By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
Rochester-area St. Bonaventure fans will watch their Bonnies host the George Mason Patriots on Wednesday night at 7 in the Blue Cross Arena.
After a one-year hiatus, the Rochester game returns in what is being called the Fibertech Conference Classic. The Bonnies have played 19 games in the Flower City, with many of those games going down to the wire. Memorable matchups include a close loss to Syracuse in front of 11,650 in 2003, a last-second defeat to North Carolina State in 2011 and a five-point win over Niagara in 2012.
This will be the second neutral-site game St. Bonaventure has played this season, the first being the Big Four Classic matchup against Niagara in Buffalo on Thanksgiving weekend. SBU had a dominant showing in that one, with a 74-59 win. Big man Youssou Ndoye played arguably the best game of his career in that contest, with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks to lead the Bonnies.
The bright lights suited Bonaventure well in the First Niagara Center, and coach Mark Schmidt needs his players to put on a great performance once again in the Blue Cross. The brown and white, who come into this one at 8-6 overall, are on a two-game losing streak after following up a 20-point loss to Dayton with a 60-41 drubbing against Richmond. A win over the 6-9 Patriots in a game they will be favored would do a lot to help restore confidence in this inconsistent team.
Like Bonaventure, George Mason is 1-2 in conference play. They defeated La Salle 70-62 in their conference opener, then lost 75-65 to Richmond and 66-62 to UMass. The Patriots shoot 40.9 percent from the floor, 30.4 percent from three. They have shown they can rebound, with just over 37 rebounds per game.
Which team will get back to .500 in the A-10? Here’s the full breakdown.
St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 115-115 as Bonnies coach, 1-0 vs George Mason.
George Mason- Paul Hewitt. 62-52 as Patriots coach, 0-1 vs St. Bonaventure.
Key players for George Mason:
Shevon Thompson- 6-11 junior center. You don’t see a big man that can match up in size with 7-foot Bona center Youssou Ndoye everyday. Thompson, who hails from Kingston, Jamaica, has big game to match his big frame. The center, in his first season with the Patriots, is averaging 12.9 points and 11.7 rebounds this season, with double-digit points in six of his last seven games and double-digit boards in seven of his last eight. He had 19 and 17 against Richmond, while Ndoye had just four and six while dealing with foul trouble throughout. For the most intriguing individual matchup, look no further than the center spot.
Patrick Holloway- 6-1 junior guard. For the second game in a row, the Bonnies will face a skinny, quick point guard. Holloway, the team’s sixth man, averages 12.3 points on 38.7 percent shooting for this Patriots team, with 30 more shots attempted than Thompson. He shot just over 41 percent from three last year but has only made 24 of his 89 attempts from behind the arc this season. The pressure has been on him to be a go-to scorer for this team, but the shots just haven’t been falling as much as he would have hoped.
Marquise Moore- 6-2 sophomore guard. Moore has been the best all-around guard for the Patriots this season, averaging 9.7 points with 3.5 rebounds and a team-leading 2.6 assists per contest. He has been good at drawing fouls, with just under five free throws attempted a game.
Keys to victory for George Mason: Mason has to win this one in the post. Thompson has to perform offensively; the Patriots are 2-4 when he is held under 10 points. The Patriots are an excellent rebounding team, but they are going against a better one; if they can win the battle on the boards against the Bonnies, which only Buffalo and Dartmouth have done this year, they will be in the driver’s seat due to Bona’s offensive slump of late. If Ndoye, Dion Wright and Denzel Gregg grab offensive rebounds and get second-chance points, however, the Patriots are fighting an uphill battle.
Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies need to be more disciplined than they have been the past few games. They started slow against Dayton because of early turnovers that forced them to play a futile game of catch-up the entire game. The turnovers continued against Richmond, but new problems arose: silly fouls and poor shot selection that led to a 32.7 percent shooting percentage and just seven foul shots. Perhaps the atmosphere in Rochester will give them energy they have severely lacked the past few games, enabling them to play a committed, disciplined ballgame.
Prediction: The Bonnies will put on a strong showing for the pro-Bona crowd in Rochester, who will provide the lift they need to get back to playing Bonaventure basketball. They may not have always shown it this season, but they are a more talented team than George Mason from top to bottom. Schmidt’s team will have a strong start and will not look back until the final buzzer. 75-64 Bonnies.