By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio and Jeff Fasoldt @Jeff_Fasoldt
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies head on their last road trip of the regular season as they prepare to face the Saint Louis Billikens on Wednesday night at 8.
Fans are unlikely to forget the last time these teams met. That matchup was last year’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinal game in Brooklyn, when Jordan Gathers hit the buzzer-beating three to send the first-seed Billikens packing.
Since then, Saint Louis has gone from favorite to underdog. Jim Crews’s team lost its entire 2013-14 starting lineup to graduation and has gone from first to worst in the A-10. The Billikens come into this game 3-13 in the A-10; they went 13-3 in conference play last season.
To get the seventh seed in next week’s A-10 Tournament, Bonaventure (15-12, 8-8 in the A-10) needs to win this game and Saturday’s game against Fordham while George Washington loses to George Mason or UMass. Saint Louis is never an easy trip, but Bona figures to be in the driver’s seat as long as they take care of business.
Who will have the upper hand in Wednesday’s contest? Here’s the full breakdown:
St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 121-122 as Bonnies coach.
Saint Louis- Jim Crews. 66-32 as Billikens coach.
Key players for Saint Louis:
Milk Yarbrough- 6-6 freshman forward. The former three star recruit was the top addition to a Billikens squad that lost a lot of talent from last year. He’s proven valuable for them so far, being a lone bright spot for a Saint Louis team that is limping into this game. Yarbrough is the top scorer at 10.6 points per game and also the leading rebounder at five a game. Most of his scoring comes from inside as he’s struggled from three point range (5-23 on the season) and is shooting a dreadful 57 percent from the free throw line.
Davell Roby- 6-4 freshman guard. Roby is another freshman that will ease St. Louis fans worried in the next few years. On the season he has 6.5 points per game and 2.8 rebounds per game, not exciting numbers but he plays a shooters role on this team at 31 percent from three on the season. He’ll have to hit some tomorrow if he wants to give the Billikens a chance.
Keys to victory for Saint Louis: The 11-18 Billikens will have to come out with nothing to lose and show that they can beat a decent St. Bonaventure team at their home court. Threes will have to fall, defense will have to be supreme. I would play a 2-3 zone and force the Bonnies to make shots from the outside and try and win this game with defense.
Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: One of the biggest keys for the Bonnies has been to have a lead going into halftime; SBU is 9-2 when leading at the half, 5-10 when trailing. Coach Schmidt noted in the press conference after Saturday’s win over Duquesne that shooting well early in the game gives the team a much better chance of victory, and he’s absolutely right- it’s a huge difference. To have a strong offensive performance, Schmidt will likely go with the same lineup he went with on Saturday- Marcus Posley at the point, Andell Cumberbatch at shooting guard, Denzel Gregg at small forward, Dion Wright at power forward and Youssou Ndoye at center. Not only is that lineup big, it also features players who know how to take care of the basketball and get to the basket to create high-percentage shots. This gives them a major edge over a Saint Louis team that turns over the ball about 14 times a game.
Chuckie- If this game were in the Reilly Center it would be the biggest lock of the season. Away from home, it’s still a pretty big lock; the Bonnies will win this game handily. 81-67 Bonnies
Jeff- St. Louis has struggled all season. Give them a few years and they will be back at the top of the A-10. 69-45 Bonnies.