Behind the Wolfpack: Closing games the way they should

By Ryan Lazo, feature columnist, @RMLazo13

Mark Schmidt stresses the importance of opening the second half strongly — but today might have been the only time his players executed that well.

Last season alone, the Bonnies surrendered leads, like losing to Xavier, 79-65, after a five-point halftime lead, and to La Salle, 75-73, after an 11-point lead.  

However, Friday’s 79-58 drubbing against Cornell showed not only St. Bonaventure’s (1-0) maturity, but also a reason to believe second-half meltdowns are of the past.

Holding a narrow lead over the Big Red, 40-38, the Bonnies came out with determination in the second to put the game away. They displayed a killer instinct, going on a 15-4 run within the first five minutes, inciting delirium in the Reilly Center Arena.

After nailing 8 threes in the first half, Cornell (0-1) went 0-for-6 from threes in the second

“You always talk about stops and scores,” Schmidt said. “In the second half, we put both of them together. And that’s what you have to do to beat a good team.”

Schmidt said the defense keyed the run, but the adjustments his players made won the game. 

One of those key players was Da’Quan Cook, who helped supply some of that defensive effort. One of his team-leading three steals showed his athleticism as he used his long arms to intercept a pass out of the air, Darelle Revis like.

“My main focus was to go out there and not let them get shots up … contest every shot,” Cook said. “My main focus was defense — and everything else just fell in place.”

Cook may well have his own island — Cook Island — if he keeps playing with this defensive intensity that translates into offensive points.

The senior also supplied much of the dirty work inside, totaling seven rebounds, including two offensive that led to four Bonnies points.

Also turning it on in the second half was Lute Olsen Preseason All-America Team member, Andrew Nicholson.

Despite having a small army surround him throughout the game, Nicholson scored 14 of his team-high 24-points in the second.

With his supporting cast making plays around him, Nicholson became even more dangerous, driving to the hoop and hitting fade away jump shots with ease.

Sophomore Matthew Wright also stepped up, especially in the absence of senior Michael Davenport who, according to the team trainer, suffered severe cramping.

Davenport received an IV and oxygen after he was carted off the court in the second half. Wright, however, left Cornell’s defenders gasping for air on the court.

His pivot fake at the top of the key left one Cornell defender on the ground, leaving Wright to drain an open shot, stretching the lead to 18 with 4:21 left. 

Eliminating a habit is tough to do, but with a second half surge, the Bonnies are beginning to erase past problems and showing a killer instinct to match.

Hopefully this will be a pattern — not an abnormality — this season.

[Photos by Tony Lee, @sHecKii]

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