photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Jeff Uveino
The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team defeated George Mason, 79-56, on Sunday afternoon at the Reilly Center– and after the final buzzer sounded, you couldn’t find a face in the RC without a smile.
The win was the 203rd of head coach Mark Schmidt’s career at Bonaventure. That number breaks Larry Weise’s career record for coaching wins at the school, which had stood for 46 years.
The afternoon was capped off by a tear-jerking postgame video tribute.
Congratulatory messages from former Bonnies star Andrew Nicholson, Bona alumnus and top ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, Larry Weise himself and more were followed by a nostalgic trip through some of Schmidt’s most notable wins.
The milestone victory comes 12 years after Schmidt took over the Bonaventure program.
“When you make family decisions like we did, you just never know if you’re making the right decision or not,” said Schmidt. “But I feel comfortable here. The people here have taken us in and made us feel welcomed, and it feels like home.”
Lost in the Schmidt hype was one of the best performances the Bonnies have turned in this season, and another stellar game by a freshman guard.
Kyle Lofton scored a career-high 32 points and shot 7-8 from behind the three-point line. He also dished out seven assists.
Lofton banked home his first three-pointer of the game, and after that, he caught on fire.
“When you see the ball go in, the hoop gets bigger,” said Lofton. “I’ve stayed confident and put bad games behind me. I’ve been in the gym mornings and nights getting reps up which makes me confident.”
Lofton scored 18 of his points in a first half that saw the Bonnies play inspired and jump out to a 17-point lead at the break (42-25).
SBU led 16-0 after the first media timeout, and Lofton had 11 points. He played the entire game until Schmidt emptied out his bench with a minute to go.
“Kyle couldn’t have played better,” said Schmidt. “Hitting those early shots relaxes you, allows you to play more free and gives you energy on the defensive end.”
The Patriots knocked down some shots midway through the second half to get back into the game, pulling the deficit to as little as 10 points. They were unable, however, to shoot consistently enough to overcome the first-half hole.
GMU was without senior guard Otis Livingston II for a good portion of the game, as he would only play 20 minutes while dealing with an injury.
Justin Kier stepped up for the Patriots, leading them with 21 points. Livingston II would finish with 10 points, and Javone Greene also scored 10.
For St. Bonaventure, Courtney Stockard added 17 points and Osun Osunniyi turned in another superb defensive effort with 11 rebounds and five blocks. Dom Welch chipped in with 10 points.
The Bonnies improved to 11-14 overall and 7-5 in the Atlantic 10. George Mason fell to 15-11 and 9-4 in the A10.
SBU has now won five of its last seven games, and will next face La Salle at home on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
The Bonnies continue to climb in the A10 standings, and now sit just one game out of fourth place.
“We want to get into the top four and get the bye until the quarterfinals,” said Schmidt. “Can you win the tournament playing four games? Yeah, but it’s easier to do it in three.”
In a season that has featured less success than Bonnies fans have recently been accustomed to, Sunday’s game and what the win meant to Schmidt and the program gave them a lot to be thankful for.
“I love it here,” said Schmidt. “And hopefully I’m here for a lot more years.”