By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
DAYTON, Ohio — With less than a minute left at UD Arena, Jaylen Adams’s quest to lead St. Bonaventure to another road victory over the Flyers was still within reach.
Adams hit a deep three-pointer with 36 seconds left to cut the Dayton lead to 68-65, then answered a Kendall Pollard dunk by drawing a foul and making both free throws.
Unfortunately for the Bonnies, Scoochie Smith and Darrell Davis would cash in on six of eight free throws in the next 20 seconds. Not even another massive Adams three from near the half-court logo to give himself 35 points on the day would be enough to come back, as the Flyers won 76-72. Dayton improved to 21-5, 12-2 in the Atlantic 10, while SBU fell to 16-10, 8-6 in the conference.
“I think we’re better than our record shows,” Adams said, and it’s hard to argue with him. The Bonnies outscored the first-place Flyers 26-11 over the first 12:40 and were able to answer after they went down eight with 1:24 to go, a knockout punch for nearly every UD opponent.
Not only did Adams notch a new career high, he was by far the most efficient player on the floor, going 8-of-14 from the field, including four threes, and making 15 of his 17 free throw attempts. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out six assists, giving him 29 assists to just nine turnovers in the last three games.
Coach Archie Miller made good halftime adjustments defensively; after Bonaventure shot 13-of-26 from the field in the first half, it went just 9-of-26 in the second. After a David Andoh free throw whittled UD’s lead to just one, Bona made just three field goals over the last 5:14.
“They just adjusted to what we were doing,” Adams said. “In the first half I think we came out with the right energy. They responded in the second half, they just came out with better energy than us and they went on their run. After that, I think we were fighting uphill for a minute.”
That energy and momentum swing was aided by a technical foul called on Bonnies freshman Josh Ayeni 1:20 into the second half. Ayeni was tied up on the floor with Charles Cooke, trying to grab the ball, when a scuffle broke out. Both teams came to their teammates’ aid, as Scoochie Smith kneed Ayeni in the ribs and Kendall Pollard delivered a shove, but only Ayeni was charged with a technical.
Bona coach Mark Schmidt dismissed the play as having no factor in the game, but Adams opened up in disagreement with the call.
“I think that’s part of their gameplan. They know Josh has some techs in the past, he’s just a physical player, and I think they tried to get it out of him,” Adams explained. “I don’t think that was a technical foul, though. I think he was just fighting for the ball, and I think you’ve gotta let stuff like that go.”
The Bonnies held a 16-8 advantage in points in the paint going into the break, but Dayton outscored them 22-10 inside in the second half. Ayeni and fellow freshman Amadi Ikpeze combined for just three points and five rebounds, while committing seven fouls. SBU was whistled for 30 fouls, Dayton 19. Matt Mobley and Idris Taqqee fouled out of the physical contest.
Smith led Dayton with 19 points, while Pollard had 16 and Cooke chipped in 13. The senior Flyers were the catalysts in win No. 99 of their career, while Mobley was the only other Bonnie in double figures (though Denzel Gregg did collect eight rebounds).
It’s difficult to win any game with just one player making more than five shots from the field. It’s even harder when you’re away from home in front of 13,455 raucous fans and the opposition’s best players are starting to click.
“They’re good. Simple as that, they’re good players,” Schmidt said. “They’re an NCAA Tournament team for a reason; they’ve got good players… You go on the road in a place like this, your goal is to try to give yourself a chance to win with two minutes left, and we did that. We didn’t make the plays and they did.”
SBU led the game for a shade under 21 minutes. That alone is enough to caution the A-10 when they roll into Pittsburgh for the conference tournament less than three weeks from today.
“It shows that we belong, man,” Adams said. “We had a bunch of new guys to start off the season, and people don’t understand that you’ve gotta gel as a team. And I think we’re coming together at the right time.
“We’re gonna try to make a push at this thing late.”