(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
St. Bonaventure men’s basketball coach Mark Schmidt acknowledged that there was no difference between the fifth and sixth seeds in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, one of which his team will have by tonight.
“There’s none,” he said. “You want to finish as high as you can, that’s the biggest thing. Win or lose we’re tied for fifth… but you only play so many games, you want to try to win as many games as you can. This is the last game of the year, and we wanna win.”
A Bonnies win over UMass this afternoon would clinch the fifth seed and a 2:30 p.m. Thursday start to tournament play in Pittsburgh. If the Bonnies (18-11, 10-7) lose to the Minutemen (14-16, 4-13) and George Washington beats Dayton in D.C., SBU would be the sixth seed and would play at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.
In addition to winning as many games as possible, Saturday is Senior Day. Denzel Gregg, David Andoh and walk-on Caleb McGuire will be honored in the traditional pregame ceremony before their final regular season game in the Reilly Center.
Bona has won three of its last five Senior Day games, including last year’s 85-83 win over UMass. In that game, the Minutemen made a three-pointer a split-second too late at the buzzer and Bona’s comeback from as many as 18 points was complete.
“You always wanna go out on a win when they’re seniors because as a senior, if you ever play at this level, you remember your last game, be it a positive or a negative,” Schmidt remarked. “When you look back at it, you want it to be a positive experience.”
The Bonnies got off to a hot start in the season’s first meeting on Dec. 30, going up 14-5 in the first five minutes. Jaylen Adams had eight of those 14 and finished with 29 points on 9-of-15 shooting as the brown and white overcame Josh Ayeni’s ejection to prevail with an 89-77 win.
That was the A-10 opener, and there have been 16 games since then. But the Bonnies learned how they need to attack coach Derek Kellogg’s team.
“I think that we need to come out with the same aggressiveness,” Adams said. “I think in the first game, we came out in attack mode. We got it inside, we played inside-out. I know they outscored us in the paint, but we played in the paint and it led to some easy shots. I think we need to go in there with the same type of gameplan.”
The Minutemen come in at No. 154 in the KenPom ratings and No. 185 in RPI. The only A-10 statistical categories they are above average in are blocked shots (second, just over five a game), assists (fourth, 15 per game) and steals (fourth, seven a game). After beating Dayton by 12 on Jan. 11 and losing by just two at Rhode Island, they are 3-9 since.
With four scorers who are averaging double-figure points (Donte Clark, Rashaan Holloway along with freshmen Luwane Pipkins and DeJon Jarreau)
“They’re really talented,” Schmidt said. “They’ve got really good freshmen who now aren’t freshmen any longer. Holloway has gotten better, he’s in better shape, he’s passing the ball better.
“They’re a scary team- when they play, they’re really good. They’ve got big guys, they’ve got skill guys, they’ve got great length and they’re starting a bigger lineup, which is a concern because we’re not the biggest team. When they’re shooting the ball from the perimeter, they’re as good as anybody.”
Adams is well aware of what’s at stake. In addition to the five-seed, which he called “important to us,” winning for Gregg and Andoh is also a motivating factor.
“These are our seniors, man; this is their last one suiting up in the RC,” Adams said. “Although I think we should be going hard regardless, this is extra incentive for us to send them out on a W.”