(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
If you like star power, Tuesday night’s St. Bonaventure-Davidson game at Belk Arena figures to be one of your favorite Atlantic 10 games of the year.
The two highest-scoring duos in the conference meet up as Bona’s Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley suit up against Davidson’s Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge.
Gibbs leads Adams in scoring by just .3, 21.5 points per game to 21.2. Aldridge and Mobley are right behind, averaging 21 and 19.5, respectively.
The second-highest-scoring pair of teammates in the country facing the fourth-highest-scoring duo makes this game must-see television. Add in the fact that the Bonnies’ hopes at a double-bye in the Atlantic 10 Tournament are still alive (although slim) and that it’s Gibbs’s Senior Night, and you have perhaps the most intriguing league game of Bona’s season.
The Bonnies and Wildcats enter with opposite streaks, SBU winners of its last two games and Davidson losers of two straight. Davidson lost to Richmond by eight and led Dayton by 10 with 5:36 left, only to surrender the lead and fall by seven in overtime.
Gibbs and Aldridge each scored 27 and played all 45 minutes against the Flyers. Aldridge has averaged 24 points and just over 10 rebounds over his last four games, making the junior the A-10’s leading scorer in conference games.
Bonnies fans haven’t forgotten the heartbreaking overtime loss to the Wildcats in last year’s A-10 Tournament quarterfinals in Brooklyn. A Marcus Posley jump shot gave Bona a 75-72 lead with 33 seconds left but Aldridge was fouled from behind the three-point line with 11 seconds remaining. Aldridge made all three foul shots and Davidson went on to beat a banged-up SBU team in overtime, 90-86.
This is the first and only 2017 regular season meeting. Davidson got three full days to prepare after Friday night’s game, while Bonaventure was afforded just two. Against a Wildcats team that has two elite scorers and, perhaps more importantly, leads the league in three-pointers attempted with 732 in 27 games, the last few days have been vital for the Bona coaching staff.
“They’re complicated,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt acknowledged. “Their motion offense is different from anybody else’s in the league, so our guys have to be really alert and understand what they’re trying to do. They’re a really good offensive team and hard to guard. When they’re shooting the ball well from the perimeter, when they’re knocking down threes, 10, 11, 12, it’s really hard to beat them.
“Hopefully they’re not shooting the ball well. They’re going to get some open looks. Hopefully we can limit their open looks, because if they’re knocking them down, it’s going to be a long day.”
Davidson is 6-4 this year when it makes 10 or more threes and 1-2 when it hits six or fewer. When the Wildcats make at least 40 percent of their triples, they are 4-1. In addition to Aldridge and Gibbs, Jon Ax Gudmundsson, Rusty Reigel and Jordan Watkins are other threats to make some shots from long range.
“They run offense, they get really good shots, no matter who’s getting those shots,” Schmidt said. “If you put too much emphasis on Aldridge and Gibbs those other guys can come up and bite you. They’re a great offensive team because they can share the ball, one guy just doesn’t dominate the ball. They really do a good job of finding the open man, making the extra pass so it’s a great challenge for us and for our players.”
The Wildcats’ effectiveness inside will be up in the air until warmups, as 6-foot-11 forward Will Magarity is questionable with a concussion that has forced him to miss the last three games. Nathan Ekwu, a 6-foot-7 junior from Enugu, Nigeria, did score eight points and grab nine rebounds in 26 minutes in last year’s tournament game.
“I think coach said like the last four games, they took like 108 threes or something crazy,” Mobley said. “We know that that’s their specialty; they’re going to run to the line, jack them up. So we’re going have to run them off the line, contest all shots and no easy looks for them at all. Because if one person hits the whole team can get going, and that’s going to be a scary sight, so we have to limit them from three.”
The game could be decided by the production of a third or fourth option, like Gudmundsson or Reigel for the ‘Cats or Denzel Gregg or Josh Ayeni for the Bonnies. But the centers of attention will be Aldridge, Gibbs, Adams and Mobley.
“Aldridge and Gibbs are the two main guys,” Schmidt stated. “I think you can survive with one of them scoring the basketball, but you can’t survive when both of them are scoring 25 and 50 together; it’s really difficult.”
“It’s their senior night, so you know Gibbs is going to want to go for 50,” Mobley said. “We’re going to have to play great defense on the road, limit our turnovers, and just try to limit them to tough looks.”