By Joe Pinter, @JPinter93
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (March 13) — With 13:15 remaining on the clock, Youssou Ndoye walked to the bench after receiving his third and fourth fouls.
With the St. Bonaventure Bonnies’ lead reduced to 53-52, coach Mark Schmidt knew he had to sit Ndoye, regardless of how well he had been playing.
“Youssou didn’t do something that we wanted him to do,” Schmidt said. “He was playing really, really well. You could see it in the kid’s eyes like, ‘Here we go again.’ He made a mistake, but good teammates pick him up. That’s what our guys did.”
“I thought Youssou was tremendous in the first half,” he added. “In the second half, the third foul and the technical foul and La Salle made a run at us… It was 53-52 and we had a timeout and we talked about it and our guys responded.”
And by the time Schmidt told Ndoye to “get loose,” the junior big man took it literally, running back and forth behind the bench.
“I just told (Ndoye) to stay focused and make sure he was ready to go when he was subbed back into the game,” said guard Charlon Kloof. “If he stayed as frustrated as he was, he might have picked up his fifth foul and been disqualified from the game.”
Kloof wouldn’t let that happen. The Bonnies needed a big performance from Ndoye.
Fortunately for the ninth-seeded Bonnies, Ndoye re-entered the game after 10 minutes and avoided a fifth foul. He led the way in the team’s 82-72 win over the eighth-seeded La Salle Explorers this afternoon at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Ndoye finished the first-round contest with 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Ndoye has been slowly improving since he arrived at Bonaventure as a raw, but big and talented, prospect. He has become one of the most important players on the team. Seven-foot big men are often difficult to matchup and even more difficult to score on.
La Salle has a solid frontcourt in Atlantic 10 all-defensive first team center Steve Zack and junior forward Jerrell Wright. But with Ndoye and teammate Marquise Simmons, the Bonnies still managed to dominate the paint at times. Simmons added 15 points and six offensive rebounds while shooting 7-for-8 from the field.
Coming into the game, Ndoye, who has started all 31 of Bonaventure’s games this season, averaged 9.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He ranks fourth in the A-10 in blocks per game (2.2).
Ndoye was 5-for-7 from the field with 12 points in the game’s first 15 minutes.
And in the last seven minutes of the game, he helped hold Wright to four points. He capped the afternoon by blocking Tyreek Duren’s shot in the waning seconds of the game.
If Ndoye had picked up that last foul, who knows what may have happened the rest of the game.
Fortunately for Bonaventure, he never did.