Bonnies Fan Recounts Magical Season in his First Year of College

By: Jeff Uveino

It doesn’t take long to figure out how important basketball is to St. Bonaventure University.

I discovered this on my first visit to the university, when I was just a junior in high school. That visit just happened to be the day after ‘Selection Sunday’ of the 2016 NCAA basketball tournament.

After an unforgettable 2015-16 Bonnies season, where they finished 22-9 and were co-Atlantic 10 regular season champions, they were left out of the tournament following a loss in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Many felt the Bonnies had been snubbed, and they had good reason to believe it. Everyone I met during my visit brought it up. It felt as if the life had been sucked out of the school, and I hadn’t even experienced it on a normal day yet. But what I did feel was the compassion that students and faculty had toward the basketball teams. It meant everything to them.

Fast forward two years.

Now a freshman at St. Bonaventure, preseason hype over the men’s basketball team was through the roof. Seniors Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley were set to take the team to the ‘big dance’ and redeem the snub.

The team opened the season by steamrolling nearby Alfred University, a Division III team, in an exhibition at the RC. The Bonnies gave a convincing first impression of what they could accomplish in the 2017-18 season, but encountered a large problem along the way. The entire Reilly Center held its breath when Adams came up limping after driving to the basket.

Adams wouldn’t return to the game, and ended up not returning to the lineup for a lot longer than Bonnies fans would have liked.

The first month of the season without Adams was interesting to say the least. Now that the season is over and the drama of the postseason has settled, November seems like an eternity ago. But the roller coaster ride that was the non-conference schedule is part of what made this Bonnies season so special.

Start out on November 10, 2017—the Niagara game. My first Bonnies game (yes, ever). St. Bonaventure was heavy favorites over the Niagara Purple Eagles, but were simply outplayed by a team that would finish 161st in RPI. Was this team really that much worse without Jaylen Adams?

Five days later, the Bonnies were set to play the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks in the Reilly Center. Easy work, right? The Hawks would end up finishing 7-25 with an RPI of 346 (out of 351). This also happened to be my first time covering a game on press row.

This time, the problem wasn’t the team, it was the venue. A power outage in the RC caused the game to be postponed five days, and left the Bonnies sitting at 0-1 for even longer than what had already felt like a lifetime.

What a way to start the season. What a way for one’s first two trips to the Reilly Center to turn out. Evidence of how special this season was, however, is that these games are now a mere afterthought.

The rest of non-conference play—where do I start?

Courtney Stockard’s game-winning layup against Maryland. Freshman Izaiah Brockington coming out of nowhere to score 20 points against TCU. A win at the University of Buffalo (who would eventually knock the Arizona Wildcats and NBA lottery prospect DeAndre Ayton out of the NCAA tournament). Matt Mobley’s buzzer-beater three-pointer to beat Vermont. All huge moments, all in less than a month’s time.

The Bonnies were just getting started. With Adams back in the lineup and the Bonnies riding a six-game win streak, they headed to the Carrier Dome to play the Syracuse Orange. St. Bonaventure had never won at Syracuse, and their last win against them had been in 1981.

After a fierce defensive battle, the Bonnies prevailed in overtime, 60-57. Was this the key non-conference victory St. Bonaventure would need to overcome the snub of two seasons ago?

While non-conference play had brought drama, the conference schedule would bring adversity to a team that had previously been hot as could be.

After opening Atlantic 10 play with a home victory over the Massachusetts Minutemen, the Bonnies lost four of their next five games, with all the losses coming on the road. Doubt ensued. Maybe this team wasn’t NCAA tournament-caliber after all? Maybe the win over Syracuse didn’t even mean anything now?

Skip ahead another seven weeks.

That’s how long it took another team to beat St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies won their final 12 Atlantic 10 games, finishing 14-4 in conference play. Talk about turning your season around.

They wouldn’t have gotten there, of course, without several key performances that contribute to the remarkableness of this season.

Who could forget the night Jaylen Adams hit 10 threes and scored 44 points against Saint Louis? Or how about the triple overtime game vs Davidson, with a final score of 117-113? Even these epic games probably take a back seat to the night the Rhode Island Rams came to town.

Rhode Island was ranked No. 16 in the nation, ESPN was in town, and it was Friday night at St. Bonaventure University. People were excited.

In what was the loudest sporting event I have attended in my life, the Bonnies prevailed over the Rams, 77-74. Bedlam commenced when the buzzer sounded, and the whited-out Reilly Center crowd spilled out onto the court. It was the type of sports moment you dream about.

After finishing out their A 10 schedule, the Bonnies would head to Washington, DC for the conference tournament seeded No. 2.

The streets of the nation’s capital were filled with Bonnies fans, even more so than I had expected. Walking around with any St. Bonaventure gear on meant you were subject to a “Go Bonas!” On just about every block.

After defeating the No. 7 seeded Richmond Spiders in the quarterfinals, St. Bonaventure was set for a rematch of their triple-overtime contest (just eleven days before) with the Davidson Wildcats. This time, Davidson’s hot shooting proved to be too much for the Bonnies, and they were eliminated in the semifinals. Now, in order to redeem the snub, they needed some help from the selection committee.

