By Chuckie Maggio, @ChuckieMaggio
After winning their first two road games in Atlantic 10 play, the 15-10 St. Bonaventure Bonnies return home to host the 11-13 Duquesne Dukes at 7 in the Reilly Center.
Every remaining regular season game is huge for both teams on the road to the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Bonnies are currently eighth in the conference, but could still climb in the standings. Duquesne stands at 10th in the A-10, and they will certainly try to improve seeding as well. A win today would be huge for either side, so it will definitely be a hard-fought battle like the last meeting, which the Dukes won 83-81. Let’s break this matchup down:
St. Bonaventure: Mark Schmidt. 103-105 as Bonnies coach.
Duquesne: Jim Ferry. 19-35 as Duquesne head coach.
Key players for Duquesne:
Ovie Soko- 6-8 senior forward
The big man from London has had an incredible senior campaign for the Dukes, with averages of 18.4 points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes a contest. In the win against the Bonnies the last time they met, Soko got to the line 20 times and knocked 13 of them down (scoring 27 points overall). While it’s unlikely that he will get all of those calls in his favor again, he’s still going to get his points. It’s important to contain him and shut down other scoring options.
Micah Mason- 6-2 sophomore guard
The NCAA’s leader in three-point percentage is the only other player for the Dukes that averages at least 10 points per game. Last meeting, Mason went 5-6 from beyond the arc against the Bonnies, scoring all 15 of his points from three. In tonight’s contest, shutting down Mason will be crucial. If guards Charlon Kloof and Matthew Wright can play good perimeter defense, a vital source of scoring won’t be available for the Dukes.
Dominique McKoy- 6-8 junior forward
McKoy is an athletic forward who leads the team in rebounding with 7.2 boards per game. He doesn’t take many shots, but usually makes his chances count, shooting 63 percent from the field. Versatile, quick and effective around the rim, he’s definitely a player to watch.
Keys to victory:
St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies need to have a defensive mindset tonight. Duquesne doesn’t win low-scoring defensive battles; they win high-scoring, offensive explosions. If Soko and Mason are limited or taken out of the equation, the Dukes are in for a nightmarish game trying to pick up the slack. If the shot-blocking, rebounding Bonnies defense comes to play, they should win this game and make a major statement.
The home court advantage will also need to come into play tonight for Bonaventure to win. This is the last game the Bonnies will have a full WolfPack behind them, and the importance of the student section cannot be overlooked, especially after all of the great wins the team has had at home this year. If the students come in droves like usual, it’ll give the Bonnies a key edge they obviously didn’t have at Duquesne the first time around.
Duquesne: Duquesne needs their bench to produce tonight if they are going to win. Forward L.G. Gill and guard Desmond Ridenour have provided some key scoring for the Dukes as of late, with nineteen and eight respectively against Rhode Island. They don’t have a deep bench like the Bonnies, but Duquesne just needs some key reserve to get hot in this one to stay in the game.
Another key for the Dukes is to win the rebounding battle, which would be huge for them since they are not the better team on the boards. If they outrebound the Bonnies, it’ll probably come down to the wire like it did last time. Last game, they won the battle on the boards by two and won the game by two as well. It’s not a coincidence that rebounding played a major factor in the outcome of the game.
81-76 Bonnies. 81 points will be enough for Bonaventure to win this time around. They know they need to play a near-perfect game, and they will. They’ll win the rebounding battle, limit turnovers and shoot at a good percentage from both the floor and the line to pull off a big victory. Duquesne is a tough team to beat, especially with Soko providing a formidable challenge in the paint, but this is simply the perfect situation for the Bonnies to rise to the occasion and get revenge for the loss in Pittsburgh, Pa on Jan. 25.