PREVIEW: Bonnies set to finally begin season in Cleveland

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By Tom Doyle

CLEVELAND, OH— The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team is scheduled to open its season on Tuesday when it takes on the Akron Zips at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Well, we’ll see. The Bonnies have been waiting and waiting to take the court this year. Entering Monday, the Bonnies are still one of 23 teams yet to play this year in the NCAA. 

SBU has already had five games canceled this season, as a canceled trip to the Mohegan Sun Arena bubble in November was followed by a canceled home opener against St. Francis (PA) last Saturday.

“It’s frustrating,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “It’s challenging. But, we’re not the only team that’s going through this. Our guys are tired of practicing and tired of quarantining.”

Bona had been previously forced to pause all team activities for 18 days following a positive COVID-19 test on Nov. 19.

“We took two and a half weeks off, and when we came back, it was more conditioning and trying to get the kids back in shape like we would when they come back after the summer time,” Schmidt said.

Akron has also dealt with delays in its schedule this season, with a two-week shutdown resulting in only playing one game. This past Saturday, the Zips won handily over Cedarville, 97-49, led by senior guard Loren Cristian Jackson.

Last season, Akron finished 24-7, and 14-4 in Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) play.  The Zips had four players averaging over 10 points per contest.  Three of those players are no longer with the team, leaving Jackson to run the show.  They are looking for Jackson, Ali Ali and Cameron Reece to fill the key losses.   

Jackson was tremendous for the Zips last season, and was named the MAC player of the year, as well as to the Lou Henson All-American team, and tallied over five 30-point performances. 

“They’re well coached and they play extremely hard,” Schmidt said. “(Jackson) is one of the best point guards in the country. They lost a number of guys off of last year’s team, but they didn’t lose the engine. He makes them go.”

Standing only at 5’8 and weighing 150 pounds, Jackson is a menace with the ball in his hands. Bona guard Kyle Lofton will have his hands full with Jackson, but can use his size at 6’3, 190 pounds to slow him down. 

“They run multiple ball screens for (Jackson), so that’s something we’re going to do a good job on,” Schmidt said. “Somehow, some way, try keep him out of the paint as much as we can. The other thing is, they really shoot the ball.”

The Zips attempted 40 three-pointers against Cedarville, making 16 of them.

The teams have met twice before, with the Bonnies dropping both.  The first time SBU played Akron was in 1942. The last meeting between the two teams came in the Cayman Islands two years ago, as the Zips beat the Bonnies, 61-49.  In that game, the Bonnies were missing three starters in Dom Welch, Courtney Stockard, and LaDarien Griffin.

Tuesday’s game is scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m., and can be found on ESPN3 or the Bonnies basketball radio network. 

“I think we’re all appreciative of the opportunity to play,” Schmidt said. “Im thankful that we’re going to be able to play and give the kids the chance to do what they love to do.”

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