Bonnies fall short to Vermont for second straight year

photo by Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Matt Stasiw

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — With the amazing crowd presence in the Reilly Center on Friday night, every fan could already tell that a rematch between the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team and Vermont would be a battle until the end. 

The Bonnies have played Vermont each of the last three years in exciting non-conference duels.

This year, Vermont was too much for the Bonnies, as the Catamounts edged SBU, 61-59.

A year ago, then-junior Anthony Lamb, who averaged 21 points per game for the Catamounts, scored 41 against the Bonnies. 

On Friday night, Bona’s original game plan seemed to be any possible way to keep Lamb out of the picture. 

The Bonnies started of playing extremely hard with Amadi Ikpeze winning the tip off right away for the Bonnies and scoring the first basket just 29 Seconds into the game. 

Ikepeze proved to be the biggest offensive threat for the Bonnies, scoring 11 points and shooting 5-of-9 on field goals for the game. 

Unnecessary fouls, however, seemed to hold the Bonnies back early, with eight team fouls in the first nine minutes of play. 

Despite these early mistakes, the Bonnies, after being down 14-10 with 11:08 left, went on a 10-0 run in four minutes, capping it when a crazy basket by Bobby Plantutis that still managed to go in. 

Vermont answered right back, going on a 14-4 run to close out the first half, giving them a 28-24 lead heading into the locker room. 

The Bonnies held Anthony Lamb to just 9 points in the first half, keeping their game plan and motivation high going into the second half. 

Bobby Planutis scored the first points 30 seconds into the second half. 

The game kept roaring back and forth with the Bonnies finally going up 40-39 with 11:07 left in the game. 

However, the game plan seemed to fall apart when the Catamounts went on a 12-0 run over four minutes.

Then, an unlikely source of motivation led the Bonnies to come charging back into the game. 

Freshman Justin Winston used his aggressive play to snatch defensive rebounds and get to the line. 

Winston, who had 10 points on the night, helped the Bonnies to bring the deficit within five points, trailing 56-51 with 3:36 left to play. 

The Bonnies had many chances to come back, but unfortunately some late fouls and poor shooting held their efforts short, shooting 4-of-27 from three-point range for the game.  

“I thought we played extremely hard,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said. “If somebody told me that Anthony Lamb was going to score 15 points and go 0-for-7 from threes, I would have thought that we would’ve won.”

“We got to plat smarter and knock down shots,” Schmidt said when asked what his team’s biggest struggles were during the game. 

The Bonnies hope to improve to 1-2 on the season next Tuesday, as they travel to Siena for their first road contest of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

What we learned from St. Bonaventure-Alfred exhibition

photo: Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Jeff Uveino

Wednesday night’s exhibition vs Alfred University went the way it does every year for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team.

They worked out some kinks, rotated players and ran over an inferior opponent.

Still, there are several things that we can learn from the Bonnies’ 90-45 victory over the Saxons. We saw a sneak peak of how the offense could run, an idea of the hierarchy of players coming off the bench, and may have discovered a newcomer who can really play.

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday night.

Alejandro Vasquez could be an impact player sooner than we thought

When Vasquez was announced as a starter for the Bonnies, it probably came as a surprise to many. It certainly did to me.

The freshman guard went on to score 20 points in 26 minutes, shoot 7-14 from the field and 3-7 from three-point range.

He hit three’s on back-to-back possessions in the second half, and put a defender on the ground with a step back before the second one.

“He’s picked up the system quicker than some other guys we’ve had in previous years,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said. “He can shoot the ball when he takes good shots. We need two or three young guys to help us, and hopefully he’ll be one of them.”

After Vasquez’s performance, I can’t help but draw parallels to Kyle Lofton’s arrival on the scene in the exhibition last season.

Before that game, little was known about Lofton, who was expected to come off the bench at point guard for last year’s Bonnies. Lofton scored 15 points against Alfred, went on to start every game for SBU, and was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team.

If Vasquez can be anywhere near the player for the Bonnies this year that Lofton was during his freshman year, it makes this Bona team a lot deeper than we thought it was.

And maybe, just maybe, Vasquez could be Schmidt’s latest start to come out of nowhere.

Planutis and Winston will complement each other well at power forward

Schmidt started sophomore guard/forward Bobby Planutis in a lineup that featured three other guards (Vasquez, Lofton, Dom Welch) and one forward (Amadi Ikpeze).

It’s been noted in the preseason that Planutis will most likely share time at power forward with freshman forward Justin Winston.

