BY BRYCE KELLY, SPORTS STAFFER
Early turnovers for the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team and a relentless inside presence from the University of Massachusetts led to a 78-59 win for the Minutewomen. UMass improved to 18-5 on the season and 6-3 in Atlantic 10 play. The Bonnies fell to 12-10 and 4-7 in Atlantic-10 play.
UMass has been led by a strong frontline in forwards Sam Breen and Angelique Ngalakulondi. Breen, a top-20 rebounder in the country, averages 16.5 points per game and 10.9 rebounds per game. Ngalakulondi averages 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds as well.
The bigs were the difference Wednesday as Breen finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Ngalakulondi finished with 20 points on 9/10 shooting from the field and 2/3 from the free throw line. UMass outscored the Bonnies 46-28 in the paint.
“They did what they wanted on us,” head coach Jesse Fleming said. “We didn’t have the resistance we needed. I’Yanna’s two fouls right away really hurt us. We wanted to be able to play big more; they were posting up Maddie a lot. Ayanna getting those fouls really didn’t allow us to play as big as we wanted to.”
Bonnies forward I’Yanna Lops finished with nine points and three rebounds in 24 minutes. Fleming went deeper into the bench tonight, playing reserve forwards Taylor Napper 26 minutes and Claire Cody 15 minutes off the bench. The Bonnies were still outrebounded 38-28 despite the deeper bench presence.
“We were trying to play bigger players,” Fleming said. “Ene Adams still isn’t available so we were trying to throw whatever big bodies we had out there. We just had to match their bigs.”
What made matters worse for the Bonnies was the play of UMass guard Ber’Nyah Mayo. She finished with 18 points 6-13 shooting from the field and 4-7 shooting from three point range.
“They’re really good,” Fleming said. “You got to take away some things. Mayo came out and made some threes, she had 12 points and she did a great job in the first quarter. We’re just trying to keep her out of the paint, I think she was 6-20 in conference play and she made a couple. They’re just good. They run their ball screen offense. We broke down on the ball screen.”
The Bonnies’ struggles tonight extended to their offense as well. Leading scorer Asianae Johnson snapped her eight-game streak of scoring at least 20 points. She finished with 18 points on 7-14 shooting from the field. However, UMass forced Johnson to commit six turnovers compared to only one assist.
“They have great hands,” Fleming said about the UMass defense when asked about guarding Johnson. “They do some really good things defensively. They play on a string; they switched us and kept her in front. She had a couple of self-inflicted wounds. They did a great job defensively.”
One player who continued her solid play was Bonnies’ guard Tori Harris. She finished with 13 points on 5-9 shooting from the field and 3-6 from three-point range.
“She’s more shot ready,” Fleming said on Harris. “She made a couple of ones to space out the floor. She’s not hesitating as much and that’s very good to see.”
The Bonnies play at George Washington on Saturday at 2 p.m.