By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
With players rarely entering the NBA Draft early, developing their games over four years of college in lieu of being one-and-done talents, the Atlantic 10 is full of seniors that seem to have been in school for forever.
Dayton guard Scoochie Smith is one example and Davidson guard Jack Gibbs is another. You can add VCU forward Mo Alie-Cox to the list as well.
Richmond (9-6, 3-0 A-10) has two seniors on their roster that have fallen into the “still there” category: T.J. Cline and ShawnDre’ Jones. Both will have an impact, as always, when the teams tip on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Robins Center.
This is actually the 6-foot-9 Cline’s third year as a Spider, but the Bonnies are about to face him for the fifth time. Cline, the son of Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, transferred to Richmond from Niagara. He experienced one Big 4 rivalry game against Bonaventure as a Purple Eagle, scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds despite an 80-75 Bona victory in Rochester.
In total, Cline has averaged 14 points on 47 percent shooting in four games against the Bonnies, with a 2-2 record. This season, he’s ninth in the league in points with 18 a game and third in assists with 5.1 a contest.
Jones, the A-10’s 2015 Sixth Man of the Year, has enjoyed success against the brown and white, with 13 points a game in the last four meetings. His 6-foot listing may be generous, but his per-game averages this season have been big: 16.7 points (12th in the A-10), 4.1 assists (eighth) and 43.7 percent three-point shooting (third). The only other players who rank in the top 15 in each of those categories are Bona’s Jaylen Adams, VCU’s JeQuan Lewis and Davidson’s Jack Gibbs.
Cline and Jones also have a nice supporting cast, with five teammates who have started at least two games this season and are averaging five or more points.
Sophomore guard Khwan Fore scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting and collected seven rebounds in the Reilly Center last season. Fore is chipping in 11 points for the Spiders this year and has shot a better percentage away from home. Freshman guard De’Monte Buckingham, last week’s A-10 Rookie of the Week, has added nine points and is 12th in the league in field goal percentage at 50 percent.
“Their offense, they run similar to Davidson where they’re just moving and cutting a lot,” Bonnies forward Denzel Gregg said. “And we’ve been struggling on the defensive end, so it’ll be a really good test. You’ve really gotta sit down, focus and guard, and really be able to guard all of their action, I think that’s the biggest challenge.”
6-foot-8 senior forward Marshall Wood will likely still be sidelined due to mononucleosis and 6-foot-9 freshman Grant Golden is out with heart problems, so expect a small Spider lineup; Cline is the only other player who has started a game this year who stands taller than 6-foot-5.
While Richmond knows who will be active or inactive in Wednesday’s game, Bonaventure’s injury report is the focus, with junior guard Jaylen Adams listed as a “game-time decision.”
Adams, who enters Wednesday’s action No. 10 in the nation in scoring (22.3 points per game), No. 15 in assists (6.2) and 24th in free throws made (87 total), left Saturday’s win over George Mason with an ankle injury and did not practice on Monday before the team left for Virginia.
“He tweaked (the ankle) a little bit, but hopefully we’ll have him by Wednesday,” Schmidt said on Monday in the league’s weekly teleconference.
Whether Adams would have returned against Mason if the game had been closer or sophomore Nelson Kaputo hadn’t performed as well in his absence is merely speculation at this point, but he did return to the bench in the game’s last few minutes after being taped up in the locker room, which was a good sign.
If Adams cannot go, Kaputo becomes vital to victory against a Richmond team looking for its first 4-0 start to league play since 1991-92. The Canadian scored 13 points, including three three-pointers, against the Patriots, his highest scoring output since he dropped 14 on Niagara in December 2015.
Gregg filled the stat sheet on Saturday, putting up 24 points and 12 boards for his sixth double-double in the last 12 contests and sixth straight double-digit point game. It was a very reassuring performance for SBU, considering Adams was on the bench and junior Matt Mobley made just two of his 10 shot attempts.
The Bonnies lead Richmond in most offensive categories (the Spiders have a slightly higher field goal percentage, has made three more total threes and averages three more assists), while the Spiders lead in most defensive categories.
The main difference in the game could be rebounding. Bona has a plus-3.1 rebounding margin, good for fourth in the conference. Richmond has a negative rebounding margin at -5.5.
Gregg leads the league in offensive boards, with 49 total. As a team, Bona leads the league in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 37 percent of their opportunities on the offensive glass. This leads to second-chance points, which lead to wins.
For a Bonaventure program that hasn’t won at Richmond since 2009, that could be the winning recipe.
“I obviously know that a little bit,” Gregg said. “Just being here four years, I know that we haven’t won a lot of games down here. So it would be just a little plus for me just to go out at the end of my career and get a good win in Richmond, but every game is a big game for us… we just want to focus on our game and make sure we get the W.”