ST. BONAVENTURE — The St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team had just seen a 19-point lead (54-35) evaporate to just two, at 58-56, when Penn State used a lengthy run to get back into the game.
But the Bonnies — playing their fourth game in a week — never faltered.
Gabby Richmond made a layup, Miranda Drummond a 3-pointer, Katie Healy a layup and Emily Michael a pair of free throws. The Bonnies were back up 11, and they would finish the game with a 70-60 victory over the Lady Lions in front of an impressive 884 observers at the Reilly Center Saturday afternoon.
“Great atmosphere,” Bonnies coach Jim Crowley said. “Really thankful of all the people who came out, the atmosphere. They stayed, and that helped. We were on the ropes in the fourth quarter and the energy the crowd gave helped push us forward. That’s a good basketball team we played today, and we had to play very well.”
Healy added, “Everyone was at a really good effort level, and the crowd had a lot to do with that. It’s hard not to play with everything you have when you have the whole school behind you. That definitely took us to another place today.”
Healy had yet another solid game, going for 19 points, five rebounds, seven assists (which tied her career-best) and three blocks in her return to the starting lineup. Her three blocks put her at 122 for her career, one behind the school’s career leader (Vachelle Manly, 123).
Drummond led the Bonnies (8-2) with 21 points and six rebounds. She was coming off her worst performance of the season in which she scored just one point Wednesday night against Buffalo. Drummond made her first two shots of the game, the first a 3-pointer that put the Bonnies ahead 3-2.
“Once I see a shot go in, that gets me going,” Drummond said.
Nyla Rueter added 10 points, and Gabby Richmond a nice six points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Bonnies.
SBU would never trail after Penn State opened the scoring on a Banks jumper. Penn State led for 38 seconds, the Bonnies held the lead the remainder of the game.
“When we needed to make plays, we did, whether it was offense or defense,” Crowley said. “We fought through some frustration, missing some shots. But when we needed a shot, we made it, and it’s not easy to make a shot over someone who’s five inches taller than you.”
Redshirt senior guard Brianna Banks, a transfer from Connecticut, led Penn State (4-6) with a career-high 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, and junior guard Lindsey Spann added 17 points. Teniya Page scored seven points and had six rebounds for an aggressive Penn State team on both sides of the ball.
“They’re Big Ten. You can see that,” Crowley said. “Our kids handled (their aggressiveness) well,” Crowley said. “And there were a number of times, especially during their run, that we could have gotten frustrated by it. We had one foul we were frustrated by, but we took advantage and got ourselves to the foul line sooner. That really helped us finish it off.”
The Bonnies finished 13-of-15 from the free throw line, and had an assist on 15 of their 25 field goals.
PENN STATE, which is now a remarkable 116-15 against current Atlantic 10 teams, used a 21-4 run over the third and fourth quarters to nearly erase Bona’s big lead. But the Bonnies held tough when necessary, never allowing Penn State to tie or take the lead.
“It felt like we gave up 10 straight scores to start the fourth quarter,” Crowley said. “Our offense was stagnant, we started to hold the ball and not get the movement we had. We missed some shots that I thought were pretty good shots. That affected us. And a lot of credit goes to Penn State. They didn’t want to come in here and lose. They went to another gear and pushed it at us.
“But then we got four or five straight stops in the last three minutes. Our experience and our trust in each other came out when we needed it. We got back to our offense, taking the shots we’re good at. We had success, and that allowed us to settle in our defensive effort. We have to stay with what works, and that’s the challenge.”
Another key statistic in St. Bonaventure’s favor was the rebounding numbers. The Bonnies outrebounded a team with players of 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-3 ilk by a 41-36 margin.
After a few days off for final exams, the Bonnies return to the court next Saturday, Dec. 19, at Cotterell Court at Colgate (1-7). SBU beat Colgate last season, 65-49. The game was tied 30-30 at halftime before Bona used a 35-19 second half in victory. Rueter scored 19 points in the win.
The Bonnies have won seven straight games, tying their most recent mark of such success. The team won seven conference games in a row between Jan. 15 and Feb. 8, 2014.