By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
It wasn’t always pretty, but the St. Bonaventure Bonnies defended home court and won their second game of the season on Saturday night, defeating the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds by a score of 94-82 in front of 3,658 fans at the Reilly Center.
Marcus Posley returned to form to lead all scorers with 26 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor and a perfect 10-of-10 night from the free throw stripe. Dion Wright was two shy of his career high, scoring 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Bona’s other double-digit scorers were guards Jaylen Adams and Nelson Kaputo, with 16 and 11 respectively.
Bonaventure is fortunate that it had such a fantastic offensive output, because its defense struggled throughout. The Greyhounds shot 52.5 percent from the field, including a 52.4 percent mark from three. Loyola guard Tyler Hubbard was particularly lights-out, hitting seven threes, six of which came in the first half. Andre Walker and Eric Laster also made two triples apiece, contributing to a starting five that shot just under 54 percent and all scored in the double digits.
Coach Mark Schmidt wasted no time in noting how poor the defensive performance was.
“Thank goodness we shot 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from three, because if we didn’t, we would’ve lost today,” he said. “Our defense wasn’t very good.”
For a team that held Syracuse guard Trevor Cooney, one of the best sharpshooters in the nation, to 4-of-12 shooting and just two made three-pointers four days prior, the barrage of Greyhound jumpers signaled a defensive letdown. Schmidt and his staff warned the team of Hubbard’s deep-ball prowess, but the 6-foot-2 senior had his way in the first half regardless.
“We stressed it before the game the last two days that he was a really good shooter, but when he came out and hit a couple and got himself into a rhythm, got some confidence… for whatever reason we didn’t close out the way we needed to in the first half,” said Schmidt. “We just made it a point at halftime that we needed to stop him.”
“I just don’t think we were dialed in enough,” said Posley. “We need to dial in more and take care of our responsibilities and just be in the right place at the right time… Hopefully everything will pick up.”
Offensively, Posley came close to doubling his field goal percentage on the young season, boosting it from a brutal 19 percent to a much more respectable 32.4 percent (12-of-37). The senior takes pride in self-improvement, working his way out of slumps by getting extra shots up in the gym and coming in with a more attacking mindset.
Posley’s ten shots at the line, all makes, represented a more aggressive approach. When asked if he attacked the basket the way he wanted to, he said, “For the most part, I felt like I did, but there were probably other opportunities.”
“I wasn’t the only one that was attacking today,” Posley added. “Coach stressed all week about how guys needed to attack more and stop settling for the jumper, and I feel like we did a good job today.”
The brown and white led for 36:58 of the 40 minutes, but Loyola outscored them in the second half, 48 to 44. The runs the Greyhounds had in the second half, including a 9-0 burst from the 13:18 mark to the 8:49 mark in the second half that cut the lead to six, made it a game, which no one saw coming when the Bonnies led by 16 at the half.
Loyola coach G.G. Smith saw the opportunity for a comeback coming, but lamented the missed opportunities such as two missed free throws that were front ends of a one-and-one
“I told the guys that they were going to let us back in the game,” said Loyola coach G.G. Smith. “I’ve been in this game where the other team’s going to relax and give us a chance to get back in the game… We missed two straight front ends of a one-and-one which would have made it a four-point game.
“If we make those two it’s a different game.”
Like the game last Friday night against Binghamton, the Bonnies were a classic example of a team that doesn’t perform its best in an early non-conference matchup but wins because of its superior talent and athleticism. They’re not the only ones in the Atlantic 10 who have been in this scenario early in the season; two of the conference’s elite programs survived near upsets on Saturday. Davidson needed two free throws late to beat Charleston by a point, while Dayton trailed William & Mary by nine at halftime before rallying to win by three at home.
At this stage in the season, every aspect of the game needs improvement, but the defense is Bona’s point of emphasis going forward, and Schmidt knows it.
“We averaged (67.3) points a game last season. If we average (67) and the other team averages 82, we’re not gonna win a game.”
The Bonnies hit the road for their next game, a Tuesday night showdown with rival Canisius at the Koessler Athletic Center. The Golden Griffins are 2-1 after easily dispatching Cornell 87-62 on Saturday afternoon.