(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
St. Bonaventure’s administration sure picked the perfect game for the university’s Alumni Weekend. The Bonnies will tip off against the George Washington Colonials at 4 p.m. in a matchup rife with postseason implications.
The alumni and fans have responded by buying tickets in droves. The game is sold out, making it the first sellout since Andrew Nicholson’s senior night in 2012.
Bona’s four-game win streak has taken it to fourth place in the Atlantic 10 with an 8-3 record in conference play. GW is one game behind at 7-4. The Colonials had won three straight games, including a three-point win at VCU, before an 84-66 dismantling at home against St. Joe’s.
One advantage the visitors will have on SBU is size. 6-foot-10 senior Kevin Larsen and 6-foot-9 junior Tyler Cavanaugh combine for about 29 points a game, while 6-foot-6 senior guard Patricio Garino leads the A-10 in three-point percentage at 45.8 percent.
Statistically, these teams are very evenly matched, separated by just a few slots/percentage points in most categories. The one major disparity is on the boards, where GW holds the rebounding edge over its opponents by an average of 5.4 a game, while Bona is at -0.1 in rebounding margin.
In conference games, Larsen is fourth in the A-10 in rebounding, averaging 8.8 boards, while SBU’s Dion Wright is tied for first with 10.
This is the lone meeting between these teams in the regular season. They haven’t played each other since last season, when the Colonials put a 69-46 beating on the Bonnies. That game carried much different circumstances, however, as Bona point guard Jaylen Adams was out with a finger injury that turned out to be season-ending.
Adams, who is certainly a candidate for all-conference first team honors, emphasized the defensive side of things.
“I think we’ve just gotta emphasize team defense,” Adams said. “That’s what we did all week preparing for this game. We’ve gotta rotate.
“They’ve got two dominant bigs… we’ve gotta help our bigs down low and just rotate off them.”
While the school’s proud alumni base was making its way to Olean for the weekend’s festivities, Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt was trying to put the game’s magnitude in perspective.
“It’s a credit to our guys that we’re playing games in February that matter,” Schmidt said. “It’s a credit to the season they’ve had to this point.
“But it’s early. Some people are jumping to conclusions; we’ve gotta concentrate on the next game, homecoming or not.”
It is still early (there will be six more regular season games to play after this one) but it’s hard to downplay the importance of this contest. The schools are battling for fourth place and a double-bye in the A-10 Tournament.
Playing your first game in Brooklyn on Friday provides a sizable edge over the teams that need to win four games over the course of the weekend. A Bona win on Saturday would be a step in the right direction.