(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The last time the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team lost to St. Joseph’s, the students in Bonaventure’s graduating class of 2017 were freshmen.
Denzel Gregg is the only player remaining from that team. He made three free throws in the final minute of that 67-48 Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinal defeat, a game where the teams were tied at halftime but Joe’s outscored Bona 38-19 in the second half. The Hawks had two future NBA players on that team, DeAndre’ Bembry and Langston Galloway.
Since that matchup, the Bonnies are 6-0 against the Hawks, tied for the longest winning streak they have against another A-10 team (Saint Louis).
Winning in Philadelphia didn’t always occur this frequently. From the 1994-95 season to 2010-11, Bona won just five road games in 42 tries at Joe’s, La Salle and Temple; four of those wins were over La Salle.
On Wednesday at 7, Bonaventure will visit the most depleted Joe’s team it’s seen in a while. In addition to junior guard Shavar Newkirk tearing his ACL in the A-10 opener against George Washington, Lamarr Kimble suffered a season-ending foot injury on Feb. 11, five games after he scored 14 at Bonaventure on Jan. 24.
Coach Phil Martelli’s team lost that game to UMass on Feb. 11, then dropped games at VCU and La Salle. The Hawks sit at 10-16 overall, 3-11 in the conference, in the midst of a six-game losing streak. In addition to being up 18 at one point in the loss at the Reilly Center on Jan. 24, they were competitive at Dayton before Kimble’s injury (77-70) and at VCU after it (91-81), but were not able to pull off upsets.
The Bonnies are listed as 5.5-point road favorites and, after Rhode Island and Richmond won home games last night, need to win to stay in realistic contention for a top four spot and double-bye in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
“They were without (Newkirk) in game one and they had us by 18, so that speaks to that one,” Schmidt remarked. “They’re much bigger. Those role guys have become go-to guys, they’re attacking the basket more (and) they’ve got great size… You don’t score 81 at VCU without good players and guys that are attacking the basket.”
Standout freshman forward Charlie Brown has scored 13 or more points in 11 of the last 12 games, including 19 against VCU. Junior James Demery is the leading healthy scorer, going for 17 against VCU and 18 against La Salle. Brendan Casper added 13 in that VCU game despite averaging just 4.7 points on the season.
“It happens… that’s part of basketball,” Gregg said of SJU’s injuries. “It happens to every team in college basketball; someone gets hurt, someone goes down, someone can’t play, then other guys step up. We’re not really worried about that, we’re worried about us and what we’ve gotta do to move forward.”
While the Hawks are above just two teams in conference scoring defense, they are seventh in opponent field goal percentage and eighth in rebounding margin. Demery and Brown have been strong defenders.
After Jaylen Adams scored 31 in Bona’s last trip to Hagan Arena last year, Martelli double-teamed him every chance he could get in the ensuing Rochester game. Adams was held to six points on four shot attempts, but it led to a historic performance when Marcus Posley scored 47 points.
Matt Mobley may not have a historic game like Posley’s on Wednesday night, but he will have ample opportunities to get buckets. Mobley scored 13 second-half points in the first meeting, freeing Adams up to add 12.
As Adams has said, it’s “pick your poison” with SBU’s high-octane backcourt.
“Jay is always the focus for every team,” Schmidt said. “When we’re good, we have three or four guys scoring the basketball, so hopefully Jay will do his part and Matt will do his part and Denzel will do his part and we can find a fourth guy. The more people that we have scoring, the more difficult it is for the opponent to guard us.”
As J.P. Butler wrote in the Olean Times Herald on Tuesday, the need for a third scoring option is critical. The Bonnies are 8-1 when Gregg scores 14 points or more, 6-0 when he scores 16 or more and 2-7 when he’s held to single-digits.
In addition to that stat, the Bonnies are 5-1 this year when Idris Taqqee scores 10 or more, 5-3 when David Andoh puts up double-figures and 4-1 when Amadi Ikpeze scores five or more.
Who could be the fourth scorer in Philly?
“I don’t know, it could be all different guys,” Schmidt said. “When Denzel plays well we’re a different type of team, and then if we get that fourth guy in there, whoever that may be; one of our big guys inside, Idris, it could be any one of those guys. But if we get that fourth guy, whoever it is, we’re that much harder to guard and that much better offensively.”
As far as motivation, Gregg thinks his young teammates have plenty of it. But that doesn’t stop the team’s captains from doing some motivating of their own.
“I definitely think they have it, but it always helps to have a little extra push from a veteran guy,” he said. “I think between me and Jay and Idris, I think we’ll be able to get that done, and look forward to doing so.”