(Derrick Woods Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies men’s basketball team has been on upset alert against Saint Louis and at Fordham in recent weeks, and survived. It will try to make the outcome less interesting when it faces La Salle on Wednesday at 7, its second game in Philadelphia in the last three weeks.
The Explorers have been reduced to a spoiler role this season, sitting in the cellar of the Atlantic 10 with a 1-11 conference record. They are two games behind the three three-win teams and just lost by 26 to a St. Joe’s team that Bona handled. Incredibly, Dr. John Giannini’s club’s one league win was a 61-57 victory over league-leading Dayton, proving that you just don’t know with the A-10.
La Salle may be dead last in the conference in record and offense, but 6-foot-5 junior guard Jordan Price is third in the league in overall scoring with 19 points per game. Price is a workhorse, averaging 37 minutes a game. Backcourt mate and classmate Cleon Roberts, who stands at 6-foot-6, averages 37 minutes as well and is second on the team in scoring output with 12.6 points a game. The third Explorer in double figures is 5-foot-11 guard Johnnie Shuler, who averages 36.8 minutes and scores 10.1 a game.
The Explorers go with four guards often, which means SBU will have a few height advantages (Jaylen Adams and Marcus Posley over Shuler, Idris Taqqee over 6-foot-2 guard Amar Stukes) and a few disadvantages (Price and Roberts over Adams, Posley and Taqqee, Taqqee over Stukes). Size is one of the few edges the home team has.
The strategy Giannini’s team used to defeat Dayton was slowing the game down, holding the ball until the shot clock was about to expire before attempting a shot. La Salle averages 67.9 possessions a game, good for a tie for 320th in the nation, so the strategy is still being employed in some contests. The Bonnies average 71.3 trips a game, but they might be slowed a bit on Wednesday.
The Bonnies may be eight games better in the A-10, but coach Mark Schmidt did not overlook the Explorers, who got help when Ukranian forward Yevgen Sakhniuk returned from injury and scored 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the floor against Davidson.
“To me, watching tape on them, it’s amazing that they’re 1-11,” Schmidt said. “They’re the best 1-11 team in any conference in the country. They’ve got a top five player, they’ve got really good guards, they’ve got the big guy back… nobody is beneath us; we’ve gotta play. That’s what our expectations are, that La Salle’s gonna play really well. They played really well against Rhode Island, they played really well against Dayton. You don’t beat Dayton without talent.
“Throw out the records. This is a really talented team and we have to play really well in order for us to win.”