By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The 5-1 St. Bonaventure Bonnies face their first true road test on Saturday at Ohio, where they will face the 2-2 Bobcats.
The last two meetings between these teams have been tight battles. The 2010 contest was an instant classic, when the Bonnies won 112-107 in four overtimes and Andrew Nicholson scored 44 points. Ohio won the most recent matchup at home by a score of 69-64.
Who will win this showdown? Here’s the full breakdown:
St. Bonaventure: Mark Schmidt. 112-110 as Bonnies coach.
Ohio: Saul Phillips. 2-2 as Ohio coach.
Key players for Ohio:
Javerez Willis- 5-11 senior guard. The team’s leading scorer at 19.3 points per game, Willis is an efficient playmaker shooting at a 53.8 percent clip to start his senior season. He’s scoring at a much higher rate than he did his first two years (he transferred from Texas Tech after his freshman year) and he’s shooting 85.7 percent at the free throw line. The guards will have to pay close attention to Willis every time he touches the ball, or he will be at the rim before they know it.
Maurice Ndour- 6-9 senior forward. If the name sounds slightly familiar, it’s because Ndour is from Senegal just like Bonnies center Youssou Ndoye. The Ohio forward is from Mbour, about an hour away from Ndoye’s hometown of Dakar. Like Ndoye, Ndour is having a monster start to the season. He’s averaging a double-double, with 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds a game along with 1.5 blocks a contest. The big man can run the floor well and jumps out of the gym.
Ryan Taylor- 6-5 freshman guard. The third Bobcat scoring in the double-digits, Taylor has adapted to college ball pretty nicely so far. He’s at 11.3 points and 3.3 rebounds with a silky shooting stroke and ridiculous athleticism. The matchup between he and Andell Cumberbatch should be a good one.
Key players for St. Bonaventure:
Denzel Gregg- 6-7 sophomore forward. Gregg, who returns Saturday after a six-game suspension, will use his length and athleticism to help the Bonnies on both sides of the court, especially the defensive end. In eight minutes a game last year, he averaged just under two rebounds and swatted a total of 16 shots. This year he will have an increased role with more responsibility, which he is certainly capable of performing well in. Look for Gregg to be one of coach Schmidt’s preferred contributors off the bench.
Andell Cumberbatch- 6-5 senior guard. Cumberbatch, who is third on the team in scoring at 13.3 points per game, has definitely improved his ability to get an easy layup this season, slashing his way to the basket and moving effectively without the ball. His defense has greatly improved as well, with 6.8 rebounds per game. The all-around play of Cumberbatch is going to be crucial against the Bobcats; he has to bring his A-game.
Idris Taqqee- 6-4 freshman guard. The coaching staff has been pleased with Taqqee’s efforts so far, as he has played double-digit minutes the last three games, with 17 minutes against Buffalo. Taqqee has only scored four points in the first six games, but his defense is the reason he’s one of the first players off the bench. If he could add some offense on Saturday it would be a big boost for the Bonnies.
Keys to victory for Ohio: The Bobcats have to establish an inside presence to win this game, with Ndour leading the way. St. Bonaventure is eighth in the nation in two point percentage against, as opponents are shooting just 36.8 percent from inside the three point arc. Bonaventure has been seemingly content to let opponents hit some threes as long as it locks down the paint. If Ohio can get a few easy layups and hit some mid-range jumpers, they can grab the edge.
Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: In a road environment, you have to shoot well and limit turnovers. The Bonnies did a great job of doing that last time out, but they have to do it consistently to win on the road. As coach Schmidt said, you can’t play up and down in waves, the effort has to be there the entire game. If they play like they did against Buffalo and Gregg adds some quality minutes in reserve, Bonaventure has a good chance to pull off a solid road win against an evenly matched Bobcat team.
The Prediction: 71-67 Bonnies