By Chuckie Maggio, @ChuckieMaggio
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies survived and advanced on Thursday afternoon, defeating the La Salle Explorers by a score of 82-72 in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. They will face the Saint Louis Billikens in the quarterfinals tomorrow at noon.
Youssou Ndoye led the Bonnies with 19 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season. Marquise Simmons added 15 points and six rebounds, while Charlon Kloof scored 14 points and dished out six assists.
One of the main keys in the Bonnies’ win was a dominating performance on defense. They outrebounded the Explorers 28-23, with 12 of those 28 coming on the offensive glass. When the big men control the boards like they did today, this Bonaventure team is going to be a tough out.
In addition, the Brown and White held La Salle guard Tyrone Garland, the team’s second-leading scorer, to zero points on 0-7 shooting from the floor. That effort to shut down one of the most electrifying players in the conference did not go unnoticed by Bona coach Mark Schmidt in the postgame press conference.
“Garland is their second option offensively, and our guys did a great job on him,” Schmidt said.
Offensively, after a turnover-filled performance against VCU, the Bonnies were excellent at limiting giveaways. Their six turnovers were a season low for a team that usually turns the ball over ten or more times a game, and coach Schmidt noted that postgame.
“We were smart with the ball, didn’t make too many mistakes on offense, and really gave our team the best chance to win,” Schmidt said.
A key turning point in the game came six and a half minutes into the second half when Bonnies center Ndoye got called for a defensive foul and slammed the ball after the call, resulting in a technical foul. While a call like that can have the potential to destroy a team’s confidence, senior leader Kloof immediately rushed over to talk to Ndoye and calm him down.
“I just told him to stay focused and make sure he was ready to go when he was subbed back into the game,” Kloof said. “If he stayed as frustrated as he was, he might have picked up his fifth foul and been disqualified from the game.
As for tomorrow’s game against the Saint Louis Billikens, Coach Schmidt recognized that it would not be an easy task.
“They’re a great team,” he said. “They play exceptionally on both sides of the floor, and (Jordair) Jett is phenomenal. I’m going to enjoy the win for the next 15-20 minutes and then get ready for the game tomorrow.”