(Marcus Posley Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The 11-3 St. Bonaventure Bonnies enter Wednesday night’s home contest against the 10-6 Rhode Island Rams (7 p.m., Time Warner Sports Channel) in a spot they haven’t been in since the 2011-12 season.
The brown and white have long been the perennial overachievers who receive little to no respect from the rest of the Atlantic 10, much less the rest of the country. Now, Bona is tied with VCU for first in the league with a 3-0 conference record and a recipient of a vote for top 25 in the Associated Press poll. National college basketball writers Jon Rothstein and Seth Davis have shown the team some love on Twitter.
Now that they’re getting some hype, which is warranted after three double-digit wins to start A-10 play, the Bonnies face a new challenge- blocking out the noise and beating a talented URI team.
“The kids aren’t big-headed,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said. “I think we have good leadership; they’re not caught up in what other people are saying.
“Our whole thing is, no one thought anything of us before. Why would we think they know what they’re talking about now? We’re just worried about our business. We know we have a difficult game against Rhode Island.”
Sophomore point guard Jaylen Adams, who is averaging 23.3 points on 41.7 percent shooting since conference play began, echoed Schmidt’s sentiments.
“I think we all understand that we have to block (the noise) out,” said Adams. “It’s three games in, and the only thing that’s guaranteed is three wins. I think we’ve got to block it out to keep moving forward.”
To keep moving forward and beat a Rams team that lost five games by six points or fewer, the Bonaventure offense must be clicking: URI’s defense has allowed just 64.3 points a game, the lowest average in the A-10.
The Rams are dominant down low, with Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson leading the way. Martin, a 6-foot-7 junior forward who earned a spot on the conference’s All-Defensive Team selection a season ago, has career averages of 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots a game. The 6-foot-9 Iverson, second cousin of legendary NBA guard Allen Iverson, leads the team in rebounding with 6.4 boards a game in his first season as a Ram after transferring from Memphis.
Martin and Iverson are also strong offensively, two of five Rhody players averaging in double figures. Graduate student guard Four McGlynn and Martin lead the team with 12.5 and 12.4 points a game, respectively, followed by sophomore guards Jared Terrell and Jarvis Garrett, who average 11.6, and Iverson, who averages 11.2. The Rams are 11th in the conference in scoring offense, at 71.6 points a contest.
“They’re a very good defensive team, very athletic, and that’s what they do,” Schmidt said. “Somehow we’ve got to figure out a way to get open and be able to attack the basket.
“They’ve got a bunch of highly-recruited guys (and) All-Atlantic 10 players… they’re hard to guard. They run a lot of ball-screen stuff, they space it out (and) they use their athleticism to get into the paint.”
Last season’s game in Kingston, R.I. showcased just how tough Bona’s matchup is tonight. The Rams defended home court and outlasted the Bonnies in a 53-48 defensive struggle where Adams and Marcus Posley combined for just 16 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Star URI guard E.C. Matthews was out for that game and is out for this season after a torn ACL in the season opener, but coach Dan Hurley’s team is still staying afloat.
“I think we have to attack them, just like we have to attack everybody else,” Adams said. “You can’t come out there and let them get off to a good start (or) let them throw the first punch… we’ve got to come out with the same confidence we did the last three games.”
Bonaventure has not defeated Rhode Island in the Reilly Center since the 2011-12 season. The Bonnies are 65th in the nation in Relative Power Index (RPI).