By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
One thing has been certain about this oft-inconsistent Bonnies team: they dominate in neutral-site games, especially Youssou Ndoye.
The star center led the Bonnies with 28 points, a career high, and 13 rebounds. He made nine of 11 shots from the field and 10 of his 11 free throws. With rim-rattling dunks and high-percentage looks from close-range, he was as efficient as ever.
“I give all the credit to my teammates,” Ndoye said. “They found me in the spot that I’m really comfortable with and I was able to finish most of the time (by) just turning and finishing without taking a dribble or just taking one. (They) did a really good job of finding me when I was open.
“I was just trying to win. We got blown out the last two games so I was just wanted to make sure I came out (and had) a good start. The last two games we played (I was) shooting real bad from the field. This game, I was able to make my first couple shots and we felt great.”
“Whenever your inside guy plays well both offensively and defensively, it helps you,” said Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt. “When you have a good big guy that’s active the way Youssou was today, it makes (your team) that much better. When he has been (active), we’ve played really well.”
For George Mason, trying to stop such a dominant force was a near-impossible task on this night.
“I thought (Ndoye) did it on the boards and did it with a tremendous amount of strength,” said Patriots coach Paul Hewitt. “A couple of finishes he had, we fouled him pretty good. I don’t think it was as much out of their sets as him just enforcing his will.”
Ndoye’s play is often the difference between winning and losing. In Bonaventure wins this season, he is averaging 14.2 points a game. In losses, he’s averaging just eight.
“It’s a huge difference,” Marcus Posley said. “We knew what Youssou was capable of; everybody knows what Youssou can do. It’s just great seeing him have this breakthrough game and seeing him back in his groove… we all fed off it. He kept everyone lifted and motivated everyone else.”
Posley added 22 points with five three-pointers, a season-high. The junior guard has become one of the leaders of this team, both vocally and with his play.
“Credit to (Dayton and Richmond) for beating us; they’re both good teams, but we just didn’t play the way we were capable of playing,” he said. “Tonight was definitely a bounce-back game and we just wanted to (get back to) .500 and be even in conference play. We just played well as a team.”
“You’re only as good as your guards,” said Schmidt. “For the last couple games our guards have struggled from the three-point line. When you don’t shoot well from the perimeter everything’s sucked in inside. No matter who you have inside, it’s hard to move their feet around. When you shoot the ball (well) it spaces things out.
“When out guards shoot the ball (well), it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that we’re a better team.”
As great as Bona looked offensively, the defensive performance was what truly overpowered George Mason. The brown and white outrebounded the Patriots by a 41-28 margin (with 17 offensive boards) and held them to just 38 percent shooting from the floor. They have struggled to defend the three-point shot this season, but Mason made just two of 14 from behind the arc.
“Our perimeter defense was fairly good today,” said Posley. “They hit some threes late in the game, but (the perimeter defense) is just credit to the coaches putting us in that position. We just executed our gameplan.
“That’s the good thing about having multiple guys rally together and talk to each other instead of just having one person trying to talk to the whole team by himself. It’s a good thing having all five on the floor talk about it together and say, ‘We’re not gonna do this again.'”
“(Going) into halftime I told the guys that we shot 35 percent and were up by 16,” said Schmidt. “That’s because we had 14 offensive rebounds and way more shots than they did. They’re a big, physical team and we matched or exceeded their physicality.”
The presence inside looked to be inhibited in the early going when starting forward Dion Wright picked up two quick fouls and was only able to play 12 minutes, but Bona got 26 solid minutes from Chris Dees in relief. The big man grabbed five rebounds, dished out two assists, got a steal and blocked a shot.
“I thought (Dees) gave us a big, big lift,” said Schmidt. “He played a little bit out of position at the four (power forward) and he really responded. Everybody always talks about points; Chris had a huge impact in the game and didn’t score a basket. He really played a vital role in our victory.”
“Defensively we were helping each other more and (we were) talking,” said Ndoye. “It just got all of us going when we were all on the same page.”
As for the environment in the Blue Cross Arena, coach Schmidt was pleased with the turnout.
“It’s always good to come to Rochester,” he said. “I was concerned about the crowd (when I) heard the tickets weren’t (selling) great, but I thought we had a good crowd tonight. Hopefully the Bonaventure alums liked what they saw.”
The Bonnies hope their exceptional win on Wednesday night will start a winning streak. With winnable games coming up against underwhelming St. Joseph’s and Duquesne squads, SBU has the potential to be 4-2 in the conference and 11-6 overall going into the Rhode Island game a week from Sunday.
Simply put, Bona goes as Youssou goes.