Superb second half leads Bona to comeback victory over VCU

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — VCU went into halftime with a 15-point lead. After that, the Rams never looked the same.

After being out-played by the Rams on both ends of the floor in the first half, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team used two big runs in the second half to beat VCU, 70-54, at the Reilly Center on Wednesday night.

Bona opened the second stanza on a 20-3 run that was capped with three-consecutive dunks, two of which were accompanied by a defensive foul. Jalen Adaway drove to the rim and dunked over a VCU defender while drawing a foul before Osun Osunniyi did the same. Osunniyi then got another dunk off of a lob pass, which seemingly gave Bona the entirety of the game’s momentum.

After the Rams battled back midway through the half, SBU ended the game on a 19-3 run that spanned over 11 minutes of game time.

“The game was, ‘Who’s going to own the paint?’ In the first half, they owned the paint,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “They kept the ball downhill, they were killing us on the back board, we didn’t do a good job against their press… As a coach, you just challenge the guys, and if you have character guys, guys that are competitors, they’re going to respond.”

Jaren Holmes scored 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds for Bona, which improved its play on the glass late in the game after being out-rebounded 28-15 by the Rams in the first half. Bona out-rebounded the Rams 22-14 in the second half, however, and only allowed four offensive rebounds in the second frame after giving up 13 of them in the first.

“The most important minutes (of the second half) were the first five minutes,” Schmidt said. “The first 10 possessions. We couldn’t have played better offensively or defensively in the second half. To hold that team to 14 points and the percentage that they shot, it’s a credit to our guys.”

The Bonnies held the Rams to 14 points on 19% shooting from the field in the second half, while shooting nearly 56% from the field and 50% from three-point range themselves. Bona ended up shooting 42% from the field in the game, while VCU shot just 32%.

“Since I’ve been here as a coach, in my opinion, that’s the best half we’ve played both offensively and defensively,” Schmidt said. “We took care of the ball and ran some stuff that was effective, but in essence it came down to, we started going downhill and we stopped them from going downhill.”

Dominick Welch, who had been held to zero points in SBU’s last game (a win over Duquesne), scored a game-high 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field, including 5-for-6 from three-point range. Kyle Lofton scored 12 points for the Bonnies, while Jalen Adaway scored nine points and Osun Osunniyi scored nine points to go with nine rebounds.

“I felt that we weren’t playing aggressively enough in the first half, but we always emphasize defense in practice, and I think that defense and rebounding played a big role in letting our offense (come back),” Welch said. “We really wanted to stick to getting stops and cutting that lead down before the first media (timeout).”

Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, who scored a team-high 16 points for the Rams, was held to 1-of-7 shooting for three points in the second half. Vince Williams Jr. scored 11 points for the Rams, while Levi Stockard III and Hason Ward each added eight points.

This was just VCU’s second lost in Atlantic 10 play, as the Rams fell to 3-2 in the league and 10-4 overall.

“We have competitive guys, and I think they were a little embarrassed by how they played in the first half,” Schmidt said. “And they responded. The first tv timeout was critical for us to get some momentum, and we did that.”

This marked Bona’s fifth-straight A-10 win, as the Bonnies improved to 5-1 in the league and 7-1 overall. SBU’s schedule continues to shuffle, as an upcoming Saturday-night road trip to Saint Louis was canceled and replaced by a trip to La Roche University, where the Bonnies will play Duquesne for the second time in eight days.

SBU won its first matchup over the Dukes, 62-48, last Friday at the RC. Bona’s win over VCU gives it sole possession of first place in the A-10, breaking a tie with UMass, which also went into Wednesday night at 4-1 in conference play.

“This is a very good team that we played tonight, and it just shows the will that we have as a team and the chemistry that we’re building together,” Welch said. “It feels like these wins are really different. A step in the right direction.”

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