Bucknell comeback spoils Bonnies’ home opener

By: Isaiah Blakely 

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies lost their season opener Wednesday night 88-85 to the Bucknell Bison in the Reilly Center.

Bucknell senior guard Kimbal Mackenzie led all scorers with 28 points including four three-pointers. The Bonnies were led by freshman guard Kyle Lofton who had 18 points.

The opening minutes of this game were sloppy. Both teams combined for five turnovers in the first two and a half minutes.

Bison senior forward and Cameron County native Nate Sestina had a large support section at this game and he got the Bison going early.  Sestina hit a three pointer that sparked an 8-3 run by Bucknell giving Bucknell an early 11-6 lead.

The Bonnies bench came in and sparked a run of their own. Freshman big man Osun Osunniyi a minute into his debut blocked Sestina twice on the same possession. Four straight points by Osunniyi made it a two-point game before senior guard Nelson Kaputo scored an and-one layup. Kaputo’s free throw gave the Bonnies their first lead of the game 17-16. Kaputo ended with 10 points off the bench.

Freshman Dom Welch led the Bonnies first half scorers with eight points, and his layup with 2:58 to go put the Bonnies up 30-21. The Bonnies had five scorers in double figures including Welch who had 10 points.

Sestina who had 15 points and 16 rebounds led a 9-2 run to close the gap 32-31. Sophomore forward Tshiefu Ngalakulondi answered the Bison run with one of his two three pointers to give the Bonnies a 35-31 lead at halftime.

Bonnies started the second half fast. The Bonnies went on a 17-5 run to start the half. This run included a Kaputo three-pointer to push the lead to double digits and a junior Jalen Poyser scored two of his 13 points to put the Bonnies up 52-39 forcing Bucknell to call a timeout with 12:13 to go.

Bucknell sophomore Paul Newman kept the Bison in it by scoring nine straight points and cut the Bonnies lead to seven 55-48. Newman had 10 points off the bench.

Newman checked out and Mackenzie picked up where Newman left off. Mackenzie scores nine of the Bucknell’s next 12 points to trim Bonnies lead to 67-63.

Bonnies senior LaDarien Griffin had a big second half going back and forth with Mackenzie. Griffin hit back to back jumpers to push the Bonnies lead back up to seven with two and a half minutes to go.

Down the stretch a turnover by Lofton leads to junior Avi Toomer to score two of his nine points to tie the game at 71.

Bonnies had a chance to take the lead but Poyser turned the ball over and gave the Bison one more opportunity. Mackenzie’s jump shot rimed out as time expired and this game was going to overtime.

In the extra period Griffin got called for a foul and was injured on the play. Griffin exited the game with 13 points and 10 rebounds. This injury left the Bonnies with very few big man options because junior Amadi Ikpeze and Osunniyi fouled out with six points and eight points respectively.

After the injury junior Bruce Moore hit back to back shots scoring five of his nine points in overtime and putting the Bison up 77-74 with three minutes to go.

The teams go back and forth with scoring but after a Welch missed three-pointer, Mackenzie out of a timeout scored a layup to put the Bison up 83-78 with 19 seconds left.

The Bonnies had two chances at a tie. After a missed free throw by Bucknell Lofton gets fouled on a three pointer and his shot rimmed out. He made all three free throws. With three seconds left after Mackenzie made two free throws, Poyser got a shot up but it missed, and the Bison escaped with the win.

Coach Mark Schmidt talked about what he thought about the team performance.

“We didn’t quit. We have a young team,” said Schmidt. “We were going through some injuries during the game. But we have to get better in those situations, whether they’re freshmen or seniors. We need to be able to take that game and win it.”

Bonnies are going to try and take their next game at home Saturday against Jackson State.

 

Picture courtesy: Craig Melvin/SBU Sports Information

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