(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
For about 26 minutes on Wednesday night, the Saint Louis Billikens looked ahead of schedule- at the expense of St. Bonaventure. Travis Ford’s squad looked less like a lower-half Atlantic 10 team and more like a serious challenger to the fifth-best team in the league.
All of a sudden, the Bonnies got hot.
Down 43-38, Matt Mobley threw a long pass to Jaylen Adams, who rose up and slammed it home. It was one of those dunks Adams performs about once a game when he gets enough space, just to let you know he’s capable of them. After that, Mobley drained a three on Adams’s assist to cut the lead to two. After Billiken Elliott Welmer’s tip-in, Adams scored a layup and three-pointer, giving SBU a one-point advantage.
The Billikens would battle, re-taking the lead once and keeping the game within reach until after the under-four minute media timeout. But the hot streak from the fourth highest-scoring duo in the nation gave SBU assurance there would be no upset special in the Reilly Center after a 32-26 halftime deficit.
Bonaventure used a 44-23 second half to grab the 70-55 victory, improving to 15-8 overall and 7-4 in the A-10. Adams and Mobley both shot 7-of-15 from the field, scoring 20 points and 19 points, respectively. They combined for 27 in the second half.
“When they play well we’re a really good team,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt noted. “They didn’t play well in the first half, but they really picked it up and played well in the second half, and that’s what we need.”
Down the stretch, the backcourt mates needed help closing the deal, and they received it in their big men. Freshman Amadi Ikpeze played 23 minutes and proved to be a strong matchup for fellow Buffalonian Reggie Agbeko. Ikpeze scored six points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Agbeko had just four points and five boards.
Ikpeze made a couple of the hook shots that have become his strength and hit a pull-up jumper as well. When asked if Schmidt gave him the green light to shoot those shots, the freshman confidently replied, “He knows I can shoot.”
“It translates into the game,” he said. “Like I do it everyday in practice, why can’t I do it in the game? So it’s like really no different.”
Denzel Gregg registered his seventh double-double of the season, 14 points and 11 rebounds. After committing six turnovers in the last two games, the Syracuse native only committed one against the Billikens.
The Bonnies were firing on all cylinders in the second half, inside and outside. They shot 58 percent in the final 20 minutes, making four of six three-point attempts.
“Against Saint Louis, they try to keep the game in the 60s,” Schmidt said. “Sometimes it’s hard when you’re not scoring because you know when you miss a shot you’re gonna go down the other end and play for 30 seconds against their weave.
“So give our guys credit that even though we stunk in the first half shooting the ball, we still gave ourselves the chance in the second half. I thought the last seven minutes of the second half, we couldn’t have played better.”
SLU got 18 of its 32 first-half points from behind the three-point arc, but missed 12 of 13 such attempts in the second. The 1-3-1 zone worked like a charm, as it has for the last month.
Gregg described being at the top of the 1-3-1 zone, a spot that Dion Wright patrolled for two years before graduation, as “tiring, but fun.”
“I don’t know, we just didn’t come out ready to play right away, and it kind of took us getting punched in the mouth a little to wake us up,” Gregg said. “Once we woke up, we got it going. And it’s good that we responded, but you always wanna play 40 minutes and nine minutes isn’t gonna be good enough every night.”
There’s a chance Bonaventure plays Saint Louis again in Pittsburgh for the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Schmidt knows Ford will continue to have the Billikens improving.
“They’ve won two out of three… They’re much better,” Schmidt said. “Travis is doing a great job with them and they’re slowing it down and making you play. When your offense isn’t scoring, it’s gonna be a close game, and that’s what it was for the first 32, 33 minutes.”
SBU will shift its focus to an away date with George Washington on Saturday.