By Jeff Fasoldt @Jeff_Fasoldt and Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The 3-1 St. Bonaventure University Bonnies head to the First Niagara Center on Saturday to battle the 1-2 Niagara Purple Eagles at 2 p.m. in a neutral-site showdown.
The game is one half of the Big Four Classic. Canisius will take on the University at Buffalo following Bonaventure’s game.
All four teams involved in the doubleheader will wear Buffalo Braves-inspired throwback uniforms.
Here’s what to look for in tomorrow’s game:
St. Bonaventure: Mark Schmidt. 110-110 as Bonnies head coach.
Niagara: Chris Casey. 8-28 as Purple Eagles head coach.
Key players for Niagara:
Emile Blackman- 6-4 sophomore guard. Blackman, the nephew of former NBA player and coach Mark Jackson, had to sit out last season after transferring from LIU Post but has quickly made an impact this year. He is the team’s leading scorer at 13.3 points per game on 45.7 percent shooting from the floor. He’s dangerous from behind the arc as well, shooting 56 percent from behind the arc for LIU Post.
Rayvon Harris- 6-5 junior forward. Harris, who averaged 6.2 points in 18.4 minutes a game last year, has made steady improvements this year, scoring 11.7 points per game in 29.3 minutes over the first three games. He’s grabbed just under five rebounds a contest as well for the Purple Eagles.
Ramone Snowden- 6-5 sophomore forward. Snowden, who averages 9.3 points a game, has had 7.7 rebounds a contest as well, good for the team lead in rebounding. He’s not the go-to guy offensively, but Niagara counts on him when it comes to dominating the glass, and that’s something he will work to improve.
Key players for St. Bonaventure:
Marcus Posley- 6-1 junior guard. Posley has emerged as the go-to man for the Bonnies early in the season. He’s averaging a team-leading 18 points per game and is shooting 38 percent from the field.
Youssou Ndoye- 7-0 senior forward. Schmidt called Ndoye the “ultimate team player” and he has been consistently pulling down rebounds and swatting shots in his first three games. He’s grabbed a team-leading 10 rebounds per game and is averaging close to three blocks per game.
Jaylen Adams- 6-0 freshman point guard. Charlon Kloof played 33.5 minutes per game as the Bonnies’ senior point guard last year. Jaylen Adams is only a freshman and already averaging close to 28 minutes per game. Schmidt has put trust in his young PG and Jaylen has contributed, shooting 51 percent from the field and averaging 12.3 ppg.
Keys to victory for Niagara: The blueprint for the Bonnies’ first four opponents has been to be lights-out from the floor, specifically from three, to make up for Bona’s size. The Purple Eagles have to do the exact same thing, with Blackman and Snowden leading the way. The Bonnies are going to grab more rebounds, so shooting well is of the utmost importance for this Niagara team.
Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: No one on Niagara’s roster can match the Bonnies’ size. Because of the athleticism that the Bonnies have and their advantage in the paint, expect to see another 2-3 zone thrown at the Bonnies, forcing them to make outside shots. Jaylen Adams, Andell Cumberbatch and Marcus Posley will have to be knocking down the three-ball.
The Prediction: 60-57 Bonnies