By Josh Svetz
Editor’s Note: News about Jaylen Adams being ruled out and Courtney Stockard playing came out after the initial posting of this article.
The show must go on.
Today the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team will get its first big TV exposure of the season against the undefeated Maryland Terrapins (5-0) at 9:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
While the exposure invites excitement, one question remains unanswered as game-time looms.
Star senior guard Jaylen Adams has yet to play this season due to an ankle injury he suffered in an exhibition game against Alfred.
While originally expected to be ready for the Emerald Coast Classic, Adams’ lack of practice time over the week has his status tonight in question.
Its no secret that not having Adams changes the game plan for both teams.
But, the show must go on.
If Adams sits, the Bonnies will look to deploy a three-guard lineup with junior Nelson Kaputo sliding into the point guard spot aside seniors Matt Mobley and Idris Taqqee.
Projected next to the three is junior forward LaDarien Griffin and sophomore big Josh Ayeni, who didn’t start last game due to disciplinary reasons.
If Adams is out, the Bonnies will be relying heavily on Mobley’s slashing and three point shooting ability to carry them.
The Preseason All-Conference First Team selection hasn’t missed a beat, averaging 25.0 points per game (ppg), tied for 10th in the NCAA.
Along with Mobley, the Bonnies will need scoring from a combination Kaputo, Griffin and Ayeni.
Kaputo has stepped in for Adams and seems to be getting into a rhythm, improving his stats and efficiency each game.
Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, Kaputo made the most of his 21 minutes scoring 15 points off 50% from the field, notching 5 steals and finishing with no turnovers in a blowout.
Griffin’s been one of the most consistent Bonnies sliding into the Dion Wright role nicely, averaging 8.7 ppg, 7 rebounds and averaging an assist,block and steal per game.
Ayeni’s had an up-and-down campaign so far, scoring 16 points against Jackson State, only to follow that up with no points, and four fouls in nine minutes against Maryland Eastern-Shore. In fact, there’s a chance the Bonnies start fellow sophomore Amadi Ikpeze instead.
In three games, Ikpeze is averaging 4 points and 3 rebounds with a block a game. Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, Ikpeze made the most of his first start of the season scoring 4 points on 2-4 shooting with 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist.
With questions about who’s going to start in the Bonnies lineup, the bench depth could also take a hit as reports say junior forward Courtney Stockard has been limited in practice all week.
On the plus side, the Bonnies may have found a new contributor in freshman forward Tshiefu Ngalakulondi. “Chef” put himself on the radar in style. Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, the Chef scored 21 points off 73% shooting including four threes and three steals and a block.
Of course, that was against Maryland Eastern-Shore, this is against Maryland, the level of competition couldn’t be more different.
Still, it’ll be interesting to see if Head Coach Mark Schmidt decides to give the freshman some added minutes.
While the Bonnies have many question marks, the Terrapins look like a sure thing.
Through five games, the Terrapins have proved to possibly be better than last season with wins over both Bonnies opponents Jackson State and Maryland Eastern-Shore, along with a convincing victory over previously undefeated Butler.
The lead man for the Terrapins is sophomore Anthony Cowan, averaging 14.0 ppg, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
NBA draft hopeful and fellow sophomore Justin Jackson has improved on every number from last season except for scoring at 8.0 ppg.
Along with Cowan, the Terrapins have two players scoring in double-figures, including 6-10 freshman forward Bruno Fernando.
The Terrapins bring pressure and use both their bigs to create turnovers on defense, while also sporting a top-20 scoring defense, holding opponents to 58.4 ppg.
With Adams, the Bonnies will have a better three point scoring team, but rust could affect the star.
Without Adams, the Bonnies will need Kaputo to pick up the slack.
Regardless of who plays, the Bonnies will need to force the Terrapins to shoot from behind the arc, as they shoot just over 37% from the triple, compared to their 52% from the field.
Turnovers could also dictate the game.
In the Terrapins closest win, the Bucknell Bison punished their bigs and set the tempo, limiting the turnovers in the first half, getting out to a 15-point lead. But in the second half, the Terrapins switched to handle the bigs and sped up the Bison’s guards, resulting in a 80-78 win over the Bison.
For Bonas, early in the year they struggled with turnovers against Niagara. To combat the Terrapins’ pressure, they’ll need to slow down the tempo and establish an inside game early to open three pointers for the guards, especially Mobley.
Opening as a nine-point underdog, its hard to tell which Bonnies team will show up tonight.
But one thing is for sure; with or without Adams, the Bonnies are in for a grind.