By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
After each of the last two St. Bonaventure losses, an SBU player has sat in the Reilly Center media room and admitted that the Bonnies lack cohesion on defense.
First, it was Denzel Gregg, who said after the 81-80 loss to UNC-Wilmington, “We don’t play together well right now, gotta work on that.”
After Thursday night’s 106-101 defeat at the hands of rival Canisius, it was Matt Mobley who said, “We’re not talking out there. At times it feels like we’re just five individuals trying to do our job. We’re not helping each other out.”
Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt was more blunt, saying, “The inventors of this game are probably rolling in their graves.”
Regular observers of Bona basketball could peg the latest loss as another rough pre-holiday showing, as the program has won just one of its last five games before the typical break for Christmas.
However, those past teams weren’t admitting they weren’t talking on defense, and those teams weren’t giving up 15 three-pointers to their most hated rival.
Whatever Schmidt has to do to get his players to stop playing as individuals and start defending the perimeter, he needs to do it soon. Because while first A-10 opponent UMass only shoots 31 percent from behind the arc, the Minutemen attempt 28 treys a game, 10th-most in the nation. You don’t have to look far to find the last time the Dayton Flyers went on a three-point barrage in the Reilly Center; they were a scorching 14-of-24 in a 78-61 drubbing in 2015. And while the Golden Griffins were shooting the lights out in Olean, George Mason was making 10 triples to extend its winning streak to nine games.
This Bonaventure team could be like last year’s group: lose a non-conference game before Christmas to a key rival (Siena on Dec. 22, 2015), troubleshoot the issues and go on a win streak to start the A-10 season. But last year’s squad didn’t have as obvious of an Achilles’ Heel as they wrapped up the non-league slate; it only allowed opponents to make 32 percent of shots from deep.
“Part of it is dribble penetration,” Schmidt said. “We have a hard time keeping the ball in front of us, so when we get beat, now it’s rotations and they do a good job of making that extra pass. We got off to a tough start. When they’re hitting threes it gives them more confidence, especially the freshmen.”
Bona can’t give A-10 teams that confidence. The current Bonnies roster is too quick and too talented for the defensive showings they displayed for many of the first 12 games. Offensive explosions like Mobley’s 33-point night, including the shot to force overtime, can’t go to waste if you’re going to contend for another A-10 title.
It all starts with communication.