(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The St. Bonaventure student body, undeterred by midterms and upcoming travel plans, raised the volume level notch by notch, doing its best to lift the men’s basketball team to its 19th victory.
The team delivered, outlasting Duquesne for a 80-76 victory at the Reilly Center. After a VCU loss, SBU (19-7, 11-4) moved to just one game back of first place in the A-10.
As he has often in these past few weeks, sophomore point guard Jaylen Adams led the way. Adams scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half, with five assists and three rebounds as well. He was 5-of-12 from the field and 12-of-14 from the free throw line.
Senior forward Dion Wright added 15 points and eight rebounds, while senior guard Marcus Posley scored 11 and junior forward Denzel Gregg had 10.
The talk of an at-large bid can continue, although these Bonnies are showing some pre-tournament ability to survive and advance.
“Jack Nicklaus always says, ‘you learn how to win by winning,'” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said. “The more you’re in a situation, the more you have success in that situation, the more comfortable and confident you’re gonna be when it comes up again.”
Bonaventure got manhandled on the boards in the first half, going into halftime with a 28-16 rebounding deficit. The Dukes (15-13, 5-10) were able to grab 14 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
“We shouldn’t be giving up that many rebounds,” Wright said. “We’re a way better rebounding team than we showed in that first half.”
Unfortunately for Duquesne, the advantage on the glass only equaled eight second-chance points, and it committed 10 turnovers. Bona held Jim Ferry’s team to 34.3 percent shooting from the floor and shot 40.6 percent itself to help go into the locker room knotted at 36.
In the second half, Adams started to heat up, hitting two important three-balls back to back to tie the game at the 7:21 mark. After turning the ball over twice in the first half, he did not surrender it again.
“I think I just came out and played a little harder, kind of let my defense rub off on my offense,” he said. “Early, I came out a little lax. I think the whole team picked it up in the second half.”
As their floor general goes, the Bonnies go. Posley joined his self-proclaimed little brother in the clutch shot department when he made a go-ahead deep ball with 3:29 left. Wright hit a timely second-half trey as well, to cut a four-point Dukes lead to just one.
Even the men in the post, who had so much difficulty with Gill and Lewis down low, gained some confidence, stepping up the intensity and gaining a 21-20 second half rebounding edge.
“(Adams) gives our guys, his teammates, great courage,” Schmidt said.
“In that kind of moment,” Adams said, “I think we’ve got the type of guys that kind of build off the energy and the crowd in those types of situations where you’re in a little bit of desperation.”
The brown and white seemed to be in a bit of desperation at moments on Wednesday night, as the Duquesne lead was eight four minutes into the second half. What the team showed next, however, was the makeup of a postseason team. As the late Al Davis said, “Just win, baby.”
“We have good players, we have tough players,” Schmidt said. “Mentally tough players, and guys who have been there before. And once you’ve been there before and you’ve had success, it’s easier… they came through.”
Just how good is this team feeling right now? Center Jordan Tyson, whose eight-point, seven-rebound performance is nothing to sniff at, gave his take.
“I believe that we’re going to make the NCAA Tournament, and I think this was just one step forward to us reaching our goal,” Tyson said. “The goal is very attainable, the goal is right there, so we just have to stick with the plan and just play as smart and hard as we can.”
This is no longer a team that would be satisfied with an NIT appearance. The playmaking Bonnies are thinking bigger, and the gritty win over Duquesne moved them along on their path.