Any die-hard Bonnies basketball fan can tell you where they were when St. Bonaventure’s name was selected for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. At a gas station near Altoona, Pennsylvania, I struggled to find cell phone service to stream the selection show. Meanwhile, nearly the entire student body erupted in the RC when the Bonnies logo showed up on the scoreboard.

The Bonnies were in. No snub.

The pain of 2016 could finally be forgotten, and for the first time since 2012, the Bonnies were dancing.

However, in what some felt was a disservice to the team, St. Bonaventure was sent to Dayton for the ‘First Four’ round. They would play the UCLA Bruins, one of the most storied programs in college basketball history.

On that Tuesday night, just two days after Selection Sunday, the University of Dayton Arena sounded like the Reilly Center. The Bonnies prevailed, 65-58, for their first NCAA tournament win since 1970.

Now they had to travel to Dallas, and in just two days play the No. 6 seeded Florida Gators.

Blame it on the excessive travel, blame it on fatigue, blame it on cold shooting; the Bonnies got run over by the Gators.

After a 77-62 loss in a game that felt even more lopsided than that, one of the most historic runs in program history was over. St. Bonaventure finished 26-8.

26 wins was the most ever in a single season in program history. This included 8 and 13 game win streaks, and a 14-1 record at home. The only loss at the RC was to Niagara (go figure).

When looking back on this season, many people will remember the NCAA tournament games, or even just the fact that the Bonnies made it into the tournament.

But to me, it’s how they got there that makes the run so special. So many moments, big moments, that will be forgotten. After all, I didn’t even mention games such as the homecoming sellout win over Richmond, or Jaylen Adams’ game-winner in a 40-point performance at Duquesne.

However, this team will not be forgotten.

Neither will this senior class. Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley, and Idris Taqqee are the winning-est graduating class in St. Bonaventure history.

The Bonnies will have a brand-new look next year, and we have nearly eight months to debate about where the team will go from here. But for now, let’s appreciate all this year’s team gave to the school and the fans.

They gave me a freshman year I’ll never forget.

Advertisements

Dream season for Bonnies ends against Gators

By Josh Svetz

It’s cliche, but there’s one saying that encapsulates the end of the Bonnies’ NCAA Tournament run.

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies couldn’t handle the defensive tenacity of the Florida Gators losing 77-62 Thursday night at Dallas, Texas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Neither team could pull away in the first half each taking turns stalling on offense. St. Bonaventure’s Jaylen Adams had a hard time staying out of foul trouble, picking up three fouls in the first half.

360A7606

Both teams struggled shooting in the first half. The Bonnies shot 6-23 from the field and the Gators shot 9-31. The Bonnies went on a 10-0 run until the 4:28 mark, capitalizing on points from the foul line as the shots would not drop. The Bonnies secured a lead late into the first half at the 3:05 mark 22-21.

Unfortunately for them; it would be their last.

The Gators scored a quick bucket and the Bonnies struggled to keep up with the energy of the Gators. Still, the game was close with the Bonnies in striking distance at the half, 22-27.

But fatigue started to set in. Four games in seven days can take the wind out of any team, especially a short rotation like the Bonnies.

Adams admitted in the press conference that the grind of the season wore him down.

“I’m not one to make excuses, but you could tell we were gassed,” Adams said. “We weren’t used to that many games in that many days. But I think you have to credit Florida’s defense more than anything.”

The Gators came out in the 2nd half blazing on a 7-0 run.

The Bonnies couldn’t buy a bucket, but forced themselves to the free throw line.

The dynamic duo of Adams and Matt Mobley struggled to find openings, combining for just 21 points, a total that on an average night either guy usually surpasses.

360A7570

Florida guard Chris Chiozza said the game plan was to focus on the Bonnies’ offensive juggernauts,

“Those are two great guards,” Chiozza said. “We just wanted to make it tough for them to score. We played hard the whole way and were able to keep them from doing what they usually do.”

The Bonnies kept the game in reach, struggling for every point scored.

Then, the wheels came off the Bona Bandwagon. The Gators rained three pointers down as the Bonnies continued to struggle. They went 3-19 from behind the arc.

The Bonnies didn’t ever give up, but the energy just wasn’t there. The culmination of short games, quick travel turnarounds and the emotional drain of winning an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1970 got to them.

Head coach Mark Schmidt talked about the fatigue factor after the game.

“We were on a high,” Schmidt said. “I think you can fight through it for a couple days, just with adrenaline. But, when you get down by 15, that adrenaline rush goes out the window.”

Plus; Florida was just better.

Yet, even as the Bonnies continued to fall behind and the game was out of reach, the fans made sure to show their appreciation. With a minute to go the Bona faithful cheered loud with a final “let’s go Bona’s” and gave the team a standing ovation filled with claps, hollers and stomps.

360A7549

The Gators ended the Bonnies dream NCAA Tournament run, 77-62.

One player coach Schmidt made sure to give his due was Idris Taqqee.

Taqqee is not known as the primary scorer. He sometimes misses layups that make you tear your hair out and you always hold your breath when he goes to the line.

But when it came to heart; no one matched Taqqee. Every rebound, every tipped ball, every loose ball, Taqqee went for it. Even as a guard, he grabbed 13 rebounds and coach Schmidt had nothing but praise for the senior.

