(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
St. Bonaventure forward David Andoh had just hit a three-pointer, but he couldn’t dwell on the shot. Buffalo Bulls wing Blake Hamilton was barreling down the lane and coming in hot.
The situation doesn’t discriminate based on size. The 6-foot-7, 245-pound Andoh had 40 pounds on Hamilton, but he had to draw the charge. He did, successfully, which led to a second Denzel Gregg alley-oop and 7-0 run in the second half of Saturday afternoon’s win over UB at the Reilly Center.
Charges, like Andoh and fellow big man Josh Ayeni have been taking, have been a major part of the team’s defense the last two years. Since the graduation of Youssou Ndoye, the Bonnies haven’t had a 7-foot rim protector to swat nearly any shot that entered his zone. Ndoye was third in program history with 209 blocks. Denzel Gregg has 95 on his career to lead the current group.
Personnel has forced SBU to change from a shot-blocking team to a charge-taking squad.
Offensive fouls could be big again at 6-3 Hofstra at 7 p.m. The Bonnies average 83.6 points a game, good for 28th in the country, while the Pride scores 79.2 points per game, 57th in the nation. With two high-powered offenses facing off, the game could be decided by a late run.
“That’s momentum that we need. That’s momentum that any team would want,” Bonaventure tri-captain Idris Taqqee said. “That’s something that our coaches and our team takes pride in. The charges are something that give us that push, so we need it.”
“It’s important,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said. “We don’t have shot-blockers, Youssou’s not here any longer, we’ve gotta be charge-takers and we’ve gotta make the offense hesitant to go inside, not because we’re gonna block their shots but because we’re gonna take charges. So that’s something that we’ve gotta continue to do and get better at.”
Last year, Hofstra visited the Reilly Center on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and earned an 89-83 victory thanks in part to 52 second-half points and 47 combined points from Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley. Green and Tanksley are gone, but freshman Eli Pemberton and senior Brian Bernardi have averaged 15.3 and 14.4 points, respectively, to lead the high-powered Pride attack. Senior guard Deron Powers adds 12.8 points per contest, while 6-foot-9 junior center Rokas Gustys leads the country with 14.3 rebounds a game. Gustys had a 10-point, 25-rebound game against South Dakota on Nov. 23.
As to whether last year’s defeat added any motivation or revenge aspect for the 5-2 Bonnies, Schmidt dismissively said, “You’d have to ask the players that. That’s not a question I can answer. You’d have to ask the players.”
Taqqee was more than willing to answer.
“Yeah, definitely. It makes it bigger because we lost to them last year,” Taqqee said. “But I feel like us knowing that they’re a good team and knowing that this is a good game on our schedule that we need to take care of, that’s one reason why I think we all know we need to circle this game.”
Hofstra has the 297th-ranked scoring defense, which could lead to the Bonnies scoring 85 or more points for the fifth game this year. Opponents have scored at least 80 points on the Pride five times this season. Considering backcourt duo Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley are each averaging at least 20 points a game, the only teammates in Division I doing so, a repeat of the offensive performance against Central Michigan isn’t far-fetched.”
“I was actually talking to Jay about that,” Taqqee said. “I was saying we need to just hear what the coaches have to say about them defensively, because if other teams are putting up that many points there’s a weakness. I feel like we need to just take this week, study and see what we can have on the offensive end.”
While close wins against Siena and UB have given Bonaventure experience and confidence, a decisive win that doesn’t go down to the wire could conserve some energy and be just as important. For that to happen, Hofstra’s offense must be contained.
“Yeah, it’s just getting those stops,” Taqqee said. “I feel like the last couple games some people caught hot hands, so we had no control over that. It’s definitely something we need to take care of and not have it go down to the wire. But a win is a win. so I’m just happy that we’re taking care of business.”
“It’s gonna be a high-scoring game. Hopefully we can stop them a little bit” said Schmidt, who is coaching the 192nd scoring defense himself. “But it can’t be ‘they score, we score.’ We’ve gotta find a way to limit them a little bit. They scored 89 against us up here, so it’s something that we have to do a better job keeping the ball out of the paint. We’ve done that at times and at times we’ve slipped. It’s gonna be a great challenge. They’re really good off the bounce and they can shoot it.”
This is also the Bonnies’ first true road game of the slate. With only four on the active roster who suited up in a brown and white uniform for an away game in 2015-16. Schmidt noted that as a concern.
“It’s always hard to go on the road,” he said. “It’s more difficult to win on the road. You’ve gotta play much better on the road, you’ve gotta have that right mentality.
“We had some success last year… we have a few guys back who understand, but it’s gonna be a new experience for most of our guys. So that’s a concern, but hopefully we understand what we’re going into. Hofstra’s a really good team, so it’s gonna be difficult.”