PREVIEW: Bonnies look to boost tournament resume, snap four-game skid against Davidson

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The last time the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team beat Davidson, it took 55 minutes of game time, three 30-point scorers and four Bonnies fouling out.

That was SBU’s 117-113 triple-overtime victory over the Wildcats in February 2018. Since then, the Wildcats have enjoyed a four-game winning streak over the Bonnies. On Sunday, Davidson (11-5, 6-2 A-10) will look to extend its winning streak over SBU (10-3, 8-3 A-10) at the Reilly Center.

“The last couple times we’ve played Davidson, we haven’t done a good job of keeping the ball in front of us,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “They made 13 threes last year and 15 against us the year before. If they make those numbers and shoot 50% from 3-pointers, it’s going to be a long night.”

Since Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley and Courtney Stockard combined to score 98 points and beat a Peyton Aldridge-led Wildcats team just under three years ago, Bob McKillop’s team has dominated SBU. The Wildcats bounced the second-seeded Bonnies out of the A-10 tournament later that season, have beat them by a combined 56 points in their three meetings since.

The Wildcats swept a two-game season series in 2018-19, edging SBU at the Reilly Center in early February before beating up on the Bonnies in an ugly, low-scoring Belk Arena game toward the end of the regular season.

Last year, a much-anticipated primetime game at the RC turned sour quickly for the Bonnies when Davidson scored 47 points in the first half and shot 13-for-26 from 3-point range in the game to blow SBU out.

“You just can’t give them open looks,” Schmidt said. “You need to make them earn contested shots. It’s imperative that we get the ball in front of us so that they’re not getting the ball in the paint and knocking down kick-out threes.”

This year, each team finds itself on the NCAA tournament “bubble,” and a win would assist either side’s tournament resume. Until Friday, Davidson hadn’t played a game in nearly a month after COVID-19 concerns had caused a string of six postponements. The Wildcats hosted Southern Virginia, a Division III team, on Friday before traveling to SBU.

The importance of the Wildcats’ matchup with SBU was heightened on Wednesday when the A-10 announced that it would be playing its men’s basketball championship tournament a week earlier than scheduled, leaving one less week for teams to make up games that have previously been postponed.

“I think what they’re doing it smart, and I don’t know all of the details,” Schmidt said. “I know that they’re trying to move it up so if a team gets the virus, there’s time for them to get through it.”

The tournament’s championship game will be played as planned, however, on NCAA “selection Sunday.”

“It will be interesting what you do for that week,” Schmidt said. “This year has been challenging and unique, and this is another situation where it’s the first time. Hopefully we’ll have that opportunity.”

Davidson out-scores its opponents by an average score of 74-64, and does so with a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces to Bona fans. Senior guard Kellan Grady, who scored 39 points and shot 16-for-16 from the free-throw line in the Bona/Davidson triple-overtime game as a freshman, leads the Wildcat offense with 17.9 points per game this season.

Sophomore guard Hyunjung Lee, who scored 14 points at the Reilly Center last season, averages 13.3 points per game. Senior guard Carter Collins checks in at 13 points per game, while junior forward Luka Brajkovic averages 10.1 points per game.

“We have to do a good job on transition defense,” Schmidt said. “We have to take care of the basketball so they’re not getting out on the break and getting three’s in transition. If you give these guys open looks, they’re high-quality 3-point shooters.”

Bona boasts its own starting lineup of five double-digit scorers, including a team-high 15.4 points per game by junior guard Kyle Lofton, but will need to slow down a Davidson offense that has averaged 85 points per game against SBU in the teams’ previous six meetings. Of course, the triple-overtime game construes that number somewhat, but Davidson has scored over 80 points in four of those games.

Sunday’s game is scheduled to tip-off at 3:30 p.m., and will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Network.

“Our guys have done a good job of turning the page and going on to the next game,” Schmidt said. “We’re lucky to have an experienced team that can deal with it.”

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