[Eric Mosley races up the court for two of is career-high 39 points, helping Bona capture a 99-94 victory over UMass Wednesday night – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]
By Ryan Lazo, Editor in chief, @RMLazo13
ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — After suffering two overtime defeats in the past week and dropping to 12th in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings, St. Bonaventure needed to snap their recent malaise with a victory.
And these Bonnies came out with urgency and determination right from the opening whistle, taking a 7-2 lead over the University of Massachusetts-Amherst just two minutes into the game.
It was a harbinger of events to unfold as Bona used a devastating offensive attack en route to earning a 99-94 victory at the Reilly Center, just their second win in their last seven games at home.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of my guys,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “We got down a little in the second half, but we didn’t cave in. We found a way and that’s what you need to do.”
The Bonnies (12-13, 5-7) needed to find a way to defeat UMass after comically finding every which way to lose a basketball game. But Schmidt’s club is not filled with wide-eyed youngsters, but battle-tested seniors playing out their last games.
And it was the Brown and White’s seniors who helped down the Minutemen (16-9, 6-6) for the second-consecutive match-up dating back to last year’s A-10 Semifinal contest.
But on this night, no senior shined brighter than the smallest player on the Bona roster — Eric Mosley.
The 5-foot-10 guard entered the contest averaging 22 points per game over the past three contests, but his effort against the Minutemen was historic.
Mosley scored a career-high 39 points on 12-for-18 shooting, scoring the most points by a Bona player in a regulation game since Greg Sanders’ 46-point effort in 1977 against Detroit. It also marked the most points scored by a Bona player against an Atlantic 10 opponent.
“I can’t really explain it,” Mosley said after his career day. “My teammates looked at me and I just tried to make plays.”
But Mosley hasn’t just tried to make plays — he’s made plays and at a frequent clip.
Last season, the Bona faithful were witness to the brilliance of Andrew Nicholson as he developed ice-water in his veins, coming up big when the Bonnies needed it most.
While it would be unfair to compare the two, Mosley is giving his best impression. With Bona needing a clutch shot at Rhode Island, it was Mosley nailed a fadeaway 3-pointer. With Bona needing a two to tie against La Salle, it was No. 2 hitting the shot to force overtime.
And with the hot-shooting, more minutes have come the senior’s way.
“Eric’s defending better,” Schmidt said of Mosley. “And that’s keeping him on the floor longer. And I’m no dummy. When someone is shooting the ball the way Eric has, then I can give in a little bit.”
But Mosley was not alone in Bona’s highest scoring regulation game since scoring 101 in a loss to Ohio in the 2002-03 season.
Chris Johnson has struggled recently because of foul problems, but the senior played smart in logging 38 minutes of game action and scoring a career-high 22 points while grabbing seven rebounds.
Johnson did not make a 3-pointer on the night, but adjusted his game plan and aggressively took the attack to the Minutemen, driving the basket for acrobatic lay-ups and tear drops.
With each swoosh of the nylon, Johnson grew more and more animated: pumping his fists, unleashing a Tarzan-like yell and a trademark jump and fist pump, showing the true importance of this game.
“It’s the urgency of being a senior,” Johnson said. “You only got however amount of opportunities left in this gym and just looking at the playoff picture. We needed this win, so I came with a high energy level.”
And that urgency was also shown on the stat-sheet after Demitrius Conger posted his third double-double of the season after scoring 16 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out four assists.
But even more importantly was the team-effort Bona showed, especially at the line where the Brown and White proved that they are the No. 1 free throw shooting team in the conference.
Bona shot 32-for-33 from the charity stripe, missing just one shot on the night for a mind-blowing 97 percent.
“No. Nope. I haven’t,” Derek Kellogg said in reply to whether he had ever seen a shooting performance like that.
But Bona fans have seen a game like this before.
Turn the clock back to last year when Saint Joseph’s visited the Reilly Center. The Hawks answered each Bona run, but the Brown and White always answered back and captured the victory.
In their final five games last season, Bona went 4-1 to nab the No. 4 seed in the A-10 Tournament.
While Bona won’t be grabbing a No. 4 seed, an end-of-the-season run could put them in good position after entering the game just two back out of the No. 6 position.
“Our record isn’t what it’s supposed to be,” Charlon Kloof said before practice on Monday. “We still have games left and still have a chance to get on our winning streak.”
If the Bonnies can get a winning streak together it may be deja vu all over again as the Brown and White head into the A-10 Tournament to defend their conference crown.