Winston played 21 minutes compared to Planutis’ 18, but scored just two points compared to 11 from Planutis.

Based on the different skill sets of the two players, it led me to think that the Bona offense would need to adjust when one of the players comes into the game for the other.

It’s been well noted that Planutis is a shooter, while Schmidt has repeatedly said that Winston has more bounce to his game and can attack on the inside.

However, Schmidt said that the offense can run smoothly regardless of whether Planutis or Winston is in the game.

“(Planutis) has a better feel right now because he’s been in the system for an extra year,” Schmidt said. “We run a ball screen motion offense, so (Planutis) can pop and shoot it, while (Winston) can pop and use his ‘junk in the trunk’.”

Planutis and Winston giving opposing teams two different looks could be a nice compliment for the Bonnies at the four position this year.

Ikpeze’s offseason work could make the Bonnies a lot more dangerous

A lot has been said about Ikpeze’s commitment to getting in shape and improving his game this past offseason.

In the exhibition, he looked great on the offensive end.

Ikpeze scored six points, which came off of two hook shots around the basket and one jumper from the free-throw line. He looked more comfortable on the offensive end than in years past.

“I was able to play okay, but there are things that I can improve on,” Ikpeze said. “Hopefully I can just keep working and build on my game to get ready for the real thing next Tuesday night.”

Ikpeze was referring to the Bonnies’ regular season opener, in which they’ll host Ohio University.

Ikpeze played nearly 12 minutes, while sophomore Osun Osunniyi, who started 21 games at forward last year, played 10 minutes.

SBU relied heavily on Osunniyi last season. If the two can each play at a high level this year, it makes Bona both deep and dangerous at forward.

Ikpeze looking for continued improvement in year three

By: Teddy Caputo

With Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley and Idris Taqee no longer on the team this season, the Bonnies are looking for the next player(s) to step up as a leader and be a dynamic scoring options for them.  One guy who is more than ready for that challenge is Amadi Ikpeze.

Ikpeze has been a solid contributor for the Bonnies in the paint over the past two seasons.  During his freshman year, he played in 24 games, averaging 2.3 points per game, 1.9 rebounds per game and 9.2 minutes per game.  In his sophomore season, he played in 34 games and averaged 4.5 points per game, 3.1 rebounds per game and 14.1 minutes per game. Ikpeze talked about what he did to improve his game last season.

“I improved mainly by knowing my spots on the court,” said Ikpeze.  “I’ve become more confident and efficient scoring wise, and I’ve continued to learn the system, both offense and defense, to become a better player.”

Ikpeze talked about how he can carry his improvement from last year into this upcoming season.

“I can definitely look back at it by watching tape and seeing what I do good on the court vs. what I do bad on the court and going from there,” said Ikpeze. “Starting the last 14 games of the season definitely gave me a lot of confidence leading into this season.”

The Bonnies finished last year with a 26-8 regular season record, going 14-4 in conference play and having their first NCAA tournament win since 1970.  Their stellar season has many fans expecting them to keep up the performance this year. Ikpeze, however, isn’t worried, saying, “I don’t see any pressure from last year’s season because it is a new season.  We’re 0-0.  We had a great season last year and we did great things like making the tournament and winning the play-in game against UCLA, but we’re focused on being 1-0 at the beginning of November.”

Ikpeze’s confidence going into this season is nothing but a good thing for a new-look Bonnies who have five new players that will need some guidance from the veterans on the team. Ikpeze spoke about his role on the team as a leader and a veteran player alongside seniors Courtney Stockard, Nelson Kaputo and LaDarien Griffin.

“Being the main voices in the locker room, we definitely have to lead by example and make sure we are giving it 100% in practice every day,” said Ikpeze.  “That’s really where they are going to pay the most attention to when looking for what to do right and wrong.”

One new player who may look to Ikpeze for guidance is freshman center Osun Osunniyi.  “You can’t teach height.  That’s what I’ve been told a lot in my life,” said Ikpeze.  “With Osun alongside me this year, we’re taller and will be more of a contribution to our team and a threat to others.”

A game Ikpeze is most looking forward to on the Bonnies’ schedule is against the University of Buffalo in the Reilly Center mainly because Buffalo is his hometown. Ikpeze added, “I’m excited for every game to show people how much better I’ve gotten and show them what I can do on the court.”

Ikpeze will continue to try and show the country how much better he has gotten over the offseason in their next game against Georgia State University in the Cayman Islands Classic on November 19.

