Men’s basketball: Despite inconsistent defense, Bonnies win season opener

(Denzel Gregg Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team had the look of a run-and-gun Western Conference NBA team on Saturday afternoon.

The Bonnies shot over 50 percent and made 21 free throws, but surrendered nine three-pointers and allowed St. Francis to shoot 47 percent from the field in a 92-82 season-opening victory.

Jaylen Adams and Denzel Gregg each scored 23 points and Matt Mobley was a basket behind with 21. Josh Ayeni was also in double figures with 10 points.

The Red Flash succumbed to a few Bona runs, but were able to recover quickly, never out of the game for long. SBU’s biggest lead in the first 16 minutes was just six before Gregg scored nine points in the final 3:19 of the first half to catapult the margin to 12 at halftime. A LaDarien Griffin dunk gave the Bonnies an 18-point advantage with 12:33 remaining, but about five minutes later the Red Flash cut the lead to three.

As Bona fought to keep the lead, the cramp bug hit Adams and Gregg. Adams had to be substituted for twice in the final six minutes as the team’s training staff worked to get him hydrated, while Gregg did not return after he left with three minutes to go. Both were fine after the game as they started recovery mode.

“It’s a luxury to have good teammates,” Adams said, acknowledging the scoring efforts of Gregg, Mobley and others. “I’m not the only one who can score the basketball, and I think other teams should know that going into games. Going forward, I think they should worry about them the same way.”

“We had some adversity,” Schmidt said. “We dealt with some adversity, and that’s the way it’s gonna be. Every game’s not gonna go perfect. There’s gonna be times in the games where things aren’t going well, and you’ve just gotta be tough-minded.”

The Bonnies gave up seven or more three-pointers in four of their first five games last year, so early-season defensive lags are not out of the ordinary. A lot of pressure was placed on the offense, which answered the bell in the first 90-point output since the St. Joseph’s victory on Mar. 2.

Jamaal King and Randall Gaskins, Jr. took advantage of the lax prevention, with 21 points and 12 points, respectively. King hit four of the team’s nine treys. Bona was able to force 21 turnovers and scored 19 points off those giveaways.

“It’s almost like if they didn’t turn it over they got a good shot,” Schmidt said. “We’ve gotta do a better job of forcing contested shots and getting more off of our defense. I thought that they got to the paint too easily today, and that’s something that we have to prevent.

“The hardest thing to do on defense is closing out. When a team gets the ball in the middle, it shrinks your defense and that next pass is the closeout. That’s the hardest thing to do, especially when you’re playing against good guards. (King and Gaskins, Jr.) played really well.”

St. Francis was picked to finish ninth out of ten teams in the Northeast Conference’s preseason poll, but Schmidt, who coached in the NEC at Robert Morris, wasn’t buying it.

“I say it all the time, those picks are useless,” Schmidt said. “They don’t make any sense, they’re never right, no matter what league it is. That’s a talented team… they’re gonna give people problems.”

With a highly-anticipated battle against the Florida Gators looming on Thursday, Adams looked ahead at what his squad needed to work on.

“I think we’ve just gotta lock in more, gotta focus more on (defense). Can’t be worried about offense, we’ve gotta play defense with the same amount of energy that we play offense with.

“I think the rest will fix itself.”

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