(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team has enough athleticism, strength and talent to compete with any team in the Atlantic 10.
Bona’s skills only make the Dayton Flyers’ 90-74 victory on Tuesday night more impressive. UD was able to expose the Bonnies’ biggest weakness, defending the three-point shot, to prove once again that it is the class of the conference.
The SBU coaching staff and players were hopeful that the UMass game was a sign that the perimeter defense woes were over. Instead of the bricks the Minutemen had last Friday, the Flyers made 14 of their 23 attempts from beyond the arc, seven treys in each half. Six of the nine players they sent in the game drained at least one from deep. Scoochie Smith (who had made four of his previous 27 three-balls), Kyle Davis (who came in shooting 25 percent from three) and Kendall Pollard (who was 2-of-7 from that area on the season) each got three to fall.
After the Bonnies went up 23-16 on a Jaylen Adams layup with 6:25 left in the first half, UD coach Archie Miller called a timeout to help his squad regroup. The breather helped, as the Flyers went on a 19-8 run to close the half, with five threes coming in a three-minute span.
Bonaventure would never fully recover from the blistering offense UD displayed in the last six minutes before the teams hit the locker rooms. The second half started with an and-one layup by Kendall Pollard on a play Bona coach Mark Schmidt told radio announcer Gary Nease the team had tried to prepare against all week. The defense struggled for the rest of the contest, allowing points on 25 of Dayton’s 34 second-half possessions.
The offensive clinic was performed without the services of Dayton scoring leader Charles Cooke, who sat out with back and wrist injuries. But UD had the pieces to complete a road victory without him.
“I thought the UMass game we defended much better,” Schmidt said. “I thought we had figured that out a little bit, and we knew we needed to continue to improve in that area but I thought we made strides. But we went backwards a little bit today, and give Dayton credit, they’re hard to guard. They shoot the ball like they did… it’s hard.
“It felt like Canisius: every time we broke down they hit a three when they had the opportunity. We couldn’t keep the ball in front of us.”
Despite Adams and Mobley combining for 43 points (Adams also had six rebounds and five assists and Mobley had four of each category), the brown and white did not have a great offensive night overall, going 25-of-66 from the floor in their lowest scoring output since the 68-65 loss to Arkansas-Little Rock on Nov. 21. David Andoh made one of eight attempts from the field, while Denzel Gregg went 4-of-12. That frontcourt duo made just four of nine shots at the line as well.
The game, however, was lost on the defensive end, just like the last three Bonaventure losses have been. There’s been no mystery to why Schmidt’s team is losing: when the other team launches a three, groans go up from the Reilly Center crowd because lately, there’s almost a 70 percent chance it’s going in. After the loss, the team dropped to 322nd in the nation in three-point defensive percentage (40 percent).
“Yeah, we let down mentally,” Schmidt said. “We relaxed and they got going. And even in the second half we contested some shots, but it’s like anything: once a team starts hitting threes and you left them open, now they feel good, the basket looks bigger and now we contested some but it didn’t matter. We got off to a bad start, they scored five straight possessions, 11 of the first 13 in the second half. And you can’t win in this league if you don’t defend in the halfcourt. And allowing a team to shoot 69 percent is not acceptable.”
“You can’t stop, you’ve gotta keep pushing and we didn’t keep pushing today,” Gregg said. “Once they started making shots, we just stopped playing defense and they kept making shots. Just gotta work on that, keep pushing, don’t let it bring us down.”
Meanwhile, in Ohio, the Flyer Faithful are riding the high of their team’s ninth win in the last 10 outings. If Atlantic 10 followers needed a reminder of which school was the cream of the crop in men’s hoops, they got one on Tuesday night. In a game that was still a legitimate toss-up at halftime, Scoochie, Miller and the crew grabbed the opportunity without one of their stars.
“We’ve been able to do a lot this year without a lot of people,” Miller said. “I think that’s the one thing that goes unnoticed a lot with us. (Cooke’s) not the only one over there sitting on the bench, he hasn’t been the only one sitting on the bench all season.
“The guys just show up. There’s a toughness about a couple of these guys that’s been there through the years that they have a lot of pride in what we do.