photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Anthony Goss
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — After a weekend of celebration, the newly crowned Atlantic 10 regular season champions have their last test before postseason play begins.
Thanks to a 65-57 win by Davidson over VCU, St. Bonaventure clinched its first outright conference title in school history without even playing a game.
“For them to be the first team to win an outright Atlantic 10 title speaks volumes about the type of players and the type of team we have,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “I think we have a program that we’ve built, that has been sustained over time.”
Schmidt and the Bonnies will look to cap an unprecedented season on a high note when they welcome the Dayton Flyers to the Reilly Center on Monday.
Despite the triumphs of his team in the past week, Schmidt is adamant about finishing the right way.
“We have more to do,” Schmidt said. “We’ve gotta keep on rolling.”
The Flyers come into this matchup at 8-7 in the A-10 and 12-8 overall. Despite a recent loss to Saint Joseph’s, Dayton has shown it can handle the top teams in the league, evidenced by its 76-53 walloping of Saint Louis just over a week ago.
“They’re just a really good team,” Schmidt said. “You don’t beat Saint Louis by 23 by not having a good team.”
Jalen Crutcher leads the way for the Flyers. One of the only returning pieces from last year’s historic nationally-ranked team, Crutcher is averaging 18.8 points per game and 4.9 assists per game, both of which lead the team.
“They’ve got one of the best players in the league in Crutcher,” Schmidt said. He’s the quarterback; as he goes, they go.”
Given the excellent defense of the Bonnies against top guards recently, the matchup against Crutcher will be one to watch. SBU held Davidson guard Kellan Grady to two points on 1-of-7 shooting on Wednesday and A-10 leading scorer James Bishop of George Washington only mustered six points of 2-of-7 shooting on Friday.
Another key piece for the Flyers is Ibi Watson, another returnee from last season. Watson averages 15.7 points per game and plays a much bigger role for Dayton than he did a season ago.
“The kid Watson feeds off Crutcher and shoots the ball extremely well,” Schmidt said.
Just like Bona, the Flyers are an excellent 3-point shooting team. They are second to St. Bonaventure in 3-point shooting percentage in the A-10, and they also boast the second-highest field goal percentage in the conference.
If the Bonnies secure the win, they will finish the season undefeated at home. Schmidt noted the importance of earning a victory in the team’s last home game this season.
“Being undefeated at home is gonna give us momentum going into the Atlantic 10 (tournament),” Schmidt said. “Forget about 8-0. We wanna be 1-0; that next game, we wanna have momentum.”
St. Bonaventure has lost five straight games to Dayton, with its last win coming in February of 2016.
The Flyers and the Bonnies tip off at 5 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPNU.
“We accomplished one goal, and that was to win the Atlantic 10 regular season,” Schmidt said. “We’ve won something, but we wanna continue to win.”