By: Jeff Uveino
You don’t want to miss Friday night at the Reilly Center.
Two of the Atlantic 10’s top teams will do battle when the #16 nationally ranked Rhode Island Rams come to St. Bonaventure. Not only do the Rams bring what is tied for the nation’s longest winning streak (16 games) to Olean, they also bring a colossal amount of hype surrounding this game.
The St. Bonaventure Athletic Department announced Monday afternoon that the game had already sold out. This is certainly the biggest game the RC has hosted since #18 VCU came to town three seasons ago, and some are even calling it the biggest game in Reilly Center history. When you look at what’s at stake for the Bonnies, it doesn’t seem out of line to think that.
The Bonnies sit at 19-6 overall, and 9-4 in Alantic 10 play. Although they got a big road victory over Syracuse during non-conference play, many feel that the Bonnies haven’t had a “signature win” that will propel them into the NCAA tournament field. Rhode Island, who enters this game with a 21-3 overall record, including a perfect 13-0 in A 10 play, presents an opportunity for that win.
However, even with the Wolf Pack breathing down their necks, the Rams are not going to be easy to beat.
Rhode Island features a plethora of guards who can score, including seniors Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews.
Terrell is the Rams’ leading scoring, averaging 17.5 points per game so far this year.
Matthews, whom some feel is Rhode Island’s biggest threat, has averaged 12.9 PPG since returning from an early-season wrist injury. However, there are question marks on whether he will be at 100% Friday night.
Matthews left the Rams’ game vs Richmond on Tuesday night after suffering a knee injury. His official status is uncertain at this point, but it was reported on Wednesday morning that no serious damage was done to his knee.
Another threat the Bonnies will need to find an answer for is Rhode Island big man Andre Berry. Berry, who stands at 6’8, 275 pounds, averages 9.6 PPG this season.
The Rams average 77.3 PPG as a team, good enough for 3rd in the Atlantic 10.
The good news for the Bonnies, however, is they score at a slightly higher clip than the Rams. St. Bonaventure’s 77.6 PPG, as well as their 40% three-point field goal percentage, are both best in the conference.
Much like Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure has been led by the play of their senior guards.
Jaylen Adams comes in averaging 20.5 PPG, tied for second best in the A10. Adams had back-to-back 40-point games last week, scoring 40 in a road win against Duquesne before dropping 44 in a home victory over Saint Louis.
He shoots nearly 51% from beyond the arc, good enough for 6th in the nation.
Adams’ backcourt mate Matt Mobley averages 18.5 PPG and has shown at times this season that he can be dangerous as well.
The Bonnies will likely need to rely heavily on their guards, as always, if they want a shot at beating this Rhode Island team.
If you can point to an X-factor for this game, Courtney Stockard seems like a good fit. The Bonnies junior forward has averaged 11.1 PPG and has scored at least 10 points in four straight contests. His versatility could be key for St. Bonaventure if their big men get in trouble.
These two teams met earlier in the season in Rhode Island, resulting in an 87-73 Rams victory.
The game was tight in the first half and Rhode Island only led by three at the break, but the Rams looked like the better team in the second half as they pulled away.
Coach Mark Schmidt and his Bonnies will look to change that Friday night as they continue to chase an NCAA tournament bid.
For Rhode Island, this is one of the biggest tests remaining on their schedule before the A 10 tournament, and then possibly the NCAA tournament.
Although the Rams have looked almost unbeatable in conference play this year, under the national spotlight on ESPN2 Friday night one thing is for sure—the Reilly Center will give them all it has.