“That sucker wasn’t going to quit,” Schmidt said. “He’s one of the top five most unselfish players I’ve ever coached. He doesn’t have great skill, but he epitomizes the toughness that we try to play with. Matt and Jay get a lot of the credit, and deservedly so, but without Idris in that — he’s the glue that brings us together.”

As the team exited the locker room to catch the red eye home it was all love.

They thanked the managers, coaches and even the student journalists that had gone on this ride with them.

Their head’s were high, as they should be.

Looking back on a historic season for the Bonnies, the best in the modern era, coach Schmidt closed the night talking about what this means for St. Bonaventure University as a whole.

“We got the respect of the country now,” Schmidt said. “It’s taken a while to get that. It’s hard to put in words, especially coming off a loss, but we did some incredible things. The guys are going to look back years from now and think ‘wow.’ This team is going to be remembered forever.”

 

 

 

 

Preview: Bonnies take on Gators in NCAA Tournament

By Jeff Uveino

It’s one of the most anticipated days of the year for college hoops fans—the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament.

With 16 games scheduled for today, the eyes of the sporting world will once again be on college basketball. However, for fans of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies; only one game really matters.

The No. 11 Bonnies (25-7) will take on the No. 6 Florida Gators (20-12) at 9:55 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA tournament on truTV.

The Bonnies are coming off a 65-58 win over the UCLA Bruins in the ‘First Four’ round in Dayton, Ohio. Now, the Bonnies get to travel to Dallas, Texas to take on a Gators team that went 11-7 in Southeastern Conference (SEC) play. Despite winning their final three regular season games, the Gators were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament by the Arkansas Razorbacks. Florida owns several wins over other tournament teams this season, including Gonzaga, Auburn, and two wins against Kentucky

The Gators have enjoyed recent tournament success, including trips to at least the Elite Eight in five straight seasons. In the 2017 NCAA tournament, Florida lost a heart breaker to the South Carolina Gamecocks, denying them a trip to the Final Four.

The Gators have scorers up and down their roster, averaging 76 points per game. They are led by junior guard Jalen Hudson, who averages 15.3 points per game. Egor Koulechov, a senior guard from Russia, averages 13.6 points per game. Other key contributors are guards KeVaugh Allen and Chris Chiozza, who average 13.6 and 13.5 points, respectively. Chiozza also averages 6.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game, making him a central part of the Gators offense.

While the sunshine of Gainesville, Florida is far from the snow covered tundras of Allegany, New York; the Bonnies and Gators aren’t strangers.

Just last year, the Bonnies and Gators met at Florida in a close and competitive game resulting in a 73-66 loss.

Senior Idris Taqqee remembers the game against the Gators last year. Now, with a better team and a chance to see them on a neutral court, Taqqee said the Bonnies are ready for another shot against them.

“It’s already a rematch so we want to get that revenge,” Taqqee said. ” We want this. We’re hungry.”

Part of the path to getting that revenge is showing up defensively. The Bonnies used a stymieing zone defensive scheme to slow down the Bruins last game as they try for similar results against the Gators.  The Bonnies forced 20 UCLA turnovers, including 10 by their star guard Aaron Holiday.

Another key to the Bonnies’ First Four win was the play of Courtney Stockard, who scored 26 points. Stockard, a junior forward, is the X-factor in a Bonnies attack that features two high-scoring senior guards; Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley.

Adams averages 19.4 points and 5.3 assists per game, and Mobley averages 18.4 points and 5 rebounds per game. The Bonnies shoot nearly 40% from three point range, and their shooting will be a key as to whether they will be able to pull off an upset.
The winner of this game will play either Texas Tech or Stephen F. Austin on Saturday with a trip to the ‘Sweet 16’ at stake.

Junior LaDarien Griffin, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, knows the Gators pretty well. He grew up watching them and even played AAU with Florida forward Kevarrius Hayes.

He couldn’t hold back his excitement when asked about getting a second chance to beat the Gators.

“I used to watch those great teams that they had in awe.” Griffin said. “You grow up and it’s always the goal to beat those type of teams and now we get that chance. I can’t wait man, I can’t wait to play them!”

Bonnies stun Bruins in first NCAA Tournament win since 1970

By Josh Svetz and Sean Lynch

The last time the St. Bonaventure Bonnies won a game in the NCAA Tournament, there were no cell phones, laptops and the fad known as disco was not even invented yet.

The alumni that lived around the time of Bonaventure’s 1970 Final Four run swear the Bonnies would have won the championship if Bob Lanier was healthy. The Bonnies would have got a shot against the UCLA Bruins, a powerhouse of the decade.

Over forty years later, those alumni can finally take solace in the game that wasn’t.

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies, a school of fewer than 1,800 students, beat the UCLA Bruins, a school that has that many kids in its intro classes, 65-58, in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament at University of Dayton Arena.

The Bruins came out on fire, going 5-5 from the field in the first four minutes and looked unbeatable defensively.

The Bonnies started flat, posting 2-7 from the field.

Jaylen Adams talked about handling the Bruins early hot streak.

“They’re a good offensive team,” Adams said. “We didn’t hang our head when they started making shots. We knew we would have our turn and we punched back.”

And punch back they did.

Bonnies’ head coach Mark Schmidt switched to a zone and the Bonnies forced consecutive turnovers to push their way back. The switch frustrated the Bruins, making them close out the half shooting 8-23 and a six-minute scoring drought. Even with star guard Jaylen Adams shooting 0-7, the Bonnies brought the score within one late in the first.