 

 

 

 

Picture Courtesy: GoBonnies

Three takeaways from the St. Bonaventure vs Alfred

By: Jeff Uveino

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team rolled over the Alfred Saxons 90-42 in an exhibition game at the Reilly Center. Here’s three takeaways from the game:

  1. The freshman class could be good. Scary good.

The Bonnies had three freshmen score in double figures. Alpha Okoli led the way with 20 points, including shooting four-of-five from three-point range. Kyle Lofton scored 15 points and Dom Welch had 12. All three showed their playmaking ability, the highlight of which came on a thunderous Welch dunk late in the second half. But perhaps the freshman who impressed me the most was 6-10 forward Osun Osunniyi. He’s long, athletic and physical, and showed that he could be a major presence around the rim. Osunniyi had two blocks and four rebounds to go along with five points.

  1. Who will be the star?

The Bonnies got contributions from up and down their roster, but there wasn’t a player that stood out. No one looked like the “star,” or the type of player who could take over a game. This year’s Bonnies are probably already getting sick of being compared to Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, but those two were able to take over games last year, a part of the identity that this year’s team will need to find. Perhaps when Courtney Stockard returns, he can be that type of player for the Bonnies, but that may not happen for another month.

  1. Fifty-point win! (against a Division III team)

Yes, the Bonnies won by 48 points. They dominated on both ends of the floor. However, the teams they’re going to be playing during the regular season are going to be of a much different caliber than Alfred. The Bonnies were a mismatch for the Saxons physically and talent-wise, and for most of the night, they ran circles around them. Amadi Ikpeze dominated around the rim early in the game but was at least three or four inches taller than anyone in an Alfred jersey. It will be interesting to see how the Bonnies perform against some real competition.

 

St. Bonaventure will open regular season play on Nov. 7 at home against Bucknell.

 

Bonnies face biggest test with Adams’ availability uncertain

By Josh Svetz 

Editor’s Note: News about Jaylen Adams being ruled out and Courtney Stockard playing came out after the initial posting of this article.

The show must go on.

Today the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team will get its first big TV exposure of the season against the undefeated Maryland Terrapins (5-0) at 9:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

While the exposure invites excitement, one question remains unanswered as game-time looms.

Star senior guard Jaylen Adams has yet to play this season due to an ankle injury he suffered in an exhibition game against Alfred.

While originally expected to be ready for the Emerald Coast Classic, Adams’ lack of practice time over the week has his status tonight in question.

Its no secret that not having Adams changes the game plan for both teams.

But, the show must go on.

If Adams sits, the Bonnies will look to deploy a three-guard lineup with junior Nelson Kaputo sliding into the point guard spot aside seniors Matt Mobley and Idris Taqqee.

Projected next to the three is junior forward LaDarien Griffin and sophomore big Josh Ayeni, who didn’t start last game due to disciplinary reasons.

If Adams is out, the Bonnies will be relying heavily on Mobley’s slashing and three point shooting ability to carry them.

The Preseason All-Conference First Team selection hasn’t missed a beat, averaging 25.0 points per game (ppg), tied for 10th in the NCAA.

Along with Mobley, the Bonnies will need scoring from a combination Kaputo, Griffin and Ayeni.

Kaputo has stepped in for Adams and seems to be getting into a rhythm, improving his stats and efficiency each game.

Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, Kaputo made the most of his 21 minutes scoring 15 points off 50% from the field, notching 5 steals and finishing with no turnovers in a blowout.

Griffin’s been one of the most consistent Bonnies sliding into the Dion Wright role nicely, averaging 8.7 ppg, 7 rebounds and averaging an assist,block and steal per game.

Ayeni’s had an up-and-down campaign so far, scoring 16 points against Jackson State, only to follow that up with no points, and four fouls in nine minutes against Maryland Eastern-Shore. In fact, there’s a chance the Bonnies start fellow sophomore Amadi Ikpeze instead.

In three games, Ikpeze is averaging 4 points and 3 rebounds with a block a game. Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, Ikpeze made the most of his first start of the season scoring 4 points on 2-4 shooting with 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist.

With questions about who’s going to start in the Bonnies lineup, the bench depth could also take a hit as reports say junior forward Courtney Stockard has been limited in practice all week.

On the plus side, the Bonnies may have found a new contributor in freshman forward Tshiefu Ngalakulondi. “Chef” put himself on the radar in style. Against Maryland Eastern-Shore, the Chef scored 21 points off 73% shooting including four threes and three steals and a block.

Of course, that was against Maryland Eastern-Shore, this is against Maryland, the level of competition couldn’t be more different.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see if Head Coach Mark Schmidt decides to give the freshman some added minutes.

