[Image courtesy of gobonnies.com]
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The Franciscan Cup will be on the line when the 1-0 St. Bonaventure Bonnies host the 0-2 Siena Saints Wednesday night at 7.
Since the sides agreed to play on an annual basis in 2010, Bonaventure leads the series 3-1. The Siena win came last year, when Saints guard Marquis Wright went coast-to-coast for a game-winning layup.
Will the Bonnies reclaim the Cup, or will the Saints bring it back to Albany? Let’s break it down.
St. Bonaventure: Mark Schmidt. 107-110 as Bonnies coach.
Siena: Jimmy Patsos. 20-19 as Saints coach.
Key players for Siena:
Rob Poole- 6-6 senior guard. Poole was the team’s leading scorer last year with 14.6 points a game and has averaged 20 over the team’s first two games. One thing that jumps out on his highlight tape is that he doesn’t settle for bad jumpers. He’s aggressive, using his size to burrow his way to the hoop for a layup or to create his own shot if he can’t get inside. He has also made steady improvement defensively, going from 3.3 rebounds his freshman year to five boards a contest last season. Poole is a lethal threat on offense and an impact player on D, and containing him is going to be a main priority for the Bonnies.
Brett Bisping- 6-8 junior forward. Bisping has struggled in the Saints’ first two games, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has double-double potential on any given night. He averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, with 18 games of 10-plus points and five-plus rebounds. He’s not a consistent three-point threat, but he made 31.6% of his chances from behind the arc last year so you can’t rule out the possibility. Bisping’s ability to stuff the stat sheet makes him a dangerous forward to watch for.
Marquis Wright- 6-foot sophomore guard. The hero of last year’s game, Wright fits the role of an efficient point guard, with 8.7 points and five assists a game and 42% shooting last year. As a sophomore, he has more experience and showed increased care in protecting the ball in the first two games this season. Wright isn’t the go-to scoring option on this team, but he will be counted on to facilitate.
Keys to victory for Siena: The Saints will need to fix a couple of things that put them in an 0-2 hole if they hope to get their first win of the season. Firstly, they need to have better perimeter defense. Their first two opponents, UMass and Vermont, were a combined 11-26 from three-point land, a 42.3% clip. Bonaventure went 9-21 from behind the arc in their season-opening win over Dartmouth, with Jaylen and Jalen Adams going 6-7. With potent shooters like those, Siena needs to close out hard and deny them the good looks they were getting on Saturday. Getting Poole the ball is obviously essential as well. He has the size advantage over Bonaventure’s guards, so he will have to use that to his advantage. The athletic Bonnies will go on some runs, so Poole is going to have to score in bunches to keep the Saints in the game.
Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: Bonaventure has to continue to share the ball. Mark Schmidt’s mantra is that every player is going to have his day in the sun, so they have to be unselfish and let it happen. If they’re swinging the ball and getting everyone involved, the Bonnies are a tough team to beat, especially with this much depth and talent. Drawing fouls will also be a path to victory. The Saints committed 63 fouls in the first two games, giving UMass and Siena a combined 90 free throws. The Bonnies got to the line with some regularity in the first game, shooting 22 free throws; Andell Cumberbatch scored six of his ten points from the stripe. Schmidt should be imploring his team to attack the basket tonight and see if Siena continues to play with a lack of discipline. Rebounding is the key on defense.
Youssou Ndoye’s absence led to some understandable struggles on the glass against Dartmouth, but he’s back and ready to grab those boards. Ndoye’s improvement is one of the main reasons SBU will win this game. He committed four turnovers in last year’s loss to the Saints, including a travel on the last Bonaventure possession to set up Wright’s game-winner. The Atlantic 10 Tournament sparked a change, however, and Ndoye has played with much more control since then. He’s going to have a big game tonight, leading the Bonnies to victory in another close Franciscan Cup rivalry game.
The Prediction: 75-68 Bonnies