After some time to sit and get recomposed, Adams returned, finding Courtney Stockard for a drive and foul. Stockard sank two free throws.  After looking dead early, the Bonnies had their first lead of the day, 23-22.

The chants came rolling from the rafters of the UD Arena in Dayton, but they weren’t the usual chants of “Go Flyers.” Instead, a constant barrage of “Let’s go Bonas” rang out, turning Dayton, Ohio into Olean, New York for the night.

The Bruins continued to struggle with the crowd and the Bonnies’ pressure, as they held the highest scoring Pac-12 team to just six points in the last 14 minutes of the half. A last-second mid-range by Idris Taqqee gave the Bonnies a 28-23 lead at the half.

After halftime adjustments, both teams traded baskets quickly, neither team quite pulling away. The Bruins damn near tried, starting 6-7 from the field in the first 10 minutes of the second half and taking back the lead with a 5-5 field goal run. Adams continued to struggle from the field, bricking three after three.

Someone else had to step up. Someone had to be the hero.

It happened to be the player that some didn’t even think would play.

Courtney Stockard stepped up in his NCAA Tournament debut, scoring 26 points and grabbing four rebounds.

Stockard drove through the lane all night, taking on virtually the whole Bruins’ squad and made layups down the stretch.

Stockard talked about the process of going through the season and playing a high caliber UCLA Bruins team.

“Back in the offseason, we set some goals for ourselves,” Stockard said. “This is a special group of guys and when we set those goals, we knew what we had to do. We had our work cut out for us and we went out there and accomplished something big.”

Then, Matt Mobley woke up. A key three to extend the Bona lead electrified the crowd and as the song “Can’t Hold Us,” by Macklemore played throughout the arena, the decibel level suggested that literally, the ceiling couldn’t hold the bona fans. Just maybe, UD Arena might need a new roof.

But the Bruins didn’t quit. They found themselves in a hot streak of their own, capitalizing on open looks and mismatches within the zone defense of the Bonnies.

But after 39 minutes of misses, bad threes, even air balls, Adams made up for everything. With the game tied at 58, Adams came down the court and knocked down a jumper giving Bona’s the lead. Then, he stole the ball from Holiday, got fouled and made both free throws, sealing the game.

Adams said winning despite his struggles says a lot about the group of guys around him.

“It just shows what type of team we can beat,” Adams said. “ I couldn’t get into a rhythm, but my teammates picked me up.”

Head coach Mark Schmidt was sentimental about the whole tournament experience and his Bonaventure career up to that point in the press conference.

“It’s a special moment,” Schmidt said. “Some people said I shouldn’t take the (head coaching) job. For us to go from having three players to beating UCLA in eleven years, it’s something I’m really proud of.”

Schmidt continued to talk about the spirit of the team.

“We always talk about how we’re a bunch of misfits,” he said. “No one wanted us. We come to Bonaventure and work our tails off.”

With the win, the Bonnies advanced to the second round, where they will face 6th seed Florida on Thursday in Dallas, Texas at 9:57 p.m.

While Coach Schmidt and the Bonnies are buzzing from this victory, they’re already looking ahead to Thursday night, even the upcoming red eye.

“I’m proud of our team’s accomplishments, but we’re not done,” he said. “We can look at those records once this is finished. We want to continue and that 2 a.m. flight is going to be the best flight I’ve ever taken.”

 

 

 

Bonnies NCAA Tournament Preview: First Four

By: Jeff Uveino

“You dream as a player to play in the big dance.”

That’s what St. Bonaventure Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said in his press conference after the Atlantic-10 tournament this past weekend, and it’s what his Bonnies will be doing on Tuesday.

For the first time since 2012, the Bonnies are back in the NCAA tournament.

After receiving an at-large bid, St. Bonaventure will travel to Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday to play in the ‘First Four’ round.

The Bonnies will take on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins at 9:10 P.M. for the right to become the 11th seed in the Eastern Regional and face 6th seeded Florida.

This will be the first matchup between the Bonnies (25-7) and the Bruins (21-11) in over 40 years. Their last meeting came in 1975, when UCLA rolled over the Bonnies on the way to a National Championship.

UCLA comes in at 21-11, including an 11-7 record in their conference (the Pacific 12). They were eliminated in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament via an overtime loss to the Arizona Wildcats, who enter the NCAA tournament as a 4th seed.

The Bruins have a good amount of offensive firepower, averaging nearly 82 points per game. They rank 2nd in the Pac-12 and 28th in the nation in scoring.

The Bruins offense is led by junior guard Aaron Holiday. Holiday can shoot it with the best of them, averaging 20.3 points per game. He is an 83% free throw shooter, and 43% three point shooter. Holiday scored 34 points in back-to-back games in the Pac-12 tournament, in wins over USC and Stanford.

Another factor into the UCLA attack that could trouble the Bonnies is their size. The Bruins start three players who are 6’8 and taller, including 6’8 freshman forward Kris Wilkes, 6’11 senior forward Gyorgy Goloman, and 7’0 senior center Thomas Welsh.

Welsh averages 13 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, and poses a significant threat under the basket. Wilkes averages 13.7 points per game, and Goloman averages 7.3 PPG. Welsh and Goloman can also shoot it from downtown, as they both average over 40% shooting from three point range.

