photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times
By Anthony Goss
RICHMOND, VA — When the college basketball season reaches its peak in March, the stars of a team must shine so it may advance. St. Bonaventure center Osun Osunniyi certainly shined bright in the team’s 75-59 Atlantic 10 quarterfinal victory over Duquesne on Friday.
Lately, the Bonnies have been hot from the perimeter, and their shooting beyond the arc has placed them as the top seed in the A-10 tournament. As a result, a lot of attention has been diverted to this development and the play of the guards during this stretch. However, Osunniyi has remained a constant presence inside the paint.
Friday was a reminder of the importance of his role on Bona’s team.
Osunniyi posted a stat line of 18 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, but his best work came on the defensive end.
“I thought ‘(Osunniyi) was terrific offensively, but more importantly defensively blocking shots,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said.
Osunniyi finished with three blocks to lead a defense which held the Dukes to 34% shooting from the field.
Offensively, the numbers by his name in the box score show how well number 21 in white played, but the way the big man scored explained why the Bonnies were so effective in their first game of the tournament.
Osunniyi had several putback finishes and alley-oop dunks. Duquesne had no answer for Osunniyi on the offensive glass. Each time Osun slammed the ball in, he deflated the Dukes and boosted the Bonnies. Dominating the paint this way provided the momentum Bona needed to stay in control.
“I pride myself on defense, so if my defense is going, whenever I get a put back dunk it just energizes everybody,” Osunniyi said.
Osunniyi’s six assists also demonstrated his ability to facilitate from his position. When St. Bonaventure runs through Osunniyi, less responsibility falls on the back court to continuously generate the looks for Bona.
“You wanna go inside early cause if I’m being a presence inside, it kind of shrinks the defense,” Osunniyi said. “It’s easier for my teammates to make shots when the ball is going inside outside.”
The Bonnies will enjoy this victory, as it was necessary in keeping their postseason hopes alive. But, bigger challenges, figuratively and literally speaking, wait ahead in Saturday’s semifinal contest with Saint Louis.
After today’s game though, Osunniyi appears locked in and will do his part in securing another Bona win this weekend.
“Whatever it takes to get the team going,” Osunniyi said. “Whatever it takes to get a win.”