(Jordan Tyson Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The sellout crowd at St. Bonaventure’s Reilly Center wanted a ninth Atlantic 10 victory on Saturday afternoon, and the Bonnies delivered.
Bona defeated the George Washington Colonials 64-57 to retain sole possession of fourth place in the conference and keep itself in the NCAA Tournament conversation.
Sophomore point guard Jaylen Adams recorded his second 19-point game in three contests to lead the brown and white in scoring. Adams was 7-of-10 from the field and made all three of his three-point attempts.
Senior forward Dion Wright, who did not start due to being late for a team meeting, scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. Senior guard Marcus Posley was hobbled by a hip ailment that has plagued him for the majority of the season, but managed to score 11 points and dish out five assists.
The offense had major issues in the first half, as the Bonnies were only able to score 24 points on 9-of-31 shooting, a 29 percent clip. The defense was unaffected, however, as it held the Colonials to 19 first-half points on an 8-of-28 mark from the field. The game was tied at four from Idris Taqqee’s jumper at the 16:49 mark to Dion Wright’s dunk with 12:13 remaining.
Patricio Garino was the only Colonials player to have efficient and productive offensive numbers; he went 9-of-18 from field-goal range and scored 21 points. Star forward Tyler Cavanaugh scored 17 points, but 10 of them were from the foul line, and he shot a brutal 3-of-13 from the floor. Normally-productive guard Joe McDonald had 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting.
GW scored its 57 points, but shot 35.6 percent to get there. Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt lauded the lockdown defense.
“It wasn’t a pretty game offensively, but I thought our guys couldn’t have played harder,” Schmidt said. “The effort was incredible, the way we defended.
“I’ve been saying it all year: everyone talks about how good our offense is, but I’ve said it since day one (that) you win in this league by playing defense; being tough, physically and mentally. We didn’t play offense well at all… but we won this game because we defended the best we’ve defended all year.”
One of the most memorable plays on the defensive end came four and a half minutes into the second half. Freshman center Jordan Tyson, who did not score in the game, made his impact felt when he slid over to help on defense and swatted a shot by Cavanaugh. Tyson’s adrenaline was pumping as he and Cavanaugh exchanged a few words and had to be separated.
“It felt good,” Tyson said. “I think that’s the reason I reacted like that.”
“My mindset was everything coach Schmidt talked about, just playing as hard as I can, fronting the post,” the big man continued. “(Schmidt) just stressed so much in practice not to let the ball go inside, so you can’t help but not let the ball go inside. I was just denying the post and playing as hard as I could: boxing out, running the floor, doing what I needed to do… it worked.”
That play ended up being one of the keys of the home stretch; it rattled Cavanaugh, who did not make a field goal in the entire second half. The big man was visibly off his game for the 15 remaining minutes, engaging in trash talk with the Bona players and complaining to officials.
“It’s not always how big you are, it’s how big you play; it’s toughness, it’s being scrappy,” Schmidt said. “We talked before the game about (having) a junkyard dog mentality, being a blue-collar team; that’s what we were. We didn’t play perfect, but we played hard, and when you play that hard, it makes up for a lot of deficiencies.”
Two bits of adversity that played a factor in Bona’s win were Posley’s ongoing hip issues and Adams picking up two fouls in the first two minutes. While Schmidt wouldn’t comment on Posley (“I’m not the trainer”), he spoke at length about not sitting his star guard for the rest of the half.
“One, I really trust Jay; he’s got a really good understanding of how to play and how to stay out of trouble,” Schmidt said. “And we try to put him on the weakest guy out there. Any time they brought in certain guys, we put Jay on that guy… he wasn’t gonna cover McDonald. We put him on who we perceive to be a weaker offensive player. But I have trust that Jay will make the right decisions.”
The sellout crowd was as loud as ever, and the players and coach they root for with so much passion and fervor responded in kind. The players waved their arms to keep pumping up the fans, while Schmidt went over to the student section after the game and gave them an ovation.
Schmidt called the Reilly Center “a special place,” and didn’t sell the customers short in his postgame comments.
“It gives you goosebumps, this place,” he said. “One of the reasons why I came here was because when I was at Xavier, they had crowds like this. It was unbelievable. It just shows how important basketball is to the university.
“We might’ve won without them, but with them I knew we weren’t going to lose.”