The Bonnies big men will be faced with the task of slowing down this attack from under the basket, which will be no easy task given their recent injury problems. Bonnies forwards Courtney Stockard and Josh Ayeni both suffered injuries during the Atlantic-10 tournament in Washington, DC this past weekend, and their status for Tuesday is still up in the air.

Stockard suffered a hamstring injury during the Bonnies quarterfinal win over the Richmond Spiders, and did not play during their semifinal loss to the Davidson Wildcats. Ayeni went down with an apparent knee injury during the Davidson game, and did not return.

No official word has come out about Stockard yet, but sources have told the Intrepid he’s probable to play. Ayeni is currently questionable, though sources said they don’t expect him to play.

St. Bonaventure will still have forwards Amadi Ikpeze (4.7 PPG) and LaDarien Griffin (8.7 PPG) for starters, as well as Tshiefu Ngalakulondi (2.3 PPG) off the bench.

Getting healthy, as well as controlling the glass, will be big factors if the Bonnies want to be successful on Tuesday.

Despite the challenges the Bruins bring to the table, Coach Schmidt is confident in his team’s ability.

“We won thirteen straight games, had some huge non-conference wins, and some big wins in our league,” he said. “I don’t think there was a hotter team going into the postseason than us.”

The Bonnies will look to their high-scoring guards to keep pace with UCLA, including seniors Jaylen Adams (19.8 PPG) and Matt Mobley (18.5 PPG).

Mobley earned A-10 All-Championship Team honors last weekend after his performance in the conference tournament, including making 9-of-13 three pointers in a 29-point outing against Richmond.

Coach Schmidt has been to the NCAA tournament before, appearing three times as a player at Boston College. However, none of his current players have, and he knows that they will be getting an opportunity of a lifetime.

“It’s probably the best day of your life as a college basketball player [when selected],” he said. “They deserve to have those goosebumps.”

Bonnies Fall in Third Meeting with Wildcats

By: Sean Lynch and Josh Svetz

The Davidson Wildcats knocked down 16 threes on their way to closing out an epic trilogy against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, winning 82-70, in the semifinals of the A-10 Conference Tournament.

Offensive and defensive force Courtney Stockard did not play for the Bonnies due to a hamstring injury. He’s been ruled as day-to-day.

In Stockard’s absence players off the Bonnies’ bench had to step up. Josh Ayeni logged his first minutes since the Bonnies’ 64-56 win against Saint Louis. Ayeni finished the game with two points and two rebounds. Tshiefu Ngalakulondi also logged his first minutes of the A-10 tournament in Stockard’s absence. Ngalakulondi finished with two points.

Foul shooting was a problem early. The Bonnies shot 2-7 in the first half from the line. They picked up their shooting, finishing the second half 5-6, but 7-13 in total.

The absence of Stockard couldn’t be ignored. The Wildcats were able to drain ten threes, just in the opening half.

Davidson’s Kellan Grady talked about the Wildcats effective three-point shooting. The team’s 16 threes put them in 2nd for the tournament record for team threes. St. Bonaventure had 17 in 2002.

“I’m not sure it is exactly how we matched up with them,” Grady said. “I think it’s just us sticking to our game plan and sticking to what we do best which is moving the ball, attack appropriately and find the open man. We were fortunate to get good looks and luckily we made most of them.”

Eventually, though, the Wildcats went on a cold streak towards the middle of the first half, not hitting a field goal for five minutes. However, they surged back, shooting 6-8 to close out the first half with the lead. 37-31.

The 2nd half began much like the first. The Wildcats and Bonnies traded buckets for over nine minutes. Neither team could pull away, but Bona had to play catch-up mode. It didn’t matter if they hit layups, threes or and-ones; they just could not catch the Wildcats.

At one point, the Bona crowd fell silent. In fact, the GW pep band, brought in to act as a pep band for Bona’s, was louder than the fans.

That all changed when Matt Mobley hit a deep three getting the crowd back in it.  

But, an already depleted Bona’s team suffered another setback when Ayeni grabbed a putback off a missed Mobley three and crumbled to the ground holding his knee. He did not return.

Then, almost on cue, the star showed up.

Jaylen Adams struggled the night prior to Richmond. He even struggled for the first half of the game. But when it counted, he came to play.

Adams sunk two jumpers and then found Amadi Ikpeze for a hook shot. Adams then hit another with a kiss off the backboard.

Adams willed the Bonnies within one until Peyton Aldridge knocked down a three and another jumper with six minutes to play.

Adams finished as the leading scorer for the Bonnies with 20 points and 8 assists.

The Bonnies needed a run. But Aldridge wanted it more than anyone in the Arena. He finished with 24 points going 6-7 from the three-point line.

Aldridge talked about what parts of his game went into his strong performance.

“My teammates did a great job of finding me some open looks and I was trying to continue to crash the glass,” Aldridge said. “Every opportunity I was trying to sink in and grab a rebound, and on the offensive end I was trying to stay aggressive.”

In the end, the Bonnies couldn’t overcome Aldridge and the injuries to Stockard and Ayeni. They lost 82-70.

The Bonnies will look towards Selection Sunday tomorrow as their fate in the NCAA Tournament hangs in the balance.

Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt talked about his team’s chances of making the tournament and how the seniors would feel if selected.

