(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team has made Atlantic 10 play interesting this year- for better or worse.
With 6:50 to play in Saturday’s Homecoming game against Duquesne, the Bonnies led by 14 and appeared to be on their way to a comfortable victory. At the buzzer, however, the Dukes had a shot at sending the game into overtime.
Fortunately for SBU, Duquesne guard Mike Lewis II’s heave missed the target and Bona achieved an 80-77 win, its 10th in conference play. In front of a sellout crowd of 5,480, the brown and white improved to 18-10 overall and 10-6 in the Atlantic 10 with two regular season games remaining.
How did a 14-point edge evaporate into a tie game with 1:09 on the clock?
“After we were up by 17 we just got lethargic and became unaggressive,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said. “They started attacking us, getting to the foul line and we were missing. And the 1-2-2 zone affected us.”
Similar to the first meeting, the Bonnies didn’t shoot well, going 3-of-15 from behind the three-point arc and shooting 42.9 percent overall. Unlike that Feb. 1 game, they also missed 16 free throws, including three in a row by Adams and Mobley in the last 15 seconds.
Adams made just five of his 11 free throw attempts, an unusual statistic in an unusual game.
Bona’s failure to cash in on its freebies allowed Duquesne to climb back into the game and give Schmidt’s team more trouble than it had dispatching the league’s other bottom-feeders. Not only did the Dukes cut the final score to three, they also led for 18 minutes and had the halftime lead.
“When our backcourt struggles the way they did today, we struggle,” Schmidt remarked. “Not that Matt and Jay have to play their “A” game every game but they’ve got to play a solid game. They struggled today. Give credit to Duquesne and their defense. We found a way.”
Mobley had one of the strongest starts to a half in recent memory, scoring his team’s first 12 of the second period to grab a 50-45 lead. After he and Adams combined for just nine points in the first, they went for 25 in the second. Denzel Gregg had 15 points and 14 rebounds, his eighth double-double of the year, while Josh Ayeni also posted 15 for his first double-digit scoring game since Jan. 28.
A familiar tune in Bona’s Jekyll-and-Hyde games is surrendering a three-point barrage in the first half and the opponents seemingly having a lid on the basket from deep in the second. The Dukes made eight of their 14 tries from long range in the first 20 minutes but were held to a 1-of-11 mark in the final 20.
“We defended,” Schmidt said. “That’s something we struggled on early in the year. It’s an area we’ve gotten better at. It’s a reason we held them to 37 percent from the field. … it’s the reason we won, I think.”
Lewis II scored 20 points, 13 of which came at the foul line. There were 56 fouls called in the game, disrupting any long-lasting flow. Emile Blackman and Nakye Sanders fouled out for the Dukes, while Idris Taqqee fouled out for Bona.
“Yeah, it played a huge part in the game,” said Duquesne coach Jim Ferry.
SBU has now won double-digit A-10 games in three consecutive seasons, extending the program record it set last year. Schmidt’s squad is also in line to finish sixth or higher in the league for a third straight year.
“It means a lot. It means we’ve had teams and players who’ve done a good job,” Schmidt said. “When we first got here I’m not sure if anyone would have thought we would have that type of record. It’s a testament to our players, to my coaches for what they’ve done. It’s hard to do in this league, with what we have against us, to be able to get 10 wins for three consecutive years.
“It’s good. I’m proud of it. I think our players are too.”