(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
St. Bonaventure senior forward Denzel Gregg noticed the Buffalo Bulls weren’t playing help defense on the backscreens the Bonnies were setting midway through the second half of Saturday afternoon’s game against the Buffalo Bulls.
Like he has done many times in his Bonaventure career, Gregg called for the alley-oop pass. Point guard Jaylen Adams obliged, and Gregg stuffed it home.
But the Syracuse, N.Y. native wasn’t done there. A little over a minute later, the passing lane opened again, Adams threw another one up to his 6-foot-7 teammate and the Reilly Center became Lob City once more.
UB coach Nate Oats called it the most frustrating sequence of a 90-84 Bonaventure victory. Gregg said it was “just Xs and Os.” A student standing behind press row called it the most exciting moment of the game, and many of the 5,012 fans in attendance would likely agree.
“‘Zel told me ‘throw it up if it’s open,’ and we converted,” Adams said.
For the second straight game, the Bonnies converted in crunch time, thanks to five double-figure scorers, a 20-14 turnover edge, 47 percent shooting from the floor and more made free throws (24) than the Bulls had attempts (13).
Junior Matt Mobley, who entered the game as the Atlantic 10’s leading scorer, was surprisingly the only Bona player to play more than four minutes and not put up at least 10 points. Oats’s team zeroed in on Mobley defensively, allowing Adams to put up 29, Idris Taqqee to score 16, Gregg to have 14 and David Andoh and Josh Ayeni to put up 12 and 10, respectively.
Mobley took just eight shots, his fewest number of attempts this season, but the SBU offense was unaffected. After shooting just 28.6 percent (8-of-21) in the first ten minutes of the game, the Bonnies shot 51 percent (21-of-41) the rest of the way.
“We’ve got a team full of good players, so whenever you focus too hard on one, someone else is gonna step up,” Adams said. “They were downing screens early and other guys were making shots.”
While Adams led all scorers with 29, his fifth 20-plus point outing this season, Gregg was just as vital to the victory. Outside of the two lob dunks, he scored seven other points, blocked three shots and grabbed two rebounds. After missing both shots he took from the field in the first half, he was much more active in the second stanza.
Schmidt praised Gregg and the rest of the team for playing a well-rounded game.
“It’s extremely important, and it’s gonna be important as we go forward,” Schmidt said. “They’re gonna look at our team and try to take away our guards and those role guys have to step up, and we certainly have a lot of confidence that they can. And they did. I thought Idris, especially offensively, played terrific. Denzel has been doing this all year and Josh hit those elbow jump shots. When they try to take something away, I think we have some other guys that we can go to. When they have the success they had today, it helps their confidence.”
After two blowout wins in Texas, two down-to-the-wire finishes were important for the team to show they can win last-minute contests. Schmidt expected a close score on Friday, and expectation matched reality.
“We had a 13-point lead at halftime, and then we got into a little ‘they make, we make,'” Schmidt said. “Against a good team like that, you can’t let them get back into the game. You’ve gotta get stops and scores, and it was going back and forth and not much defense was being played. But every time they made a run, it was a good sign that we did something to answer, either a big shot, a foul shot, and that’s a good sign.”
Schmidt likened Adams running the offense to having a good football quarterback. The outcome is usually going to be a successful one when no. 10 has possession.
“You feel comfortable when you have someone that you trust, that you know is gonna make, for the most part, the right decision,” Schmidt said. “He’s not gonna make every shot, he’s not gonna play a perfect game, but when the ball’s in his hands, something usually good happens. That’s a good feeling from a coach’s standpoint. It’s like having a good quarterback.”
With all but one member of the 1977 NIT championship team in attendance (Barry Atkinson was unable to make it) and all-time program leading scorer Greg Sanders’s no. 53 being retired, a win was all the Bonnies needed to complete an emotional and near-perfect day.
“This place has a great tradition, and for those guys to all come back- managers, sports information directors- just shows how important Bonaventure basketball is,” Schmidt said. “Our job was to go out there and give them a show, to make them proud, and I think we did that.”
As for two of the biggest “showtime” moments of the day, was Gregg going to repay Adams in some way for the two lob assists? Gregg rejected a reporter’s suggestion of doing Adams’s laundry, but left the possibility open for a reward of some sort.
“I don’t know about laundry,” Gregg said. “Maybe some breakfast or some dinner or something.
“Candy bar,” Schmidt interjected with a laugh.