“It would mean everything to them,” Schmidt said. ”If you sat in that room, that day two years ago, it was heartbreaking because those guys put everything into it and thought they were in. Hopefully, they’ll have that chance tomorrow.”

 

Bonnies Media Alumnus Talk Men’s Basketball Past and Present

By Josh Svetz and Sean Lynch

Ryan Lazo – Former sports writer for the NY Post and currently a police officer in the NYPD

Mike Lindsley – Host of ML Sports Platter and owner/reporter for PinstripePassion.com

Mike Vaccaro –  Lead sports columnist for the New York Post

When did you graduate from Bonas?

Lazo: “I graduated from St. Bonaventure in 2013 and had the opportunity to watch the rise of the program in its infancy stages under Mark Schmidt.”

Lindsley: “2002.”

Vaccaro: “1989.”

Did you cover the team while in school?

Lazo: “Yes. I started to cover the team for The Intrepid during my junior year – which also coincided with the Bonnies’ last NCAA Tournament appearance. Pretty good fortune if you ask me. “

Lindsley:  “Covered them sophomore-senior years mostly but was on staff my freshman year for radio doing sports shows.  Was the WSBU sports director sophomore year. I did color for women’s basketball and was a reporter and was a staff guy.  Then sports director. I freelanced for the BV senior year.  Just an article here and there.  A little SBU TV senior year as a sports reporter.”

Vaccaro: “My junior year, I was an editor for the paper so I didn’t get to cover.  I should have said yes because I actually did cover the team my senior year. I had done my editor stuff as a junior so we were able to cover my senior year. I also spent two years with the Times Herald covering the team.”

Describe the experience of covering them?

Lazo: “It was a weird experience both personally and professionally. From a personal standpoint, I had to fight the inner urge to give the team a benefit of the doubt, hide my emotions on the sideline and allow myself to second-guess decisions made in the game instead of defending it as a fan would. Professionally, it was the best job I could have asked for.”

“Going into the 2011-2012 season, there was very high expectations for the Bona program. With Andrew Nicholson in his senior season, and a veteran team around him which included Demetrius Conger, Michael Davenport, Matthew Wright and Charlon Kloof, there was certainly promise. It was the team that had the star in Nicholson, a shutdown defender in both Kloof and Jordan Gathers, an outside shooting presence in Wright and a do-everything player in Conger.”

“It was a slow rise to prominence, not like it has been the last few years. This was a group that learned how to win slowly. They went through the warts in the previous seasons and then with all the pressure, they folded early on. The big loss was to Arkansas State at home. It was mind-numbing. But I believe that was the turning point. The team knew they had the talent and they just had to prove it. Boy, was it fun to watch.”

Lindsley: “It was simply incredible.  NCAA’s in 1999-2000.  Loved it.  Teams were good.  RC was rocking.  Almost beat Kentucky in the tourney. I think covering Division 1 sports really helped me for later in life. Every Bona hoops night was a holiday.”

Vaccaro: “As a student, the team wasn’t terrible my senior year. They were 13-15. Professionally it was a tremendous opportunity, but the coach got fired so Adrian (Wojnarowski) and I had gone to the local news stations and one of them had ended up picking up the story and crediting the BV. For learning how to break a news story; it was a great training ground.”

Who were the Jaylen Adams/Matt Mobley/Courtney Stockards of your team?

Lazo: “The Jaylen Adams from the 2012 tournament team is obviously Nicholson. The way he was able to take over any game and dominate any big was impressive. His footwork in the paint was second to none. He just made defenders look silly.”

“Courtney Stockard is very similar to Conger, which is what Schmidt said when he committed to Bonaventure. Stockard is probably a better defender, but Conger was better offensively. Both attacked the boards. Both could create for themselves and both just had the ability to do the dirty work.”

“The Matt Mobley of the group had to be Eric Mosley. This was the time where Mosley began to come off the bench as the scoring threat who could pile up points in a hurry. Mosley was a high-volume shooter, but nowhere near as efficient as Mobley has been.”

Lindsley: “Tim Winn.  Caswell Cyrus.  David Messiah Capers. All seniors.  What a trio. Capers made three free throws against Kentucky to send it to double OT.  I was losing my mind in Cleveland.  10 rows up center court.  Also had a special sophomore J.R. Bremer. Hit a shot against Temple on January 15, 2000.  From the corner. Loudest I’ve heard the RC.”

How does the team you saw then compare to now?

Lazo: “The team I see now versus then is one that is better. Don’t get me wrong, both teams had flaws, but this current team is in better shape to do more damage. Guards win games in college basketball. With both Adams and Mobley, the Bonnies can compete with just about anyone in the country. A dominant big man like Nicholson could be contained in the paint by halting delivery and forcing him outside. Teams can’t do that with Adams or Mobley.”

Lindsley: “Equally exciting but lots of basketball left this year to see if they can lap them.  1999-2000 team had guys more ready quicker.  Patricio Prato was a really good freshman. Bremer was basically a starter but just a Sophomore.  They were better from an IQ standpoint.  And better defensively.  Their win at home was Temple.  This year Rhode Island.  Pretty darn close.  But legacies at Bona are built by making the tournament because it’s so rare and so hard for this school.

