A-10 TOURNAMENT: favorites, sleepers and players to watch

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Peter Byrne

RICHMOND, VA — Although it hasn’t always been easy, the college basketball regular season has concluded and there will be an Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time since 2019. There will be notable changes between this year’s tournament and the one from just two years before.

Instead of the entire tournament being held in Brooklyn, New York, the majority of the 2021 A-10 tournament will be held in Richmond, Virginia. VCU and Richmond will both play host until the tournament championship, which will be played in Dayton, Ohio. 

Furthermore, the tournament championship will be played eight days after the semifinals conclude. The tournament will go from March 3-6, with the title game on March 14. Despite some changes, the format is the same, and each team will be fighting for an automatic bid and a ticket to the NCAA tournament.  

THE FAVORITE(S): 

The favorites heading into the tournament will be the top two teams in St. Bonaventure and VCU.

The teams finished a half game apart in the standings and split their regular-season meetings, each team winning on their home floor. Both the Bonnies and Rams lost their final regular season matchups, so expect both teams to come out for revenge in Richmond. It would come to nobody’s surprise if these teams were playing for Atlantic 10 championship in Dayton. 

THE SLEEPER: 

Saint Louis was a preseason favorite heading into the season and has failed to exceed expectations. However, a lengthy COVID pause that had them out for over a month is worth noting. Now seeded fourth, the Bilikens are coming off two straight victories and look to be hitting their stride at just the right time.

Saint Louis also seems to have SBU’s number recently, as they’ve won three straight against Schmidt and co. Although they have not been consistent enough throughout the season to be labeled a favorite, they seem to peaking at the right time.

3 PLAYERS TO WATCH: 

Kyle Lofton (SBU): Lofton averaged 14.5 points and 5.5 per game assists in the regular season, leading the Bonnies to their first outright regular season title in school history. Although he is only shooting 23% from behind the arc, he is shooting 44% from three in his last six games. As the Bonnies point guard and leader, expect him to have the ball in his hands in crunch time throughout the tournament.

NAH’SHON “BONES” HYLAND (VCU): Sophomore guard Nah’shon “Bones” Hyland is arguably the conference’s most improved player this season, upping his points per game from 9.0 to 19.2 in just one season. This improvement is the main reason why VCU has exceeded its preseason expectations and should be heading to the NCAA Tournament. The 6’3 guard will look to prove why he should be the conference’s player of the year in Richmond 

Jordan Goodwin: Bilikens senior Jordan Goodwin is a do-it-all type player for his team. He averages 14.5 points a game, leads the team in rebounding as a guard with 10.3 boards per game, and dishes out nearly 4 assists a game. He also leads the team in steals. In what should be his final Atlantic 10 tournament appearance, Goodwin will look to lead his Bilikens to a second straight tournament title. 

NEW: Schmidt, Kenney react to DePerro’s passing

photo: Jeremy Castro

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — As the St. Bonaventure University community watches its basketball teams conclude their seasons, and the university’s spring sports teams begin their seasons, they will do so with heavy hearts.

On Monday morning, Dr. Dennis DePerro, the university’s 21st president, died after spending months battling COVID-19. The news was a significant blow to the university, but also to the athletic department.  

DePerro’s commitment to the athletics at St. Bonaventure was steadfast, and to athletic director Tim Kenney, this commitment was profound and demonstrated in his character. 

“He exuded what it was, what this place is about. His kindness, his personality, he knew the student athletes,” Kenney said. “You don’t see that with a lot of presidents at times, and he knew them.” 

DePerro had a special connection with student-athletes at St Bonaventure. Having two sons who played soccer at Providence College, DePerro understood what it means to be a student athlete.

“He understood athletics, and that couldn’t be understated enough,” Kenney said. “A lot of the student-athletes I saw today…. they couldn’t believe it,” Kenney said. 

Faculty in the athletic department took the news with the same sorrow as the athletes. With his passing, the department knew they lost someone who was more than their boss. 

“He was our boss, but he was more of a friend. It’s very rare in this day and age that you have that,” Kenney said. “The person you knew was the way he led; there was no ego involved with that.” 

Mark Schmidt, head coach of SBU’s men’s basketball team, emphasized his own relationship he had developed with DePerro.  

“He was a friend. He was a guy that I could walk into his office at any time and sit down and talk to,” Schmidt said. “He really supported athletics, in particular men’s basketball.” 

Schmidt was appreciative of his leadership, and acknowledged its power within the basketball program.  

