(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
A combined 3-of-34 effort from behind the three-point line. 37 total turnovers. Four points in the final seven minutes by the eventual winning team.
Last year’s St. Bonaventure-Buffalo men’s basketball game, a 60-58 Bona win, was ugly.
This year’s meeting, as Bonaventure honors its 1977 NIT championship team, retires program leading scorer Greg Sanders’ number and hosts the Bulls at 4 p.m. in the Reilly Center, will likely not be as much of an eyesore. However, it could be another defense-dominant matchup.
“I watched the game last year,” said guard Matt Mobley, who had to sit last year due to NCAA transfer rules. “It was a real defensive battle, but they’re a good defensive team and we’re a good defensive team, so it might just be another defensive battle.”
Mobley’s claim that UB is a good defensive team is up for debate, as the 4-3 Bulls have allowed 76.8 points per game through their first seven. However, in five of the last six meetings between the teams, neither squad has managed to reach the 80-point mark.
The 4-2 Bonnies may have caught a break on “D,” as UB sophomore guard C.J. Massinburg will miss his eighth straight game due to mononucleosis. Massinburg was the team’s third-leading scorer last year.
The main players to watch offensively will be the veteran forward duo of Blake Hamilton and Willie Conner, who average 18.8 points and 14.7 points, respectively. The seniors are the go-to scorers, as Conner has scored double-digit points in all but one game this year and Hamilton has put up double-figures in all but two, with 23 and 21 in the last two games.
6-foot-8 sophomore forward Nick Perkins has also established himself as a threat inside, with 11.2 points and 7.7 rebounds a game on the young season. He is also playing eight more minutes a game than he did last year.
“They have two really good wings, Hamilton and Conner,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said. “They attack the basket, can shoot the ball from the perimeter. Perkins inside is a good four man that can screen and pop and post. They play a physical game, they’ve got good size inside, kind of similar to Siena, they just have bigger guards.”
Offensively, driving to the basket is a point of emphasis. Mobley has shown he can get to the rim quite easily, and opponents have resorted to making contact with him when he gets there.
“That’s the emphasis. Coach likes us to drive the ball, drive and kick,” Mobley said. “The more we drive, the more open shots we’ll have for kick-outs, so that’s one of our main points, just to drive and get to the basket as much as possible.”
Winning a down-to-the-wire game against Siena gave SBU confidence, and Schmidt expects the situation to be similar on Saturday.
“You need to make plays at the end of the game; it’s gonna be like that the rest of the year,” Schmidt said. “All the games that we play, especially in conference, are gonna go down to the last two or three minutes. I would assume that the game tomorrow night will go down to the last two or three minutes. The more you make plays in games, make positive plays, the more confidence you get. So we’re gonna continue to have to do that, and the more times we’re in that situation the better off we’ll be.”
“Winning close games is always a sign of a good team, and just winning, period, gives us confidence,” Mobley said. “The fact that we pulled it out and grinded hard really shows that we can win close games.”