By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
Sunday will be a basketball-filled day at the Reilly Center when the Bonaventure men’s and women’s teams play a nationally-televised doubleheader. The men will play the St. Joseph’s Hawks at 2:30 in the first half of the twin bill.
The Bonnies (9-6 overall, 2-2 in the Atlantic 10) and Hawks (7-8, 1-3) look very different from their meetings last season. The Hawks, usually contenders for the A-10 title, won both games against the Bonnies last year. Both contests saw St. Joe’s pull away in the second half. The most recent matchup was the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinal in Brooklyn, when Hawks guard Halil Kanacevic, who graduated in May, shot lights-out and Bona appeared to have a lid on their rim as they shot 25 percent from the floor in a 67-48 loss. The Hawks went on to beat VCU in the final to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to eventual champion UConn in overtime.
This year, Phil Martelli’s young squad is far from being a tourney team, currently ninth in the early conference standings with a losing record. The old saying goes that “you are what your record says you are.” A 7-8 record indicates a below-average team right now, but they have three losses to ranked on the road: number 10 Villanova, number 13 Gonzaga and number 20 VCU.
The Bonnies come into this one with the better record and momentum after a 20-point win over George Mason at the Reilly Center. By now, however, they know not to overlook opponents, especially a Joe’s team that has had their number in the past.
Will SBU defend home court with NBC Sports Network in the house, or will the Hawk’s wings be victoriously flapping when the final buzzer sounds? Here’s the full breakdown:
St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 116-115 as Bonnies coach, 4-7 against St. Joe’s.
St. Joe’s- Phil Martelli. 369-255 as Hawks coach, 27-7 against St. Bonaventure.
Key players for St. Joe’s:
DeAndre Bembry- 6-6 sophomore forward. If the Hawks are going to pull off a marginal upset in the Reilly Center they are going to need a big game from Bembry. The afroed swingman is leading the team in the big three statistical categories, with 15.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game. The coaching staff is probably not pleased with his turnovers (2.7 a game), but he is forced to do so much for this team that he is naturally going to turn the ball over a couple times a night. The matchup with Andell Cumberbatch and Denzel Gregg should be a good one, as both have improved defensively this season.
Isaiah Miles- 6-7 junior forward. Miles will attempt to take some of the pressure off Bembry’s shoulders. The junior from Baltimore has seen his minutes increase significantly this year, from just nine a game last year to 30 a game this season. He’s done well with his time, averaging 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. In games against Marist and Denver he scored 23 and 24 respectively, but he’s hoping to bounce back from an ineffective five-point showing against Fordham last time out.
Aaron Brown- 6-5 junior guard. Brown, a transfer from West Virginia, is the third of three Hawks averaging double-digit points this season, with 10.1 points a game on 46.8 percent shooting. He is also grabbing four rebounds a game, with an eight-board game against Fordham last time out. The Philly kid uses his size and strength to power his way to the basket.
Keys to victory for St. Joe’s: Bembry is obviously key, which makes staying out of foul trouble extremely important. He has been whistled for three or more fouls six times this year, and the Hawks are 3-3 in those games. Limiting turnovers is also key. They only turned the ball over a combined 15 times in the losses to George Washington and Duquesne, but they turned it over 36 times in the Fordham and VCU games, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do against a Bona defense that has scored 69 points off turnovers in conference play.
Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: If the Bonnies can limit Bembry, that will obviously go a long way. If they can play strong defense on him and force him to have a bad shooting day, his supporting cast is not good enough to overcome that. Also, the Hawks are not a good three-point shooting team, which is good news for a Bona that has faced some red-hot shooters this season. Bona’s defensive strategy has been to clog it up inside and force the perimeter shooters to make threes, which could certainly work against a Joe’s team that only shoots 27.2 percent from deep. Continue to dominate the paint off the strength of Youssou Ndoye, Dion Wright and Chris Dees.
Prediction: The students are back, Ndoye seems to have figured it out offensively and SBU will pull off a win against the hated Hawks. 79-70 Bonnies