“It starts from the top, and when the top guy believes in athletics and its mission and believes in basketball and the importance of it, you’re in a good spot.” 

Dr. DePerro’s understanding of athletics translated to his leadership. DePerro was even-keeled and never overreacted, according to Schmidt. He made it a point to be approachable, and this tightened his bonds with the players and the coaches.  

“As a boss, that’s the kind of guy you want. Someone that’s always gonna be there with you, you know, in good times and bad times,” Schmidt said. “He had a doctorate degree, but he didn’t act like he had a doctorate degree; he was just one of us.” 

The men’s basketball team had DePerro’s cardboard cutout specially placed at the Reilly Center for Monday night’s game against Dayton, and the team wore commemorative stickers bearing his initials. Schmidt and the Bonnies will head to Richmond this week for the A-10 tournament, but will dedicate the rest of their season to DePerro. 

“He knew how important athletics is to this university,” Schmidt said. “He understood how important basketball is to this university, and he was as supportive as any person on this campus.” 

MBB: Bonnies stumble to regular-season finish line with loss to Dayton

photo by Jeremy Castro

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — In the end, it proved to be too much.

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team was 20 minutes away from finishing the 2020-21 season undefeated at home. A one-point halftime lead was quickly erased as the game’s second stanza began, however, as Dayton (13-8, 9-7 A-10) went on a 13-2 run to start the half and take the lead for good.

Despite a late-game Bona comeback and a chance to tie the game in its last possession, SBU (13-4, 11-4 A-10) failed to come all the way back, and fell to the Flyers, 55-52, at the Reilly Center on Monday.

“(Dayton) played well defensively, and they did a good job of keeping us out of the paint,” SBU head coach Mark Schmidt said. “I thought we were sluggish; heavy-legged. We missed some shots. Shots we ordinarily make.”

Despite a poor offensive performance that saw them shoot 30% from the field and 29% from 3-point range, the Bonnies clawed back into the game late in the second half and brought the deficit to as little as two points (52-50) on a Dominick Welch 3-pointer with three minutes remaining.

After the teams traded baskets and Ibi Watson hit one of two free throws for the Flyers, SBU got the ball with 10 seconds to play, trailing by three. Junior forward Jalen Adaway got an open look from beyond the arc, but missed in the game’s waning seconds, leaving the Flyers victorious.

“I thought we had a great look,” Schmidt said. “In terms of getting an open look, I thought we got (one) that we wanted. They knew that we needed to hit a three so it’s always hard to get really open looks, but I thought that was a really good look. He made a good stroke on it, he just missed it.”

Adaway scored a game-high 17 points while shooting 3-of-7 from distance and pulling down four rebounds. Junior forward/center Osun Osunniyi churned out 10 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks while junior guard Kyle Lofton scored nine points and handed out six assists.

“We’ve been down before and we’ve come back,” Schmidt said. “(Dayton) did a good job keeping us out of the paint, and at times, we took quick shots. They beat us in the paint, 24-20, and it’s usually the other way around.”

Dayton narrowly out-rebounded the Bonnies, 36-32, and although the Flyers committed 11 more turnovers than the Bonnies, they shot nearly 45% from the field and 6-of-12 from beyond the arc. Watson scored 14 points to lead the Flyers, while RJ Blakney and Mustapha Amzil each scored nine points.

SBU held Jalen Crutcher, Dayton’s leading scorer, to six points before he fouled out with just under four minutes to play.

“I thought we played really hard, we just didn’t do a good job of executing, making shots,” Schmidt said. “Four games in nine days is a lot to ask, but at the same time, give Dayton credit. They played well enough to win.”

Before the game, the late Dr. Dennis DePerro, SBU’s 21st president, was honored with a moment of silence. DePerro passed away Sunday evening after battling COVID-19 for more than two months.

“He was a great man and a great leader, and he did amazing things here in his short stay,” Schmidt said of DePerro, who became university president in 2017. “He really supported athletics, especially men’s basketball, and we lost a great guy… he’s going to be hard to replace. It was a hard day today.”

SBU will now look ahead to the Atlantic 10 tournament, in which it will be the No. 1 seed. The Bonnies will get a chance to recuperate with three days off after playing four games in nine days to end their regular season.

While Bona’s A-10 quarterfinal opponent will be determined on Thursday, the Bonnies are locked into Friday’s 11 a.m. time slot. They’ll await the winner of No. 8 Richmond and No. 9 Duquesne.

