By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
As the victorious St. Bonaventure Bonnies marched off the court on Saturday, flanked by pom-pom-toting cheerleaders, coach Mark Schmidt waited at the end of the line to greet each player, assistant coach and manager with a high-five or pat on the head. It was that kind of day for Bona, a true team win over a quality Ohio squad to improve to 5-2 on the season.
After winning one of the ugliest games in recent memory in Buffalo on Wednesday night, the Bonnies displayed a beautiful brand of basketball against the Bobcats. They shot 41.5 percent from the field, including a scorching 10-for-22 mark from three and recorded 17 assists to just six turnovers. After they went down by four with 13:25 left to play, they went on a 26-6 run until the 4:53 mark, giving them a sizable lead that they would not relinquish.
SBU’s “Big Three” all had solid games. Jaylen Adams led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, including a 5-of-7 clip from long range. He also had a season-high six rebounds and six assists, his fourth game with five or more helpers this season. Marcus Posley had 19 points on 7-of-18 field goal shooting, including a buzzer-beating triple at the end of the first half, and dished out five assists. Dion Wright struggled from the field, going 3-for-14, but made eight of his nine foul shots and grabbed 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the year.
Wright wasn’t the only one doing work on the boards. The brown and white outrebounded Ohio, 37 to 32, despite six Bobcats over 6-foot-6 playing 10 minutes or more (Bona currently has three). That rebounding total included 13 on the offensive glass, which led to 16 second-chance points.
“Size is overrated,” said Schmidt. “If you have guys who have that blue-collar mentality, the junkyard dog, (who) go after it and be physical, I think we did that at times. At times we’re a little bit soft, but you don’t outrebound a team with that size being soft and not being active. That’s one of the big reasons why we won.”
In addition to holding the rebounding advantage, Bonaventure held Ohio 17 points below its season average. Point guard Jaaron Simmons, the team’s leading scorer, registered just nine points on 4-of-10 shooting. Gavin Block, a threat off the bench who averages 15 minutes and scored 19 against Norfolk State, was held scoreless.
“We did a better job of keeping Simmons in front of us (in the first half),” Schmidt said. “In the first half Simmons got into the paint, and once he got it into the paint, the defense collapses and he kicks it out and they have open threes. Part of it was the 2-3 zone; the kids did a real good job matching up.”
Bona made four threes in the first half, but the second half was when the barrage really got going. The Bonnies were 6-of-11 from long range in the second half, which sparked the massive run that the Bobcats were not able to contain. Adams made two triples in the final 20 minutes, and Denzel Gregg hit one as well, but Nelson Kaputo’s three gave the team the major lift it needed.
After playing just six minutes of action in the first half, Kaputo saw 16 of the 20 in the second half and made each longball he took, invigorating the Reilly Center. In total, he has made 13 of the 38 treys he has attempted this season, making multiple three-balls in four of the team’s seven games. He and Gregg scored nine points each, giving SBU 18 bench points to Ohio’s 12.
“I think attacking the basket became a lot easier once you started hitting shots,” Kaputo said. “They were afraid of the three-point so they were guarding the three-point line and then the middle opened up.
“I think it was just a matter of preparation before the game that made the difference, just being ready all the time coming off the bench and just being ready to knock down shots whenever I get the ball in my hand.”
Ohio is a strong program, with a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2012 and a 41-27 Mid-American Conference record in the last four years. With a top-50 scoring average (the Bobcats came into Saturday 36th in the nation in scoring) and a quality young coach in Saul Phillips, this was seen as one of Bonaventure’s toughest non-conference games.
“Every game’s important; you want to have momentum going into the conference,” Schmidt said. “We know how difficult the Atlantic 10 is and we know the more wins we can get non-conference the better off we’re gonna be.”