photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Jeff Uveino
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — After having its seven-game winning streak snapped over the weekend, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team responded exactly the way that head coach Mark Schmidt hoped it would.
On the heels of a Saturday defeat at Saint Louis, the Bonnies (10-2, 8-2 A-10) returned home and ran past La Salle (8-12, 5-8 A-10), 86-73, on Tuesday at the Reilly Center.
Each of Bona’s five starters reached double-digit scoring, including a team-high 20 points by Jalen Adaway.
“Coming off of a loss, we knew we needed to prevail and bring it from the start,” Adaway said. “I felt like that’s what we did from top to bottom.”
The Explorers got off to a quick start in the first half, hitting three of their first four 3-point attempts to build an early nine-point lead.
Then, the midst of a 15-5 Bona run, La Salle head coach Ashley Howard was ejected after receiving a double technical foul. Howard was visibly upset after a play on his team’s offensive end, yelling, “Call a f***ing foul!” at a referee before exiting the court in a profanity-laden tirade.
While Howard’s ejection seemed to provide a boost of energy to the La Salle bench, the Explorers weren’t the same afterward. Kyle Lofton hit all four free throws after the double foul, breaking a 24-24 tie and giving SBU the lead for good.
“Stuff like that gives you momentum,” Schmidt said. “At the same time, you need to maintain that momentum, and I thought we did that. Basketball is all about momentum, and sometimes when you get it it’s hard to give it up or get it back.”
La Salle trailed the entire way after associate head coach Kyle Griffin took over Howard’s duties, and after Bona used a last-second Lofton 3-pointer to take a 10-point lead into halftime, the Explorers never cut the lead below double digits in the second half.
“When something like that happens… that team may come out and play with a lot more fire and want to have his back,” Adaway said. “We were telling each other, they’re going to come out, we need to come out twice as hard and be ready for it, and really try to put them away.”
SBU’s 86 points were the most that it had scored in a game this season, and the Bonnies got there by spreading the scoring around the floor.
Lofton had 18 points while Osun Osunniyi scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Jaren Holmes added another 15 points, while Dominick Welch finished with 10 points.
The Bonnies shot nearly 61% from the field and 64% from 3-point range. Lofton, who had entered Tuesday’s game shooting an uncharacteristic 3-for-34 on the season from distance, was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc against La Salle.
“It felt good,” Lofton said. “I come in here and work every day, so I’m going to just stay confident. I saw one go in, so the next one I’m thinking, ‘Alright, I’m gonna hit this one.’ I’m just taking good shots, and I’m going to continue to do that.”
Kenny Sherif scored a game-high 22 points for the Explorers, while Jhamir Brickus scored 13 points and Christian Ray just missed a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.
“We dealt with some adversity,” Schmidt said. “They made some runs, and we answered them. I’m happy with the performance.”
Bona’s win guarantees it sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10 for at least a few more days, as it leads second-place VCU (14-4, 7-2 A-10) by a half game entering the Bonnies’ Friday-night matchup against the Rams.
“We’ve got to continue to work and not be satisfied,” Schmidt said. “But we got better today.”