“We’ve got to get our legs back,” Schmidt said. “It’s the end of the year; we’ve been practicing since whenever it’s been. It’s getting our guys the rest that they need, and then bouncing back and hopefully they can play well on Friday.”

SBU community mourns death of late president

photo: St. Bonaventure University

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Dr. Dennis DePerro, the 21st president of St. Bonaventure University, passed away Sunday evening after battling COVID-19. His passing was announced in an email sent to the SBU campus community Monday morning.

“Our hearts are broken, and we send all of our love, support, sympathies and condolences to the DePerro family on their loss, especially Dennis’ wife, Sherry, and his two sons, Andrew and Matthew,” said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, acting president of the university. “Please keep them in your prayers.”

Zimmer, SBU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, has served as acting president since mid-January. 

“What I’ll miss more than anything was his uncanny ability to make you feel better even on your worst days,” said Tom Missel, SBU’s chief communications officer. “He had a unique gift. I loved that man with all my heart. I know there are thousands of people who would say the same thing. His humanity, his insight, his ability to listen to all sides, his sense of humor – all of that made him a great leader.” 

John Sheehan, president of the university’s board of trustees, also expressed condolences to the DePerro family. Sheehan noted DePerro’s strong connection with SBU alumni.

“Our alumni adored (DePerro), and the relationships he forged at every college he’s worked run deep, especially at Le Moyne, where I know his loss will be deeply felt,” Sheehan said. “Please keep Sherry, Andrew, Matthew and the entire DePerro family in your prayers. The university will do everything it can to support them.”

The university’s flag will fly at half staff through March, according to Zimmer. 

DePerro tested positive for COVID-19 on Christmas Eve before being admitted to a Syracuse hospital Dec. 29. DePerro assumed the presidency on June 1, 2017, and led the university through the admission of its three largest freshman classes in 11 years. 

Funeral arrangements will be announced when they are available. Cards and letters can be sent to the president’s office. 

MBB: A-10 regular season champion Bonnies look to finish strong against Dayton

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — After a weekend of celebration, the newly crowned Atlantic 10 regular season champions have their last test before postseason play begins.  

Thanks to a 65-57 win by Davidson over VCU, St. Bonaventure clinched its first outright conference title in school history without even playing a game.  

“For them to be the first team to win an outright Atlantic 10 title speaks volumes about the type of players and the type of team we have,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “I think we have a program that we’ve built, that has been sustained over time.” 

Schmidt and the Bonnies will look to cap an unprecedented season on a high note when they welcome the Dayton Flyers to the Reilly Center on Monday.  

Despite the triumphs of his team in the past week, Schmidt is adamant about finishing the right way. 

“We have more to do,” Schmidt said. “We’ve gotta keep on rolling.”  

The Flyers come into this matchup at 8-7 in the A-10 and 12-8 overall. Despite a recent loss to Saint Joseph’s, Dayton has shown it can handle the top teams in the league, evidenced by its 76-53 walloping of Saint Louis just over a week ago.

“They’re just a really good team,” Schmidt said. “You don’t beat Saint Louis by 23 by not having a good team.” 

Jalen Crutcher leads the way for the Flyers. One of the only returning pieces from last year’s historic nationally-ranked team, Crutcher is averaging 18.8 points per game and 4.9 assists per game, both of which lead the team.

“They’ve got one of the best players in the league in Crutcher,” Schmidt said. He’s the quarterback; as he goes, they go.” 

Given the excellent defense of the Bonnies against top guards recently, the matchup against Crutcher will be one to watch. SBU held Davidson guard Kellan Grady to two points on 1-of-7 shooting on Wednesday and A-10 leading scorer James Bishop of George Washington only mustered six points of 2-of-7 shooting on Friday.  

Another key piece for the Flyers is Ibi Watson, another returnee from last season. Watson averages 15.7 points per game and plays a much bigger role for Dayton than he did a season ago. 

“The kid Watson feeds off Crutcher and shoots the ball extremely well,” Schmidt said.  

Just like Bona, the Flyers are an excellent 3-point shooting team. They are second to St. Bonaventure in 3-point shooting percentage in the A-10, and they also boast the second-highest field goal percentage in the conference. 

If the Bonnies secure the win, they will finish the season undefeated at home. Schmidt noted the importance of earning a victory in the team’s last home game this season. 

“Being undefeated at home is gonna give us momentum going into the Atlantic 10 (tournament),” Schmidt said. “Forget about 8-0. We wanna be 1-0; that next game, we wanna have momentum.” 

