The Bowling Green Falcons advanced to the third round of the 2014 Women's National Invitation Tournament on Monday night with a 76-65 victory over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. Four Falcon players scored in double figures, as the team stormed to a huge first half lead then withstood a stirring comeback attempt in order to earn the victory.
Bowling Green dominated the first half almost from the very start. Jillian Halfhill missed a 3-pointer on the opening possession, but Jasmine Matthews sank one after an Emily Michael turnover to give BGSU a 3-0 lead just 1:08 into the game. Matthews drilled another trey just over one minute later, and on the next possession, Erica Donovan put down a third.
Down 9-0, the Bonnies finally a small bit of offense going on baskets from Katie Healy and Nyla Rueter. They were able to climb to within 11-5, but that's as close as they would get. BGSU ripped off a 20-0 run an eight-minute span to claim a gigantic 31-5 lead. St. Bonaventure missed 13 straight field goals and three free throws during the stretch, and they turned the ball over an additional four times. Six different players scored for the Falcons, and Erica Donovan led the way with six of those 20 points.
Healy finally ended the run with a layup for St. Bonaventure, but Donovan scored four straight for Bowling Green to give the Falcons a 35-7 lead with just 3:42 remaining in the first half. That's where the Bonnies' comeback started. Hannah Little finally got on the scoreboard, and she took over the final few minutes of the half. Little scored four additional points, pulled down four rebounds and added a block. Her effort helped St. Bonaventure pull within 35-15, and the only point BGSU would score in the last 3:42 was on a split pair of free throws with 34 seconds left.
Donovan led the BGSU effort during the first half with 13 points, and it was important that she played well, because Alexis Rogers only played six minutes. Rogers picked up an uncharacteristic three fouls and scored no points.
St. Bonaventure opened the second half with five consecutive points to reduce their deficit to 16 points (36-20). However, Donovan and Halfhill answered a pair of 3-pointer, and the Falcons were able to keep the Bonnies from cutting into the lead further during the first 10 minutes of the second half. With eight minutes left, a score by Oney Harrison pulled SBU to within 13, but the Falcons answered again with back-to-back layups.
The Bonnies were down 17 and just 6:54 remained, but they weren't out of the game. They went on a 14-5 run, and that was capped by consecutive scores from Healy. SBU had somehow closed the gap to 65-57 with four minutes still on the clock. They missed on two chances to cut the lead even further, and Donovan finally ended the comeback bid with one last 3-pointer with 2:51 left. BGSU made six straight free throws during the final two minutes to seal the game, and Rogers scored her first (and only) points of the game on Bowling Green's last field goal of the night.
Bowling Green shot 41 percent from the floor but made nine 3-pointers and 17 free throws. Their defense held St. Bonaventure to only 21 percent in the first half. SBU rallied to make over half their shots in the final 20 minutes but finished the game 3-of-15 from beyond the arc. The Bonnies out-rebounded the Falcons 44-40 overall and 17-12 on offense, but they were out-scored 11-8 in second-chance points. BGSU committed only six turnovers and forced 10.
Donovan made seven of her 12 shots and led Bowling Green with 22 points. Miriam Justinger nearly posted a double-double in 33 minutes off the bench with 17 points and nine rebounds. Halfhill added a strong night with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists. St. Bonaventure was led by Healy's 22 points, while Little posted a double-double by securing 17 points and 18 rebounds.
BGSU (29-4) is one of 16 remaining teams in the WNIT field. They advance to the third round, where they will play Michigan. The game against the Wolverines will be at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio at 7:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 27. If they advance to the quarterfinals, their opponent would be either Rutgers or Seton Hall.
St. Bonaventure ends their season with a 24-11 record.