MBB: Bonnies stumble to regular-season finish line with loss to Dayton

photo by Jeremy Castro

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — In the end, it proved to be too much.

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team was 20 minutes away from finishing the 2020-21 season undefeated at home. A one-point halftime lead was quickly erased as the game’s second stanza began, however, as Dayton (13-8, 9-7 A-10) went on a 13-2 run to start the half and take the lead for good.

Despite a late-game Bona comeback and a chance to tie the game in its last possession, SBU (13-4, 11-4 A-10) failed to come all the way back, and fell to the Flyers, 55-52, at the Reilly Center on Monday.

“(Dayton) played well defensively, and they did a good job of keeping us out of the paint,” SBU head coach Mark Schmidt said. “I thought we were sluggish; heavy-legged. We missed some shots. Shots we ordinarily make.”

Despite a poor offensive performance that saw them shoot 30% from the field and 29% from 3-point range, the Bonnies clawed back into the game late in the second half and brought the deficit to as little as two points (52-50) on a Dominick Welch 3-pointer with three minutes remaining.

After the teams traded baskets and Ibi Watson hit one of two free throws for the Flyers, SBU got the ball with 10 seconds to play, trailing by three. Junior forward Jalen Adaway got an open look from beyond the arc, but missed in the game’s waning seconds, leaving the Flyers victorious.

“I thought we had a great look,” Schmidt said. “In terms of getting an open look, I thought we got (one) that we wanted. They knew that we needed to hit a three so it’s always hard to get really open looks, but I thought that was a really good look. He made a good stroke on it, he just missed it.”

Adaway scored a game-high 17 points while shooting 3-of-7 from distance and pulling down four rebounds. Junior forward/center Osun Osunniyi churned out 10 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks while junior guard Kyle Lofton scored nine points and handed out six assists.

“We’ve been down before and we’ve come back,” Schmidt said. “(Dayton) did a good job keeping us out of the paint, and at times, we took quick shots. They beat us in the paint, 24-20, and it’s usually the other way around.”

Dayton narrowly out-rebounded the Bonnies, 36-32, and although the Flyers committed 11 more turnovers than the Bonnies, they shot nearly 45% from the field and 6-of-12 from beyond the arc. Watson scored 14 points to lead the Flyers, while RJ Blakney and Mustapha Amzil each scored nine points.

SBU held Jalen Crutcher, Dayton’s leading scorer, to six points before he fouled out with just under four minutes to play.

“I thought we played really hard, we just didn’t do a good job of executing, making shots,” Schmidt said. “Four games in nine days is a lot to ask, but at the same time, give Dayton credit. They played well enough to win.”

Before the game, the late Dr. Dennis DePerro, SBU’s 21st president, was honored with a moment of silence. DePerro passed away Sunday evening after battling COVID-19 for more than two months.

“He was a great man and a great leader, and he did amazing things here in his short stay,” Schmidt said of DePerro, who became university president in 2017. “He really supported athletics, especially men’s basketball, and we lost a great guy… he’s going to be hard to replace. It was a hard day today.”

SBU will now look ahead to the Atlantic 10 tournament, in which it will be the No. 1 seed. The Bonnies will get a chance to recuperate with three days off after playing four games in nine days to end their regular season.

While Bona’s A-10 quarterfinal opponent will be determined on Thursday, the Bonnies are locked into Friday’s 11 a.m. time slot. They’ll await the winner of No. 8 Richmond and No. 9 Duquesne.

“We’ve got to get our legs back,” Schmidt said. “It’s the end of the year; we’ve been practicing since whenever it’s been. It’s getting our guys the rest that they need, and then bouncing back and hopefully they can play well on Friday.”