Going home for the holidays is a tradition, and St. Bonaventure women’s basketball coach Jesse Fleming will be doing that this Thanksgiving.
But before he gets there, he’s hoping his team picks up a victory so that maybe the turkey tastes just a little better.
Today at Binghamton University’s Events Center (105.9 FM, 1 p.m.), the Bonnies meet the undefeated Bearcats (6-0) in a pre-Thanksgiving matinée roughly an hour from Fleming’s hometown of Guilford.
Binghamton was picked to finish fourth in the America East preseason poll, but the Bearcats have looked nothing like a fourth-place team under second-year coach Bethann Shapiro Ord, a Rochester native. They are 6-0, their best start in over 20 years, and aiming for their third 7-0 start in team history.
“Experienced team, two seniors playing really well for them right now,” Fleming said. “They’ve taken care of business, a couple road wins. They beat Niagara (74-55), who we were in a close game with. They are not afraid of the moment.”
Binghamton’s offense runs through senior guard Kai Moon. The two-time all-conference selection recently scored her 1,000th career point and is fourth in the country in scoring (24 points per game). She has scored 12 or more points in each game this season, and is shooting 43 percent from the field (47 from 3-point range).
“It all starts with her,” Fleming said. “She’s nearly doubled her scoring from the previous year. She’s shooting lights out from three, and they are tough shots … deep range, off the dribble. She’s incredibly confident and she’s taken them to another level. You don’t see many players like that in the America East. That’s the big challenge for us.”
Additionally, senior guard Carly Boland is averaging 12 points. Fellow starters Olivia Ramil (nearly 9 points) and Annie Ramil contribute to a Binghamton offense that averages nearly 74 points and does not turn the ball over much (12 turnovers per game, among Top 20 in the country).
ONCE AGAIN, the Bonnies (1-5) are trying to shake a bug that has ailed them all season. Last Saturday’s game against Cleveland State finished similarly to how several have for the Bonnies this season: They led for a majority of the game, holding a double-digit lead in the third quarter. But, once again, that lead faded and they would come on the short end for the fifth time this season.
“We have an above-average offense by all the metrics,” Fleming said. “But we have not consistently taken away things the other team wants to do. Our whole game plan was taking away (their top two players), and they combined for 46 points. That’s me needing to do a better job game-planning, pushing them through and making them understand what we need to do.
“We’ve played as well as any of the teams I’ve had in the last few years. We’re building leads, doing some good things and sharing the ball. We’ve got a multitude of scorers and we’ve got some players who can rebound. That’s some good things. We’re not a 1-5 team but your record is what it is. You don’t want them to lose confidence but you also want them to grow an edge.”
THERE WERE some positives for the Bonnies, as junior Emily Calabrese recorded a double-double, 12 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Sophomore Asianae Johnson also scored 12 and freshman Olivia Brown added 10 off the bench. The Bonnies again shot well (42 percent) and held the rebounding advantage (44-35). Usually that combination leads to a victory, but yet again it wasn’t enough.
“After the loss to Canisius, I was wondering what kind of team we would be,” Fleming said. “We came out and scored 40 points in the first half (against Cleveland State). We executed really well against their zone and we shared the ball.”
However, in the second half the visitors rallied and prevailed when a last-second 3-point shot by Jurnee President misfired.
“I have to find some more leadership on the floor, and I have to do a better job empowering them,” Fleming said. “Right now we’re waiting for someone else to make a play late in the game instead of going out and getting it finished. We do it for 3½ quarters, now we have to do it for the last five (minutes). That’s when players take over. There have been times in the last four games where we could throw a knockout punch up 10-12. One stop in transition and one more score. But all of a sudden we take a break in transition, they get a layup and can set their defense.
“We refuse to be a consistent transition defensive team. We get really passive instead of someone saying, ‘I’m going to make a play to win this game.’ That’s what we’re continuing to work on.”