MBB: Bonnies can build on national recognition with pair of road wins this week

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — For the second-consecutive week, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team received recognition from the Associated Press that it hadn’t previously gotten in nearly three years.

The Bonnies received 19 “votes” for inclusion in the AP’s Top 25 rankings on Monday, 11 more than they did a week ago. One voter listed the Bonnies as the 21st-best team in the country this week, while one ranked them 22nd, two ranked them 24th and six voters ranked them 25th.

“I think you use it as a positive,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “All the hard work that the kids have put in, and the way we’ve gotten off to a good start, they deserve some national recognition. But, at the same time, they need to remember what got us here.”

SBU’s 19 points are good enough for 32nd in the country, although the AP only officially ranks the top 25 teams. The Bonnies hadn’t previously received votes since late in the 2017-18 season, when they appeared for three-consecutive weeks in the midst of a 12-game winning streak to end the regular season.

Just two days after beating then-No. 16 Rhode Island at home, Bona received 13 votes, which was good enough for 31st in the nation. Two weeks later, the Bonnies received 72 votes, missing the Top 25 by one spot.

SBU hasn’t been ranked in the Top 25 in over 50 years, since it was ranked No. 10 on Jan. 19, 1971. Two more wins this week, however, including one over Saint Louis on Saturday, would help Bona’s case for re-joining the rankings after a half-century absence.

“The notoriety is good and our players deserve that, but at the same time, I think we have an experienced team that understands that all the notoriety could be (short-lived),” Schmidt said. “If we continue to do our job, those accolades will come. That’s the message to the players.”

Saint Louis checked in just behind the Bonnies in this week’s rankings, receiving 11 votes, which tied the Billikens with Belmont for 33rd-best in the nation. After a 7-1 non-conference schedule that included wins over LSU and North Carolina State, the Billikens were forced to wait until Jan. 26 to play their first A-10 game.

The result was a home loss to Dayton, which knocked SLU out of the Top 25, where it had been ranked 22nd the week before.

Before playing at Chaifitz Arena on Saturday, however, the Bonnies will travel to Saint Joseph’s to play a Hawks team that it has beaten six-consecutive times dating back to the 2017-18 season. The Bonnies ran away with a win over Saint Joe’s on Jan. 6 at the Reilly Center, as career-high scoring nights from Jaren Holmes (38 points) and Jalen Adaway (24 points) led SBU to an 83-57 victory.

Schmidt warned, however, that his team isn’t overlooking SJU after already beating the Hawks once this season.

“That final score wasn’t indicative of how that game went,” Schmidt said. “Our guys understand that it was 32-28 at half time, and we were down most of the first half. It got out of hand in the last 10 minutes of that game.”

After leading by just four points at halftime, Bona out-scored Joe’s 51-29 in the second half, aided by 60% shooting from the field and 7-for-9 shooting from three-point range.

“Our guys experienced them,” Schmidt said. They understand how difficult it is to guard them. They got our attention and we understand how good of an offensive team they are.”

Absent from the teams’ first meeting was Hawks redshirt senior forward Ryan Daly, who has not played since Dec. 21 due to injury. The Hawks are hopefully that Daly could return to their lineup for Wednesday’s matchup with SBU.

The return of Daly, a third-team all-league selection a year ago and SJU’s “best player,” according to Schmidt, could help an offense that has averaged just under 70 points per game this season while giving up over 83 points per game.

“The way they play, they’re trying to get 30 or 40 (three-point attempts) up,” Schmidt said. “On any given night, especially at home, they’re making those threes.”

The Hawks’ three-point shooting struggled at the Reilly Center in January, shooting 10-for-34 (29%).

Bona will seek its eighth-consecutive A-10 victory against the Hawks, and if it takes care of business, will be primed for one of its most important games of the season against the Billikens on Saturday.

Wednesday’s game, which is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m., will be broadcasted on ESPN+.