By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies’ bid to finally beat the Syracuse Orange on the road fell just short on Tuesday night, as they were outscored 50-31 in the second half and dropped a 79-66 decision.
The contest was truly a tale of two halves. In the first half, everything was coming up roses for the brown and white. Bona jumped out to a 19-8 lead in the first eight minutes and dominated the ensuing 12 minutes until the teams went to the locker rooms. SBU held the advantage in nearly every statistical category in that first period, shooting 41.9 percent from the floor to Syracuse’s 37 percent, outrebounding the Orange by seven and scoring 12 points off turnovers.
In the second half, however, ‘Cuse regrouped, found its shooting stroke and clamped down on defense, showing Bonaventure the trademark zone that Jim Boeheim has made so famous during his Hall of Fame career at the program. In the second half, the Orange was 14 for 25 from the field (56 percent) while the Bonnies were held to an 11-of-35 (31.4 percent) clip.
Bona shooting guard Marcus Posley’s offensive struggles continued, as he had his second straight game with less than 10 points to start the season. Posley had six in the first half and only three in the second, only making three of his 16 shots from the floor. All three of those field goals were from three-point range, where he attempted 13 of those 16 attempts.
The trio of Wright, Posley and Adams, essential to a thin SBU team’s success this season, combined to go 13 for 44 from the floor in this one, a 29.5 percent mark well under the 40 percent target coach Mark Schmidt has set for his big three.
“They need to shoot at a better percentage for us to be successful,” Schmidt said.
In addition to the poor second half shooting performance, the Bonnies also turned the ball over 17 times. Syracuse capitalized on the sloppy play, scoring 23 points off those miscues.
Schmidt attributed the turnovers on better defense by Boeheim’s club in the final stanza.
“I thought in the second half Syracuse exposed us a little bit defensively,” Schmidt said. “They started doing a three out, two in with two bigs in no-man’s land (and) took us off the dribble.
“(Syracuse’s zone is) unique. It’s not a 2-3, it’s more of a 2-2-1. You need to get the ball into the circle and get shots in the slot. We did that at times and at times, they took that stuff away…defensively, they did a better job of getting out to our shooters, and we didn’t have a lot of easy baskets.”
“That’s a really big zone with really big guards and bigs flying around,” said point guard Jaylen Adams. “I don’t think we’ll see a zone or any defense that swarms the way they do.”
As the second half wore on, the Bonnies started to wear down, showing considerably less energy on both sides of the ball, which is easy to understand with eight available players. The combination of a clear lack of depth and mounting foul trouble spelled doom for the group, and Adams admitted that the team got tired down the stretch.
“I think we lost a little bit of legs, lost a little bit of energy,” Adams said. “We got complacent a little bit, and it hurt us bad.”
About 10 minutes before Adams met with the media and mentioned the fatigue factor, Schmidt would not use it as an excuse for the defeat in his press conference, bringing back one of his favorite lines to illustrate his point.
“As I say all the time, 18-22 year-old kids should never get tired,” said Schmidt. “There (are) enough timeouts; that’s no excuse.”
Adams ended up fouling out of this one, as did backup point guard Nelson Kaputo, while Wright and guard Idris Taqqee picked up four. Bona was whistled for 24 total fouls to Syracuse’s 15, and it started to look like ending the game with just five eligible players was a real possibility.
After Adams’s third foul with 12:19 to go in the game, he sat for a four-minute stretch. Over those four minutes, the Orange stormed back to take the lead after going on a 10-3 run.
“I thought that I could play through (three) fouls, but coach didn’t think the same thing, so it hurt me,” Adams said. “I wanted to be out there, but obviously you can’t play with fouls.”
Many of the fouls the Bonnies committed in the game were silly, unnecessary ones, but the desire and effort was there for the 30 minutes in which they dominated the game. For a team without anyone over 6-foot-8, outrebounding a talented, superbly athletic ACC team by 10 is no small feat, and 24 of those boards coming on the offensive glass made it even better.
“I thought our effort was, for the most part, what we wanted,” Schmidt said. “If you have 24 offensive rebounds you’re doing something right… if we continue to have that effort, we have a chance to be pretty good.
“It should give us some confidence that we played for 30 minutes head-to-head with these guys, but the game is 40 minutes and we’ve got to become more consistent.”
There were definitely many teaching points for the coaching staff to input into film study and practice this week. For one, Schmidt remarked that one of his assistant coaches kept a tally of the team’s defense and found that the Bonnies only had five clean stops in the second half. The ninth-year head coach took note of this, as did Adams.
“I think we have something to build on,” Adams said. “We had some good spots, but we’ve got things that need work. We’ve got to learn to compete for the entire game and not get comfortable.
“We dominated the game for the most part but we just lost it in a big stretch. They had a really big run and we didn’t answer.”
The Bonnies will have to wait another year to make history by getting their first win in the Carrier Dome, but they gave Jim Boeheim’s team as strong a fight as they’ll see in a non-conference home game.
As Boeheim said, the team in brown and white “had the game. They had us in a lot of trouble.”