Men’s basketball: Counting down Denzel Gregg’s 12 best games in the Reilly Center

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By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

Tomorrow afternoon marks St. Bonaventure senior forward Denzel Gregg’s last regular season game in the Reilly Center. Bonnies fans have watched Gregg develop from an athletic wing off the bench, to the Atlantic 10’s Sixth Man of the Year to the team’s No. 3 scoring option.

The Syracuse, N.Y. native has scored 464 of his 788 career points, grabbed 279 of his 518 career rebounds and recorded 80 of his 135 career blocks at home. He’s always played his best basketball on Bob Lanier Court.

Before No. 12 plays in the Reilly Center for his last scheduled time, here’s my list of his 12 best games there to date:

12. The Debut. Gregg scored just two points in his first official game in the RC, but had eight rebounds to establish himself as a good rebounder early in a win over South Dakota.

“I thought Denzel Gregg was a big plus for us, coming off as a freshman,” SBU coach Mark Schmidt said, before joking, “I can just imagine, you know, 50 years ago, well probably not 50 years ago, when I was a freshman.

“Going in and trying to play, the lights are on and you’re a little bit nervous, a lot nervous. But he was a big plus for us.”

11. Grand finale. Not many remember that Gregg originally committed to Fordham before being released from his letter of intent and becoming a Bonnie. In his sophomore year regular season finale, he scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in a 66-52 win over the Rams. In one of just six starts that year, he made four of his eight attempts from the field.

“I thought Denzel kept us in the game a little bit in the first half,” Schmidt remarked.

10. Strong postseason showing. The Bonnies suffered a disappointing opening-round NIT loss to Wagner, but Gregg was one of five scorers in double-figures in his first postseason tournament. With 10 points, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals, he produced a solid final junior year stat line.

9. Battle of the Syracuse natives. On Homecoming 2016, Gregg and fellow Syracuse native Tyler Cavanaugh faced off. Both players put up good numbers, but the Bonnies prevailed with a 64-57 win. Gregg scored 11 points, corralled eight boards and blocked two shots as SBU earned win No. 17.

8. First double-double. Gregg scored 15 points and tallied 11 rebounds in the 2015-16 season opener, a win over Binghamton. It was his first career double-double as he went 6-of-12 from the floor and also blocked four shots as well.

Schmidt called Gregg a “spark” in the narrow 63-53 decision.

7. 8-for-8. Free throws haven’t always come easy to Gregg, but he made all eight attempts from the line in last year’s conference opener, a win over Davidson. It was his only perfect free throw performance with more than two attempts in his career, paving the way to 13 points along with five rebounds and four assists.

6. Starting senior season right. Gregg had a then-career-high 23 points in this year’s season opener against St. Francis (Pa.), making 11 of his 16 shots and registering three blocks as well. Bonaventure won 92-82.

“Denzel did a terrific job, especially in the first half,” Schmidt said.

5. UMass upset. Before No. 21 UMass came to town on Jan. 29, 2014, Bona had a 24-game losing streak against ranked teams dating back to 2000. The Bonnies snapped that skid with a 78-65 win, prompting a raucous court-storming.

Gregg scored a then-career-high eight points and collected seven rebounds. He displayed some raw athleticism by putting back a missed shot with an and-one layup, then driving the lane, losing his defender and slamming home a dunk.

“I thought Denzel Gregg had a terrific first half. I thought he gave us a big lift,” Schmidt said.

4. Next man up. When Jaylen Adams left the Jan. 7 game against George Mason with an injury that would sideline him for two games, Gregg stepped up the scoring in his place, with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting. He completed a double-double with 12 boards and two blocks.

“Shots were going in,” Gregg said. “Just being aggressive… Making shots, you have good days.”

3. Lob City, VCU upset. Marcus Posley’s buzzer-beater was the lasting moment from Bona’s 73-71 victory over No. 18 VCU on Feb. 7, 2015, but Gregg had some memorable moments as well. He threw down an alley-oop from Posley with 9:51 remaining to put the Bonnies up 57-50, the two loudest points of his eventual 10 for the game. He made all four shots from the field, grabbed three rebounds and swatted three shots.

“Denzel made me looks good there,” Posley said, with a laugh, about the alley-oop.

2. Rhode Island takeover. A fourth straight win to start 2016 league play didn’t come easy against Rhody, but Gregg powered the Bonnies through. He put up 22 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor and a 10-of-11 clip from the free throw stripe. He wasn’t going to let Bona lose against Hassan Martin and co.; 16 of his 22 points came in the second half.

“He played the best game of his career,” Schmidt stated then.

1. Rolling over the Explorers. Bona’s matchup with La Salle on Feb. 15 was projected to be a close game between two even teams. The Bonnies ended that talk rather quickly, going into halftime with a 51-30 lead and eventually winning 83-65. Gregg scored his 18 of his current career-high 28 points in the first half, making eight of his first nine shots and shooting 13-of-18 for the game.

“I think I was just being aggressive from the jump and a couple shots fell early, and it was just a snowball effect from there,” Gregg said. “Just my confidence and everything came easy.


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