By Chuckie Maggio, @ChuckieMaggio
On Saturday afternoon, the 11-4 St. Bonaventure Bonnies will face their toughest test of the young season when they go on the road to face the 13-1 Massachusetts Minutemen in another nationally televised game on NBC Sports Network. UMass comes into the game ranked No. 19 in the nation.
Both teams are coming into this one with plenty of momentum. The Bonnies are on a four-game win streak— after beating Richmond by 14 points in their Atlantic 10 opener. The Minutemen are riding a three-game win streak and have enjoyed the media exposure that comes with a near-perfect start to the season.
St Bonaventure: Mark Schmidt. 99-99 career as St. Bonaventure coach.
UMass: Derek Kellogg. 97-78 career as UMass coach, 2-4 vs. St. Bonaventure
Key Players for UMass:
Chaz Williams, 5-9 senior guard. 15.9 points per game, 7.4 assists per game.
Cady Lalanne, 6-10 junior center. 13.1 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game.
Sampson Carter, 6-8 senior forward. 11.6 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game.
Keys to victory:
St. Bonaventure: Shut down Cady Lalanne and Sampson Carter. Chaz Williams is going to get his points—that’s a given. The key for the Bonnies is to let him get his while taking other sources of offense out of the equation. Cady Lalanne is a powerful big man whose scoring comes almost exclusively in the paint. Force him outside and he’s going to be much less productive.
Sampson Carter is a bit less restricted on offense, but the same applies. If Youssou Ndoye and Marquise Simmons put the clamps on Lalanne and Carter when they do get in the painted area, the Bonnies have a better chance to come out of Amherst, Mass. with a victory. Williams could very well score 30 points on Saturday, but if his supporting cast doesn’t produce, UMass is in trouble. Proof of this can be found with a glance at the box score from the Richmond game. Cedrick Lindsay was Richmond’s leading scorer, and that was expected. But look at the other guys. The rest of the Spiders went 13 for 41 from the field, a 31.7 percent shooting percentage. Expect an alpha-dog like Lindsay or Chaz Williams to get his points, but make sure the other scorers are held in check.
UMass: Get the Bonnies in foul trouble by being aggressive on offense. In every Bonaventure loss this year, a starter has either fouled out or been limited by foul trouble. This does not come as a shock; Coach Schmidt has gone with a seven or eight-man rotation for most of the season, so if one of those seven or eight guys picks up two or three early fouls (we’ve mostly seen that happen to Ndoye and Charlon Kloof), it obviously hurts the Bonnies’ chances. With an aggressive group of guards like Chaz Williams who get to the line on a consistent basis and usually knock them down, the Minutemen will have an attacking mentality from the get-go.
It sounds crazy when you look at the records and rankings, but I don’t see this game as an impossible one for the Bonnies to win. The backstory to this game is similar to the Wake Forest one. UMass, like Wake Forest, is favored by the odds makers, hasn’t had any poor outings thus far and undoubtedly expects to win on their home court. This favors Bonaventure. Like the Wake game, the Bonnies will come out of the gates hungry for an upset win and play an excellent first half, going into halftime with a slim lead.
But the second half is what will determine the outcome of the ballgame. Against Wake, they struggled in the final 20 minutes and lost by double-digits. What Bonnies team will we see after halftime this game? The upset is definitely possible if they come out of the locker room with a closer’s mentality.