By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
When he was being asked about how long it’s been since St. Bonaventure won at Canisius, Bonnies point guard Jaylen Adams quickly interrupted with the exact answer, as if it had been on a quiz this week: “2002.”
Indeed, the last time Bona came out on top at the Koessler Athletic Center, Adams was a first-grader back in Baltimore. The Bonnies have lost their last four games at the KAC since then, a fact that may seem hard to believe to the current crop of SBU students, who were delighted to watch the brown and white defeat Jim Baron’s team at the Reilly Center the past two meetings.
To snap the road losing streak against their hated rivals, defense will have to be a priority. The Golden Griffins are averaging 90 points a game through the first three contests. They are led by 6-foot senior guard Malcolm McMillan. McMillan, a former teammate of Bonaventure transfer Matt Mobley at Central Connecticut State, is averaging 26.7 points on 57.4 percent shooting, including an 8-of-19 mark from three.
McMillan is one of four Griffins averaging double-digit point totals early on. Junior forward Phil Valenti has averaged 14.3, while 6-foot-4 senior guard Jamal Reynolds has 12.7 and 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Kassius Robertson has 10.
One of the main strength areas for Canisius thus far has been the three-point line. The Griffins have averaged about 28 threes a game, with 10 makes a contest. They have also been strong at the free throw line, going to the stripe about 25 times a game, averaging about 19 points off those freebies.
The Griffs have given up 82 points a game, so they can credit their offense for much of their 2-1 start. That provided a warning for the Bonnies, who have also been shaky out the gates defensively. They allowed 82 against Loyola Maryland, with 50 of those points coming in the second half.
Adams noted that help defense was a key for Bonaventure.
“We’ve just gotta emphasize playing defense for each other,” he said. “That’s what we spent the rest of this week doing, just playing hard for each other. I think that was the biggest missing piece defensively, the fact that we were just giving up buckets and thinking we’d outscore teams.
“Coming into this week and going forward in the future I think we have a better understanding of how important the defensive side of the ball is. We’re trying to commit to it more, so it’s an emphasis going forward… 5-on-1 is a lot easier to guard a guy, no matter how much he’s scoring.”
After the Syracuse loss, Adams said the team got complacent in the second half. After the Loyola game, coach Mark Schmidt said that if the team hadn’t shot 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from three-point range, they would have lost.
Complacency turns a 15-point lead into a six-point ballgame in a hurry. Avoiding the urge to go on cruise control with a big advantage is important for this Bonnies team to learn.
“We’re having trouble right now when we get those big leads keeping it where it needs to be,” Adams said. “We get a little lax offensively and defensively.
“If we continue to build on the offensive side and fix the defensive side, we should be able to handle business.”
Dec. 19, 2002 was the last time the Bonnies beat the Griffins at Koessler. That night, point guard Marques Green and small forward Patricio Prato displayed a formidable one-two scoring punch, combining for 36 of Bona’s 69 points.
This year, SBU has a big three that provides most of the offense, with Adams, Marcus Posley and Dion Wright scoring 68 percent of the team’s points last time out.
After the game, Wright said the scoring output was great, adding “the more the merrier.” The Bonnies are hoping more scoring options lead to a merrier outcome than the last four times they played at Koessler.