While the Bonnies have many question marks, the Terrapins look like a sure thing.

Through five games, the Terrapins have proved to possibly be better than last season with wins over both Bonnies opponents Jackson State and Maryland Eastern-Shore, along with a convincing victory over previously undefeated Butler.

The lead man for the Terrapins is sophomore Anthony Cowan, averaging 14.0 ppg, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

NBA draft hopeful and fellow sophomore Justin Jackson has improved on every number from last season except for scoring at 8.0 ppg.

Along with Cowan, the Terrapins have two players scoring in double-figures, including 6-10 freshman forward Bruno Fernando.

The Terrapins bring pressure and use both their bigs to create turnovers on defense, while also sporting a top-20 scoring defense, holding opponents to 58.4 ppg.

With Adams, the Bonnies will have a better three point scoring team, but rust could affect the star.

Without Adams, the Bonnies will need Kaputo to pick up the slack.

Regardless of who plays, the Bonnies will need to force the Terrapins to shoot from behind the arc, as they shoot just over 37% from the triple, compared to their 52% from the field.

Turnovers could also dictate the game.

In the Terrapins closest win, the Bucknell Bison punished their bigs and set the tempo, limiting the turnovers in the first half, getting out to a 15-point lead. But in the second half, the Terrapins switched to handle the bigs and sped up the Bison’s guards, resulting in a 80-78 win over the Bison.

For Bonas, early in the year they struggled with turnovers against Niagara. To combat the Terrapins’ pressure, they’ll need to slow down the tempo and establish an inside game early to open three pointers for the guards, especially Mobley.

Opening as a nine-point underdog, its hard to tell which Bonnies team will show up tonight.

But one thing is for sure; with or without Adams, the Bonnies are in for a grind.

 

 

 

 

Ngalakulondi primed to cook the competition

By Jeff Uveino

Move over “Chef Curry,” there’s a new “chef” in basketball.

Freshman Tshiefu Ngalakulondi is ready to start his college basketball career at St. Bonaventure. “Chef,” as he goes by, is a 6-foot-6-inch small forward hailing from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Attending Proctor Academy, he averaged 16 points and eight rebounds per game over his senior season in high school. He was named to the Class AA All-New England team both his junior and senior seasons.

Ngalakulondi was ranked by ESPN as the #2 recruit to come out of the state of New Hampshire this past year, and the #91 recruit out of the entire East region. He opened up about the recruiting process.

“I looked at mostly A-10 schools,” Ngalakulondi said. “I knew that this was a great league, and I knew that the team was going to be good this year so that was another reason that I chose to come here.”

Attending a preparatory high school, Ngalakulondi expressed, has made the transition from high school to college somewhat easier for him.

“It’s not too much of a difference because in high school I was living on campus, so I already had a feel for living away from home and being in that environment. So, the adjustment is not as hard,” he said.

Ngalakulondi will be looking to make a difference for the Bonnies this season, and has plenty of competitors to battle with in practice. An upperclassmen-heavy team, Ngalakulondi said that he has learned a lot from the experienced veterans on the roster.

“It’s not high school anymore,” he said. “It’s a whole new level. Bigger, stronger guys, faster guys. They’ve helped me transition over, it’s been helpful having them to look up to because they’ve been here and know what they’re doing, so they can show me the ropes.”

With many experts picking St. Bonaventure to get an NCAA tournament bid this year, the team knows that they will have to meet high expectations all season. Ngalakulondi has embraced the attention that the Bonnies have been getting from the media, but knows that they need to go out and perform.

“It’s great, it’s really something I’m looking forward to,” he said. “Predictions don’t really mean anything, you have to put in the work and that will make us accomplish our goals.”

Ngalakulondi ‘s size should play a large part in his game. Although he stands at 6-foot-6, his athleticism allows him to play like he’s 6-foot-8.

With big men Amadi Ikpeze and Josh Ayeni returning, however, Ngalakulondi will have to work to see consistent minutes during his rookie season.

“My goal is to come out with energy and help the team win however I can,” he said. “Whether its rebounding, running the floor, knocking down shots, it’s just whatever I can do to make the team win.”

Ngalakulondi offered what he thinks the Bonnies have to do in order to find success deep into the postseason.

“We just have to play together, play hard all the time, and stay out of foul trouble. If we do all of those things, we can have a really good season,” he said.

Regardless of his role this season, Ngalakulondi has a long career ahead of him at Bonaventure, and his potential begs Bonnies fans to ask, what is the ‘Chef’ cooking?