“What’s crazy is the X-factors are so similar.  Courtney Stockard now. Vidal Messiah then.  Amazing role players. Inside and outside. Can shoot it.  Defense supreme.”

Vaccaro: “There is no comparison. Not just because they’re more successful, but this is a professional operation now. The Reilly Center is a division one facility now. When it’s game day and it’s on TV, it looks first rate. It’s not a glorified high school gym anymore. The game day operations are state of the art. It’s not even close to when I was a student. It was much simpler. The difference between what the culture has become under Schmidt compared to now, I don’t know if it’s fully understood. For 30 years we charmed the world with this small school on a shoestring budget and we were able to do that in the past until the ESPNs and big TV networks came along. Then, it was impossible to compete.”

If you would have asked me in 1991 if the Bonnies could stay competitive in division one basketball, I would have said there was no chance. And this was a time where the Atlantic-10 was just starting to send teams to the tournament. Temple was good, West Virginia was good. St. Joes was good, George Washington was a sleeping giant and then Calipari came later with UMass, but still, if you would have told me St. Bonaventure would be competitive ever again, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have believed you more if you said it was going to be a division two program. But what Schmidt has done blows me away.”

“Any coach can get lucky and stumble into a great player once and make a run, like with Andrew Nicholson. For him to have done that and then created something better, it’s mind-blowing. As great as that run was six years ago, this team is better. What he’s done the last four years staggers me. Who knows when it’ll ever be this fun again. We have to savor the ride. It’s just two entirely different realities. I was covering a sputtering division one program that had no idea how to succeed and now you’re talking about a division one team that has a lot of success and culture. I’m excited to see what the team looks like in two years. There’s an administration in place that gets it.”

How would you compare the RC’s energy from then to now? Have some of the recent changes taken away from the experience?

Lazo: “The RC’s energy is certainly coming back, but that also comes with playing winning basketball. While students come and go, the Olean community has stayed with the team. They’ve had to sit through some dormant periods of basketball, but they are excited now and rightfully so. They’ve helped make the RC a tough place to play once again. Watching on National TV this season, the RC has shown itself to be a tough place to play with chants being heard clearly through the TV feed.”

Lindsley: “The RC is still epic.  I think one thing that has helped is the big video boards.  Lots of reaction from the locals. It makes THEM louder. You never worry about the students.  The seats don’t change it much.  We were louder though, kids. “

“All kidding aside. The RC is so special.  I’ve been down twice this year.  Last year I went down.  The year before I saw them beat VCU. My eyes water when I walk-in.  After HUGE wins as a student, I went back hours after the game and sat in the red seats up top at the RC by myself and stared at the court and just thought about what I saw. “

“I know that place is old. And I know it’s cramped, but man I mean it when I say they can’t ever get rid of it. I’m joking.  The RC is as loud as its ever been. Security is ridiculous by the way.  You can quote me on that one. I think if the locals stepped-up for the games like they did for the Davidson game.  It could be unreal. “

Vaccaro: “I was apart of the last gasp of the “old RC”, back when everyone was drunk, rowdy and could say whatever they want with no penalty. There were two home games against Temple where you couldn’t talk to the guy next to you. It was deafening. I still remember the 1991 game against Penn State. I thought the roof was going to come off. Even when the team wasn’t good, the students were still loud and so were the townies. The whole venue rocked. I get why people were upset about the seats, but it’s a business. It’s a school looking to make money and stay in business. If it diminishes the game experience by 1%, I think we have to live with that.”

“One difference I’ve seen is the student body. When I was in school, no one missed games. We had bigger numbers, but even if it was a game against Concordia tickets would be sold out. It’s not a bad thing. It speaks to the change in culture. St. Bonaventure used to be a school of all suburban white kids and of course we were going to see the game. Now, it’s more diverse, there’s more students with different interest. 1,800 students don’t have to care about the basketball team and I think it speaks to the influx of diversity. The enthusiasm is still there. It comes out even through the TV. Every student at the game is rocking. The reputation is still there. No one wants to come to Allegany, New York and play St. Bonaventure at the RC.”

Since you’re an alum, you’ve seen what happens when Bonas has successful teams, in terms of producing school funds, increased enrollment, athletic prestige, etc. What does a potential NCAA tournament berth do for Bonas?

Lazo: “As an alum, a tournament berth does help in certain aspects. Let’s be real, a tournament berth means more stories, more eyeballs and free publicity on St. Bonaventure. The more of that the institution has, the better. People want to go to places that look like students and alumni have a good time and have a closeness. When a high school student sees St. Bonaventure play in the tournament and they glance in the stands to see people of all ages gathered for this tiny school in Western New York, it means more than any commercial.”

Lindsley: “It’s everything.  It puts the little engine that could on the map again.  It changes the game.  At Bonas, usually,  there is a year here and there every 10-15 years where all your eggs are in one basket JUST to make the Big Dance.  17-18 is exactly that.

