By: Isaiah Blakely
Two of the hottest teams in the Atlantic 10 square off at 1 p.m. today in the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals. The Rhode Island Rams (18-14) have won six straight games including yesterday’s upset win over the VCU Rams. Rhode Island is going up against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (17-15) who have won eight of their last 10 games including their win yesterday over George Mason.
The Bonnies and Rams faced off once during the regular season in Rhode Island where a strong first half from the Rams was enough to beat the Bonnies comfortably 75-63.
Both teams are very different since then. Rhode Island went on a downward spiral winning only three of their next 10 games. While the Bonnies started to trend upward by playing 3-3 in conference play before going on a seven-game win streak.
The biggest change for the Bonnies has been them getting healthy and gaining continuity.
“We got healthy and we got some chemistry, and the freshmen got a lot of confidence and we just started playing,” said Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt.
The Bonnies have been headlined by freshmen Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi, but freshman Dom Welch’s emergence on the offensive end has helped the Bonnies offense specifically with his perimeter shooting. Welch has hit two or more three pointers in seven of his last 10 games. In the 13 games prior Welch had only hit two or more threes five times.
“It there’s anybody who has made the most strides it’s Dom,” Schmidt said.
For Rhode Island sophomore guard Fatts Russell was the catalyst for the Rams down the stretch of the regular season. In the last five games of the regular season Russell averaged nearly 25 points a game.
Russell has kick started the offense for the whole team. Before this win streak for Rams the were only averaging 54 points per game in their previous five games. During the win streak Rhode Island is averaging nearly 81 points a game.
One of the constants for Rhode Island has been junior Cyril Langevine. Langevine is an All-Conference Second Team and All-Defensive team player. The junior is averaging a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds a game.
A major match up in this game will be Langevine against Osunniyi who is also on All-Defensive team. Langevine is the second leading scorer for Rhode Island while Osunniyi is the anchor for the Bonnies defense averaging more than two blocks a game.
Rhode Island guard Jeff Dowtin against the freshman guard Lofton is going to be the other major match up to watch because both guards have similar numbers to each other, but Dowtin with the edge in points and rebounds. Lofton was in a bit of a shooting slump until last night when he scored 20 points on 6-12 shooting including four three pointers. Dowtin had a big game as well scoring 22 points and making both of his three pointers.
These two teams are looking to book their ticket to the A-10 final on Sunday against the winner of Saint Louis and Davidson.