St. Bonaventure has lost five straight games to Dayton, with its last win coming in February of 2016.  

The Flyers and the Bonnies tip off at 5 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPNU.  

“We accomplished one goal, and that was to win the Atlantic 10 regular season,” Schmidt said. “We’ve won something, but we wanna continue to win.” 

NEW: Bonnies rout GW for largest-ever A-10 win

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The George Washington men’s basketball team came to the Reilly Center on Friday looking to pull off an upset over St. Bonaventure. SBU’s red-hot offense made it known early that an upset wasn’t going to happen.

Bona (13-3, 11-3 A-10) erupted for 88 points while shooting 58% from the field and 51% from 3-point range on its way to an 88-41 win over the Colonials (4-11, 3-5 A-10). It was the largest Atlantic 10 win in program history.

Bona junior guard Dominick Welch set the game tempo early by hitting four 3-point shots in the first half. That’s one less than the five triples that Welch hit in the first half at Davidson on Wednesday.

Welch was one of five Bonnies to reach double-digit scoring, as he scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half before sitting for the majority of the second half, as did nearly all of head coach Mark Schmidt’s starters.

“We came off two big wins and it could have been a let-down, we had one day to prepare, but our guys really really responded,” Schmidt said. “It was great to see, and I’m really proud of their effort.”

The Bonnies jumped out to a double-digit lead in the game’s first nine minutes and held it the rest of the way, leading 42-21 at halftime before out-scoring GW 46-20 in the second half.

Bona junior guard Jaren Holmes finished with 18 points, while sophomore guard AJ Vazquez scored 18 off the bench to match Holmes’ game-high total.

“This game was not an easy one at all,” Holmes said. “We just came out and played hard. We played with energy and we were excited to be out here.”

Junior guard Kyle Lofton racked up a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists, while junior forward Jalen Adaway scored 11 points.

“You play one possession at a time, and when you get up by 20 (points), the goal is by the next timeout, you want to be up by 30,” Schmidt said. “You’re up by 30, the goal for the next timeout is you want to be up by 40. That’s how you do it.”

The Bonnies set a new season-high by hitting 15 3-point field goals, which bested the 11 triples they hit in each of their last two games. SBU has now shot over 50% from distance in three-consecutive games.

“It’s always needed,” Schmidt said of his team’s 3-point shooting. “Our guys deserve to make those shots. They’re always in the gym. We were missing (the shots) early in the season, but it wasn’t because we weren’t in the gym working at it. You knew it was going to happen. We have good shooters.”

The Bonnies held the Colonials to 33% shooting from the field and 15% from distance. Jamison Battle led GW with 10 points, while James Bishop, the A-10’s leading scorer entering Friday, was held to six points on 2-of-7 shooting.

“That’s the staple,” Schmidt said of his defense. “That’s how you win. We’re not going to shoot 15-for-29 (from distance) every game. You win championships, you win at this level, by playing defense and rebounding. Our guys understand that.”

With the win, SBU remained undefeated at home and stepped one win closer to the regular-season Atlantic 10 championship title. With a win over Dayton on Monday, the Bonnies can clinch at least a share of the A-10 regular-season title, as well as the top seed in next week’s conference tournament.

“If you take care of your business, everything is fine,” Schmidt said. “We control our own destiny. Even though it’s the last game of the regular season, we prepare the same way for everybody.”

With one game left in its regular season, St. Bonaventure controls its own destiny. After Friday’s win, nearly the entire Bona team crowded around a baseline camera. Each player pointed one finger in the air, signifying the final victory that the team needs to clinch the A-10’s top spot.

“It just feels good to get another win and (be) one step closer to an A-10 regular-season championship,” Holmes said. “We’re on a mission right now. I think we’re completely locked in as a team, and as a family.”

After sweeping Davidson, Bonnies look for strong finish to regular season

photo courtesy of Tim Cowie/gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — After a challenging start to the week, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team is back home to wrap up the regular season and prepare for the postseason. However, the position that the Bonnies are currently stands in did not come without adversity.  

Though his teammates have urged him to hunt for his shot offensively, Bona junior guard Jalen Adaway has hesitated to take that step in his game. Wednesday night may have given him the push he needed.  

“He was hesitant all game. He really struggled,” said Bona head coach Mark Schmidt. “We always talk about dealing with adversity, and he dealt with it.” 

