(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
Of the six consecutive victories the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team has had against the St. Joseph’s Hawks, Tuesday night’s was the most improbable.
The Bonnies came out ice-cold, entered the locker room at halftime down 15 and trailed by as much as 18, yet pulled off an impressive 67-63 win in front of 3,961 fans at the Reilly Center. They improved to 13-6, 5-2 in the Atlantic 10.
It was a tale of two halves for junior guard Matt Mobley, one of the game’s heroes. Mobley was held scoreless on just three attempts over the first 28 minutes before making his first shot, a three-pointer, with 12:18 remaining.
After watching the first shot splash in, the Worchester, Mass. native’s entire game turned around. He scored 10 points, dished out two assists and grabbed a rebound over the last 12 minutes of the game, helping turn a 12-point deficit to just one when he made his final jumper.
Forward Josh Ayeni proved to be more clutch than the average freshman with the eventual game-winner. Ayeni pump-faked, dribbled to his left and put up a smooth jumper that caught nothing but net to put Bona up one with 1:31 on the clock.
“I worked on (that shot) everyday, so my coach trusts me, my teammates trust me, so I’m confident,” Ayeni said.
Point guard Jaylen Adams took it from there, coolly swishing four free throws to ice the victory. Adams scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half and also dished out five assists to just two turnovers.
After an 11-of-26 first half, SBU was a lethal 57 percent (12-of-21) from the floor in the second. After St. Joe’s made six three-pointers in the first, the brown and white’s defense clamped down and only allowed one of the Hawks’ 11 attempts to go in in the second. Denzel Gregg recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
In the end, Hawks coach Phil Martelli was resigned to criticizing some fans for yelling early in the national anthem.
“I’m really proud of the guys’ effort,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt remarked. “We didn’t play well, especially in the first half. I don’t know if it was the layoff, we were just stagnant… I think we were down by 11 with like five minutes left and we were dead in the water.
“If you don’t have character guys and tough guys and guys that want to win, we would’ve quit. It was a credit to those guys to come back and hit the shots we needed to hit and get the stops. We couldn’t have played better in the last five minutes.”
What was said at halftime that sparked the change? Mobley wasn’t going to divulge.
“We just had to come out and play hard, that’s all that was.”
Was Schmidt animated? “He’s always animated, so it was nothing new.”
Perhaps the most delighting moment for the fans, other than the final scoreboard, was when James Demery, who tweeted Sunday night that the Reilly Center was “not that loud,” missed two jumpers and a free throw over the last two minutes and change. Demery finished with 13 points, tied for second on the team to Lamarr Kimble’s 14, but was an easy target on Twitter after.
The crowd didn’t have much to cheer about in the first 30 minutes, but turned up the volume when the comeback was unfolding.
“Yeah, he’s probably regretting that tweet a little bit,” Mobley said with a smile. “We got the win, so that’s most important.
“We proved the RC was a little tougher than he expected.”