photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Anthony Goss
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — It’s hard to declare a statement win in the first four games of the season, but Kyle Lofton’s dagger in the Robins Center on Saturday afternoon was a strong response for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team to conclude a week that started with adversity.
On the Wednesday before Bona’s win over Richmond, sophomore forward Justin Winston announced his intention to transfer. Just hours later, the Bonnies suffered their first defeat of the season in an ugly game against Rhode Island, during which junior guard Jaren Holmes left early with back spasms. Three days later, the Bonnies responded in dramatic fashion and displayed the importance of experience in conference play.
Lofton’s game-winner will be the play Bona fans remember from the team’s 69-66 win at Richmond, but a combined from the team resulted in a statement win that could impact the Bonnies going forward.
“Beating them gave us, myself and the coaches confidence on how good we can be in this league,” Lofton said. “Guys like Jaren (Holmes) and Dom (Welch) that aren’t talked about much, they mean so much to this team.”
After a week on the road, the Bonnies head home for their first Atlantic 10 conference games at the Reilly Center, the first being a Wednesday matchup against a St. Joseph’s team looking for its first win of the season.
The Hawks’ current 0-7 record could be deceiving, as they had a daunting schedule that included matchups against Kansas, Villanova, and Tennessee. St. Joe’s has also fallen to A-10 opponents VCU and Rhode Island, the latter of which defeated the Hawks in overtime on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of teams in this country that would be 0-7 playing the schedule they have played,” SBU head coach Mark Schmidt said. “They are much better than 0-7.”
The Hawks are led by junior guard Taylor Funk, who averages 16.4 points per game. However, they will be without their leading scorer, senior guard Ryan Daly, who has averaged 17.2 points per game on the season.
The Bonnies defeated the Hawks twice last season, 74-56 in the first matchup and 89-73 on senior day. Funk missed both games last season with a thumb injury, but as a 6’8 guard, his versatility will be the key for the SJU offense.
“He can really shoot the ball,” Schmidt said. “He presents a lot of problems because he’s a screen and pop guy and it’s hard for a five man to go out there and get to his shot. “He has a high IQ for the game so he is going to be a handful (on Wednesday).”
The Hawks like to shoot the three, and will look to sophomore guard Dahmir Bishop to do so. Bishop has averaged 10.3 points per game and has shot 34.8% from three-point range to contribute offensively in the absence of Daly. Jack Forrest, a sophomore guard, has averaged 8.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
“They are playing free. If you’re a shooter that’s the type of style you want,” Schmidt said. “It’s imperative we do the best job we can keeping the ball in front of us.”
St. Joe’s leads the A-10 in three-point attempts, but the Bonnies pose the best three-point defense in the conference.
“Transition defense and one-on-one defense is going to be crucial (on Wednesday),” Schmidt said.
After their matchup against St. Joe’s, the Bonnies will welcome George Washington to the Reilly Center Saturday afternoon. The Colonials have a 3-7 record, but have started 2-1 in A-10 play with wins against Fordham and Duquesne.
The Bonnies swept GW in two games last year, edging them 71-66 on the road before rolling, 72-47, at home.
The Bonnies tip off against St. Joe’s at 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon on ESPN+. On Saturday, tip off is scheduled for noon against George Washington. That game can be shown on NBC Sports Network.