(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
PHILADELPHIA- With 55 seconds on the clock and his La Salle team holding on to a two-point lead on Wednesday night, guard Jordan Price received a screen, drove to the hoop and put up a shot over Bona center Jordan Tyson.
The basket was made and served as the dagger, as the Bonnies ended up falling 71-64 at Tom Gola Arena. Any hope for an at-large bid was possibly dashed in Philly, against a team that came in with a 1-11 Atlantic 10 record.
“I’m very upset,” senior guard Marcus Posley said dejectedly. “We were supposed to win this game, but didn’t take care of business.”
Posley scored 21 points, 15 of them coming in the second half, to lead all scorers. Dion Wright added 16, while Jaylen Adams chipped in 12. Bona did not shoot well, however, with a 37 percent clip from the field and 7-of-19 mark from three-point range.
Unlike their opponents, the Explorers were comfortable shooting the basketball, making 46.8 percent of their shots. 11 of their 22 field goals were threes, including seven in the first 12 minutes of the contest.
Price scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, with eight and five respectively coming in the second half. Four La Salle players scored in double figures: Cleon Roberts had 14 (and recorded 12 rebounds as well), Johnnie Shuler had 12 and Tony Washington had 10.
Bona got significantly outrebounded, 41-27. No Bonnie had more than five rebounds; Shuler, who at 5-foot-11 was the smallest player on the court, had five boards of his own. The Explorers had 11 offensive rebounds and converted eight second chance points.
“It was everything,” said Schmidt of the disadvantage on the glass. “The team that wins the backboard is usually the team that’s most aggressive, and they were the most aggressive.”
La Salle started the game with an 11-2 advantage aided by three deep shots and a couple attempts from the foul line. Bona chipped back, however, and actually held a 30-24 scoring edge the rest of the half. It tied the game on a Wright jumper with 5:18 to play in the first and took the lead on a Posley three-ball three minutes later. La Salle showed some early signs of its resilience and peskiness when Karl Harris answered with a three of his own, Price made two foul shots and a Wright two gave the Explorers a one-point lead going to the locker room.
The brown and white dominated in the paint in the first half, scoring 18 of their 32 first-half points from the painted area. The second half would be a different story, however, as La Salle recognized that it was not going to get easy looks from three all game and went inside instead. The Explorers scored 16 of their 36 points in the second stanza in the paint, outscoring Bona 16-6 down low in the final 20 minutes.
Posley tried to establish his shooting touch down the stretch, with two made threes in the final five minutes, but it was to no avail. After he hit one from long range to give Bona the 63-62 lead, a layup by Washington handed SBU another deficit, one they would not recover from.
“I put everything on Dion and I; it’s our fault,” Posley said. “(Schmidt) pulled us out early in the first half because we weren’t doing what we were supposed to. That’s unacceptable on us; it’s our fault. We made a promise to the guys that it would never happen again… unfortunately it happened in a game we didn’t want it to happen in, but it happened. Dayton lost tonight, and this was a game for us to win and play for first going into Saturday, but it is what it is.”
The game was similar to other recent games against Saint Louis and Fordham, where Schmidt’s team played down to a lower-caliber opponent. Dr. John Giannini’s club outplayed SBU every which way on Wednesday night. His scrappy group of players outshot, outrebounded, outhustled and outmanned the fourth place team in the conference.
Both of La Salle’s league victories have come against teams currently in position for a double-bye in the A-10 Tournament: Bona and league-leading Dayton.
“I’m not gonna say we underestimated them, because we knew they were gonna play hard,” Posley said. “I don’t think we handled adversity the right way. I feel like we were too rushed when they were pressing up to us. When they were pressing us, we didn’t handle it the way that coach told us in practice. That’s our fault; we knew what we were supposed to do, we just didn’t execute. It all comes down to executing.”
Failing to execute leads to the opposing coach, a man that had watched his team drop 10 games in a row, marveling at his team’s performance.
“Today was what I had envisioned this year,” Giannini said. “I’m not surprised by the outcome at all, I’m not surprised at the way we played, I’m surprised that we haven’t been able to do it throughout this year.”
The opposite can be said for the entirety of the Bona community, which is very much surprised at the biggest letdown in recent memory.