“Some people say ‘wow look what we do for a small school,’ when Bona wins.  Others say ‘Well, we are small and do our best,’ when SBU loses.  Doesn’t matter which way you look at it. This program making the tournament is like a power program making a Final Four because of the circumstances.  And Adams and Mobley and this group can create a serious legacy by making the Big Dance.  The 1999-2000 team did it.  Nicholson and his group did it.  Those are the amount Rushmore teams in SBU history.  Yes. That Lanier guy counts too. “

Vaccaro: “More than most of the schools that will get those bids. It’s an opportunity we don’t get most years. It will be helpful. There’s a reason why Bona’s has maintained a high-profile basketball team even when times were tough. Basketball is a marketing tool. It draws kids to the school. When someone like Woj is talking about Bonaventure on ESPN, it can only help. When I mention the Bonnies once or twice in the Post, that’s gotta help. Even when the alumni not in the media, like the CEO  of Delta tweets “Go Bonnies,” it all helps. It gets our name out there.”

“I wouldn’t have even known about St. Bonaventure if it wasn’t for basketball. I was a big St. John’s fan as a kid, growing up watching Chris Mullin. Bona’s played them and almost won. At the time I was thinking “What the hell’s a St. Bonaventure.” It’s funny because after that game I started looking into it and then I was looking at schools and almost went to Dayton, of all places. But, Bonaventure offered me a journalism scholarship and I liked it. It fit me. But it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for that game. Count me in as one of the kids that was introduced to St. Bonaventure because of basketball. So any exposure is beneficial. Tom Crean talking about Jaylen Adams has to help. It just does.”

“The success of the basketball team in some small way determines the success of the school. We’re a feisty little school, but being feisty won’t determine if we succeed. We have to take on the mindset that we can compete with the best. I think the students take on that mindset too and part of that comes from the basketball team. We don’t have to be the underdog all the time. We can just be successful on our own merit. I think that’s the best thing about the basketball team’s success. People can identify that as a possibility now.”

Bonnies survive scare against Spiders

By Josh Svetz and Sean Lynch

The Bonnies entered the Capital One Arena with the weight of the world on their shoulders.

They’ve been here before. Two years ago, Bona’s was a contender for an at-large bid when they entered the A-10 Tournament as the 1-seed vs. Davidson. That game ended in an overtime heartbreak.

This time, Bona’s delivered.

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies extended their win streak to 13 with a 83-77 nail biter over the Richmond Spiders in the Quarterfinals of the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament.

The first half started off slow for the Bonnies and the Spiders. Both teams did not score until the 16:40 mark off a Courtney Stockard bucket.

Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt emphasized the struggles that they faced offensively in the first five minutes of the game.

“I always tell our guys the first five minutes of the game and the first 10 possessions of the second half are critical,” Schmidt said. “And I thought Matt (Mobley) did a heck of a job to get us going.”

Jaylen Adams started the game off cold. Adams had 0 points in the first half of the game and finished with only five points.

Richmond’s Jacob Gilyard and Khwan Fore proved to be a problem for the Bonnies in the first half. Fore shot 5-6 for 11 points and two rebounds. Gilyard dropped nine points, shooting 3-4 from long range.

The Bonnies went to the locker room tied at 32 a piece.

After a contentious 1st half, Matt Mobley gave the Bonnies the best start possible.

With Adams struggling, someone had to step up. His back court mate Matt Mobley fit the mold. Mobley finished with 29 points, shooting 10-14 from the field and 9-13 from long range.

Mobley talked about his performance from long range and picking his teammate Adams up.

“We told each other last year that no matter what both of us can’t have an off game at the same time, so he was struggling a little bit and wasn’t getting any open looks,” Mobley said. “I had a lot of open looks. My teammates did a great job of finding me and I was knocking down the shots. I just wanted to give us a little bit of confidence.”

Schmidt also placed emphasis on multiple players stepping up for the Bonnies when a teammate has an “off-game.”

“This is not the first time that Jay didn’t play well or Matt didn’t play well,” Schmidt said. “Even in this 13 game winning streak, those guys haven’t played their A-game every game and we’ve had other guys step up and that’s what a team does.”

At one point in the 2nd half Mobley, along with Stockard outscored the whole Richmond team. The Bonnies opened the half on a 21-3 run and kept the pressure up, taking a 53-37 lead. Mobley came back and electrified the crowd again hitting two more threes.

He didn’t miss in the second half until the 10-minute mark. But even with the deficit, the Spiders wouldn’t go away. With nine minutes to go the Spiders knocked down three- straight three pointers and cut the Bonnies lead to single digits. But the Bonnies handled it. And then, Stockard went down. He didn’t return to the game, leaving a big hole on both sides of the ball.

An 11-0 run by the Spiders brought the score to 74-68 with four minutes to play. The Richmond fans took back the Arena from the Bona faithful, out doing the decibel level with their cheers. But as the game went down to the wire; the wolf pack got rowdy.   

“We knew our friends were going to come out and support,” Mobley said. “We have the best fans in the country and they’re going to be everywhere. It definitely felt like a home game, but we’ll need them all back tomorrow.”

The momentum had officially shifted. But the Bonnies held tough, even though the Spiders were down just 2 points with 1:30 to go. However, a familiar face sealed it. Adams knocked down three free throws in the final minute and the Bonnies held on, 83-77.

The Bonnies will play the winner of Davidson vs. St. Louis at 3:30 P.M. tomorrow.

Mobley brought up that there is still work to be done for the Bonnies if they want to be in the NCAA Tournament.

“The only way we can secure our spot is winning [this] whole thing, honestly,” Mobley said. “The snub In 2016, everybody remembers that and we don’t want to go through that again. The only way to avoid that is win [this] whole thing.”