By Chuckie Maggio and Jeff Fasoldt
After two weeks away from the Reilly Center, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies return home Saturday night at 7 when they take on the La Salle Explorers.
This is a pivotal game for two teams in the middle of the pack. The Bonnies come in at sixth in the Atlantic 10 with a 4-3 record in conference play, while the Explorers come in ninth at 3-4.
The teams met three times last year, with Bona winning two of the matchups; the last one was in Brooklyn for the A-10 Tournament.
Will the Bonnies grab their fourth win in five games, or will La Salle win their third in four? Let’s break it down:
St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 118-116 as Bonnies coach, 5-6 vs La Salle.
La Salle- Dr. John Giannini. 169-168 as Explorers coach, 8-6 vs St. Bonaventure.
Key players for La Salle:
Jordan Price- 6-5 sophomore guard. The leading scorer for the Explorers, Price is averaging 15.8 points per game and is shooting over 38 percent from the field for the yellow and blue. He is especially strong from the free throw line at 85 percent in the Explorers 20 games this season. Price could be due for a big game after struggling mightily in his last two games against Rhode Island and St. Josephs — only scoring a combined 10 points.
Jerrell Wright- 6-8 senior forward. Wright is “the guy” inside for La Salle and while he’s not a huge threat on defense, averaging less than a block a game, he is strong offensively at 11.8 points per game and leads the Explorers in rebounds at 6.8 per game. He’s been in double figures his last three games, going 7-12 against St. Joe’s for 19 points.
Keys to victory for La Salle: La Salle needs to continue to rely on their dominating defense if they want to beat the Bonnies at the Reilly Center on Saturday. They come into the game allowing the second fewest points in the A-10 and that can not change. Expect to see lots of three pointers from Cleon Roberts as he’s the man on the perimeter for La Salle at 42 percent on the season.
Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: Don’t look ahead. After this game the Bonnies head to Davidson on Wednesday, then face number 14 VCU on Saturday. Those are two extremely tough battles, especially the VCU one, but SBU must focus on the task at hand and take care of business. Everyone else can look ahead to next Saturday, but Schmidt’s team cannot allow themselves to. After the bad non-conference losses, they know better than to overlook an opponent.
Chuckie- The Explorers have a stingy defense (only 61 points allowed per game), and if the game were taking place in Philly, where La Salle is 7-3 this season, they would probably hold the edge. In the Reilly Center, however, the Explorers don’t have a powerful enough offense to withstand the Bonnies. They only score about 63 points a game, while the Bonnies have averaged 71 in their home games this season. SBU will bring the offensive attack again on Saturday and win a close contest in front of a student section that has been chomping at the bit to watch this team play. 76-71 Bonnies
Jeff- The Bonnies are coming off a tough loss at Rhode Island and have struggled to defend the three on the season. With that said, La Salle is not necessarily a great shooting team. However, if the Bonnies want to win they’re going to have to put up a better effort offensively than St. Joe’s did last Tuesday, scoring only 48 points. Still, I like the Bonnies at home, in the atmosphere of the Reilly Center. 54-51 Bonnies