By Jeff Uveino
BROOKLYN— Dominick Welch had the biggest game of his young career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for St. Bonaventure.
The No. 4 Bonnies men’s basketball team prevailed over the No. 5 George Mason Patriots in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament at Barclays Center, 68-57.
Welch’s impact was felt on both ends of the floor. The freshman scored 20 points and shot 6-12 from beyond the arc, and also had five rebounds and three blocks.
“I’ve been feeling good shooting the ball for awhile now, so once that first one went in, I just felt good,” said Welch.
Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said it was nice to see Welch have a break-out game after missing time earlier in the season with an injury.
“If there’s anybody that has made the most strides this year, it’s (Welch), said Schmidt. “He’s got a really good sense of how to play now and he’s learned a lot of stuff defensively. He’s got a natural stroke, and when you put confidence on top of that, good things happen.”
Fellow freshman Kyle Lofton quietly scored 20 points of his own for the Bonnies. He shot 4-6 from beyond the arc, and the Bonnies shot 10-24 from there as a team.
Lofton talked about what it was like to see Welch have a break-out game.
“I played against him in prep school a couple of times so I know what he’s capable of,” said Lofton. “I know what type of player he is, and it’s good that he brought it out.”
The Bonnies led almost the whole way, as they took the lead for good with 12:27 remaining in the first half. Each time the Patriots got momentum, SBU took it right back with a big shot or defensive play.
Senior forward LaDarien Griffin added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Bonnies. He spoke about how important Lofton and Welch are to the team’s success.
“Those guys have been impressive all year,” he said. “Usually when you’re a freshman, it takes a little bit of time to get things down. But those guys jumped on board and I’m proud of them and lucky to have them.”
Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt added to the praise.
“The reason why we’re at where we are is the freshmen,” said Schmidt. “Those three guys (Welch, Lofton, Osun Osunniyi) have really blossomed into great young players. They play like veterans.”
Osunniyi played his usual game of tough defense around the rim for the Bonnies. He scored seven points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked three shots.
For George Mason (18-15), Justin Kier led with 20 points and Jordan Miller added 13 points. The Patriots out-rebounded the Bonnies, 43-34, but shot just 28% from deep.
GMU’s second-leading scorer, Otis Livingston II, was held to just six points in the loss.
Next up for St. Bonaventure (17-15) is a semifinal date with the Rhode Island Rams on Saturday at 1 p.m. back at the Barclays Center.