come in with a chip on their shoulder following the loss earlier in the season to BG.

“When you hear a certain name, you always think, ‘Oh man, this is going to be a good game’ or it’s going to be a grind,” Donovan said, “Hearing [it’s] against Michigan, you know, it’s just Michigan. It’s just [like] any other game that we’ve played all season long.”

Roos said when you only play teams once, everything works, but facing a team for a second time, you have to go back to the drawing board because that team will already be familiar with your game plan. However, she said BG is fortunate to bring a “BCS-caliber team into the Stroh Center.”

“We’re ‘Survive and Advance’ and we’re in the third round of the WNIT hosting a Big Ten team on Thursday,” Roos said. “It doesn’t get much better than that for our fans to see our kids play one more time.”