Adaway dealt with this adversity by sinking the go-ahead 3-pointer that sealed St. Bonaventure’s (12-3, 10-3 A-10) regular-season sweep of the Davidson Wildcats (11-7, 6-4 A-10) in a 56-53 victory. Adaway finished with 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting from the field, but believed he could perform better. 

“Sometimes I can be hesitant,” Adaway said. “I’m looking forward to watching more film today so I can correct those mistakes.” 

Overcoming adversity was a key theme for St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night, and Adaway’s heroics were a microcosm of that. After a 9-for-15 start from beyond the arc, the Bonnies went cold. After several long scoring droughts in the final 15 minutes, they saw a 14-point advantage dwindle and the Wildcats found their way back into the game.  

“We could have folded…. we missed some shots, we weren’t executing, missed a lot of layups,” SBU head coach Mark Schmidt said. “It didn’t affect our defense and that’s why we won.” 

As the final buzzer sounded after the win, the adversity was overcome as jubilant coaches, players and managers dashed to embrace one another on Bob McKillop Court at Belk Arena.  

“It was a very good win… it was an up and down game and they came back,” said junior guard Dominick Welch, who secured the game-winning rebound. “We’re all just in an exciting spot right now, we’re all just really happy and motivated.” 

The Bonnies head home now, and will look to stay motivated when they conclude their regular season with a pair of home games, the first coming against the George Washington Colonials on Friday.  

This is the final scheduled regular-season game for a GW team that is coming off a 63-58 loss to George Mason on Wednesday night.  

The Colonials’ 4-10 overall and 3-4 Atlantic 10 record hardly possesses an intimidation factor, but the Colonials have the leading scorer in the A-10 in James Bishop and the fifth leading scorer in Jamison Battle, who average 20.1 and 18.3 points per game, respectively.  

After holding preseason all-conference guard Kellan Grady to just two points on 1-of-7 shooting in their last game, the Bonnies will look to carry this defensive momentum into their next matchup.  

“Just attention to detail,” Adaway said. “I think it’s the same mentality going into tomorrow’s matchup. I think we are going to be locked in, and just play from start to finish.” 

Given the offensive ability of the Colonials, they do, however, pose one of the weaker defenses in the league. They are 10th in the A-10 in defensive field goal percentage and defensive three-point field goal percentage. With the Bonnies’ hot shooting from deep as of late, this could be an area where Schmidt’s team attacks. St. Bonaventure has shot 52.4% from 3-point range in its last two contests.  

“It’s really good to see all our shots starting to fall,” Welch said. “We have guys that can really shoot on the team.” 

Bona will tip off against the Colonials Friday night at 6 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN+. 

“We used to be the hunter, now we are the hunted,” Welch said. “So we know we are going to get every team’s best shot.” 

Bonnies “having fun” despite erratic A-10 schedule

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — If frustration had overtaken the St. Bonaventure locker room by now, it would be understandable.

The SBU men’s basketball team has endured over three months of scheduling changes, including more than a dozen game postponements or cancelations. With less than a week remaining in the regular season, however, the Bonnies are just “having fun.”

“It’s always a good time with these guys,” said junior guard Jaren Holmes after the Bonnies beat Davidson on Sunday. “There’s always energy and always laughs, so it’s a great time.”

Holmes, who has averaged 14.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game this season, scored a game-high 19 points against the Wildcats.

“It’s ultimately just fun,” Holmes said. “We want to go out there and play loose and have energy. I think the vibe right now is that we’re not done.”

Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said that the passion with which his players compete shows him that they enjoy playing the game.

“When you play a game that you love, you’d better have fun,” Schmidt said. “If you have fun, you’re going to play better. If you’re stressed out and all that stuff, then it’s really hard to perform.”

Often times, as Schmidt said, the fun comes from winning. And the Bonnies have done a lot of that this year.

Ahead of its Wednesday rematch with Davidson at Belk Arena, SBU sits tied atop the Atlantic 10 standings with VCU, each of which is 9-3 in conference play this season. The Bonnies have three chances left to improve upon that record, as they host George Washington on Friday and Dayton on Monday after returning from Davidson.

“We have veteran guys that really understand what it takes to win,” Schmidt said. “I’m lucky to have the opportunity to coach these guys. They do have fun, but at the same time, they’re highly competitive.”

Bona’s NCAA tournament hopes remain alive just over a week before the start of the A-10 tournament, but Holmes said that the team’s focus does not span further than its next game.

“We’re not really paying attention to (the bubble) or if we have a chance at the tournament,” Holmes said. “We’re just trying to accomplish the goals that we set as a team.”