By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies head to Dayton on Saturday for a 12:30 matinee with the Flyers. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Network.
The day after a demoralizing last-minute loss to UMass, the Bonnies’ bad luck continued when starting point guard Jaylen Adams underwent surgery for a broken finger, as first reported by TheBonaBlog.com’s Ian Nolan and confirmed by Adams on his Twitter account.
The loss of Adams was the last thing coach Mark Schmidt’s team wanted to see. No Atlantic 10 player had more assists or a better assist-to-turnover ratio in conference play than the star freshman, who played 32.5 minutes a game and was named A-10 Rookie of the Week three times.
The responsibilities at the point are now passed to junior Iakeem Alston. The junior college transfer has given Schmidt eight solid minutes a game off the bench, with 27 assists to 19 turnovers and a phenomenal euro-step move that leaves defenders in his tracks. He’s also got 11 steals on the season, showing his defensive abilities. He will need to be at the top of his game to make up for the loss of Adams.
The first time the Bonnies faced the Flyers, who are tied with four teams for first place in the A-10, they were crushed 78-61 at the Reilly Center and UD had 14 three-pointers. Archie Miller’s group showed they can still dominate a game despite only having seven scholarship players.
Will we see more of the same on Saturday, or can Bonaventure steal another road game? Here’s the full breakdown:
St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 119-118 as Bonnies coach, 1-7 against Dayton.
Dayton- Archie Miller. 81-44 as Flyers coach, 3-1 against St. Bonaventure.
Key players for Dayton:
Jordan Sibert- 6-4 senior guard. Sibert went for 22 in the Jan. 8 matchup with Bonaventure on the strength of 9-for-16 shooting from the floor, including four threes. The Cincinnati product has scored double-digit points in six of the last nine games, with a career-high 29 points against Fordham. The senior continues to be a model of consistency and the leader of this team.
Dyshawn Pierre- 6-6 junior forward. Pierre had 15 points and seven rebounds in that Jan. 8 game. The Canadian is averaging 12.6 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds, the kind of big boost in production the Flyers sorely needed when Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson were kicked off the team in December.
Kendall Pollard- 6-6 sophomore forward. Everyone was paying attention to Sibert and Pierre at the beginning of the season, but Pollard has become a valuable part of this offense as well. He only scored five points on Jan. 8, but has averaged nearly 15 points a game since, with three 20-point performances. His matchups down low are not favorable going into this contest, but you can’t count him out.
Keys to victory for Dayton: Dayton knows how to beat Bonaventure: shoot early and often from deep. The way to beat Bona continues to be to make threes, and that will be the gameplan again on Saturday. Another reason they won the first meeting was that they made Youssou Ndoye a relative non-factor, limiting him to 1-for-4 shooting from the floor and just eight points. Neutralizing the seven-footer is another piece of the checklist because when he’s on his game the Bonnies are nearly unstoppable.
Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: Alston’s play is obviously going to be a focus with Adams’ absence. With his majorly-increased workload, the junior must make good decisions with the ball, be a defensive stopper and make his free throws; he’s 11-for-23 from the foul line this season. Ndoye will have to be a force from the beginning; he wasn’t in the losses to UMass and Rhode Island. Posley’s leadership role also increases in the backcourt, as he may need to guide Alston to keep the team afloat in the game’s tough stretches.
Prediction: The Bonnies can still win ballgames without Adams, but they will probably not win this one. Pollard is going to be the player of the game in front of a sold-out crowd that has propelled the Flyers to a 12-0 home record this season. The team will need to mesh with Alston as their point guard, and a road environment is not the best place to do so. I just don’t see them beating the league-best Flyers, but this season hasn’t made all that much sense so who knows? 71-62 Dayton