By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
When St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt met with the media on Thursday afternoon before the Bonnies’ final practice before Friday’s clash with Binghamton, he acknowledged that his team was in for a battle.
“We’ve got a fight on our hands,” he said.
It’s uncertain whether Schmidt, entering his ninth season at the helm in Olean, knew just how much of a fight the brown and white were in for.
The Bonnies were up 30-19 with 1:12 to play in the first half when the Bearcats roared back with back-to-back threes and a free throw to cut the lead to four going into the locker rooms. Seniors Marcus Posley and Dion Wright, two-thirds of Bona’s big three, struggled mightily on offense in the first 20 minutes, combining for just 13 points on four-of-11 shooting to open up the game. Junior forward Denzel Gregg kept the team afloat with nine first-half points.
Up until there was 5:05 remaining in the contest, Binghamton kept the game extremely close, only trailing by four before freshman point guard Nelson Kaputo hit a timely three to put SBU up seven. Bona never looked back, prevailing 63-53.
The victory may not have been possible without Wright’s second-half reemergence. The Carson, Calif. native recorded 16 points in the last 20 minutes, shooting 50 percent (five for 10) in the period. He ended up as the leading scorer with 20, with Gregg’s 15 as the second-leading output.
“(The second half) was real good,” Wright said. “It gave me momentum, it got my confidence up and we needed that.
“We all have to play better. I played terrible in the first half, but we found a way to win as a team.”
Bonaventure’s spark off the bench was Kaputo. The Toronto native totaled seven points, five assists, three steals and two rebounds in 23 minutes of play. Schmidt called him the “star of the game.”
“I thought (Kaputo) came off the bench and really gave us a lift, not only offensively but defensively,” Schmidt said.
The lift Kaputo brought defensively added on to an already stout effort on that side of the floor. Binghamton turned the ball over 19 times and shot just 29.8 percent, and the Bonnies had a lot to do with that.
“The reason we won was I thought defensively we did a good job,” said Schmidt. “We did a decent job on the backboard, but I thought our zone was effective. We got out to the three-point shooters; going into the game that was one of the concerns with Perovic stepping out and shooting threes.
“We just have to do a better job offensively.”
The offensive miscues kept a less-talented Bearcat team in the game. Bona missed nine layups, committed 14 turnovers and made just four threes out of the 19 they attempted. Posley’s five points were his second lowest output as a Bonaventure player, while Adams’s two assists were abnormal for a point guard who had nine games with five or more helpers last year.
“We’ve got to get better production and better play from (Posley, Wright and Adams), and we know they’re capable of doing it; they just had an off day today,” said Schmidt.
Adams admitted that the first-game jitters got to him a bit.
“I think I had a lot of nerves, just being the first game,” he said. “I missed a few early on, and I could never find a rhythm from there. I wasn’t able to get going.”
Considering that the small-ball Bonnies are looking to play at a lightning-fast pace and score the ball as quickly as possible, the mere 63 points they put on the board showed that Binghamton’s defense was moderately successful.
“We want to push the ball, but it’s hard to push the ball when you’re not scoring,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t have any rhythm to our offense, and it’s hard to play when you have no rhythm.”
The Bonnies will look to get that rhythm back in a hurry, because a certain team decked out in orange that plays in a 49,000-plus seat dome will be anxiously awaiting their arrival on Tuesday night.