Bowling Green’s Erica Donovan dribbles around St. Bonaventure's Nyla Rueter during the Women’s National Invitational Tournament on Monday. Donovan led the Falcons with 22 points.
BOWLING GREEN — For a half, the Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team stopped St. Bonaventure cold.
While the Falcons could not stop the Bonnies in the second half, BG had built up such a large cushion it was able to escape with a 76-65 win in a Women’s NIT second-round contest at Stroh Center Monday.
PHOTO GALLERY: BG women win 2nd round in WNIT
Bowling Green held the visitors to just five points in the first 16 minutes and led 36-15 at the break. That margin was enough to withstand a 50-point second half by the Bonnies.
“We were fortunate to go into halftime with such a big lead,” BG coach Jennifer Roos said. “If we don’t [have a big lead], the game probably has a different ending.”
With the win, the Falcons improved to 29-4 and advanced to the third round of the WNIT.
BG will host the University of Michigan 7 p.m. Thursday at Stroh Center.
Erica Donovan finished with 22 points to lead the Falcons, who also got 18 from Jillian Halfhill, 17 from Miriam Justinger off the bench, and 11 from Jasmine Matthews.
Katie Healy scored 22 points to lead St. Bonaventure (24-11). Hannah Little posted a double-double with 17 points and 18 rebounds, while Emily Michael scored 13 for the Bonnies.
Bowling Green scored the game’s first nine points thanks in part to a pair of 3-pointers by Matthews and another by Donovan. Leading 11-5 with 13:51 left, the Falcons scored the next 20 points, shutting out St. Bonaventure for more than eight minutes, to lead 31-5.
“First, I think they were a little shell-shocked by our crowd,” Roos said. “Second, we shot extremely well. They tried to take some of our inside looks away, which they did, but that opened up a lot of penetrate and kick opportunities. And we were able to knock down some shots early in the game.”
BG’s lead grew to 35-7 before St. Bonaventure used an 8-1 run over the final 3:42 of the period to cut its deficit to 36-15 at halftime.
Were the Falcons lulled into a false sense of security?
“A little bit,” Donovan said. “We had to keep playing. We needed to get stops while executing on the offensive end.”
St. Bonaventure scored on four of its first five second-half possessions to jump-start a 50-point second-half outburst. After making just 6-of-28 shots in the first half (21.4 percent), the Bonnies connected on 20-of-39 (51.3 percent) in the second.
“They put their heads down and drove the ball,” Roos said. “They started playing like [former BG standout and current St. Bonaventure coach] Kate Achter.”
The good news was that the Falcons found a way to score enough points to keep the Bonnies at bay. Halfhill scored 16 points in the second half, Justinger had 11 in the period, and Donovan had nine.
As a result, St. Bonaventure came no closer than eight points before the final horn.
“We have such good balance,” Roos said. “We have nine players eligible to play, and six of them have been our leading scorer [at least once].
"If someone doesn’t have it one night, we have such good balance that someone else can step up and put the ball in the basket.”
NOTES: Deborah Hoekstra was knocked to the ground while drawing a charge and was hit just above the left eye midway through the first half. She did not return to the game, but Roos said she could play against Michigan if she is able to open her eye and wear her contacts. … The win was BG’s 15th at home this season, setting a new program record for a single season. … The Falcons’ 29 wins are tied for the second-most in school history. This team is just the fifth in Mid-American history to win at least 29 games; BG has done it twice before, including a MAC record 31 wins in 2006-07, and Toledo has done it twice.