COLUMN: Bona’s recent impediment of opposing stars key to defensive success

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Jeff Uveino

DAYTON, OH — St. Bonaventure knew it needed a plan to slow down Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland.

The players knew that stopping Hyland, the Atlantic 10 player of the year, would be essential in defending VCU. They weren’t worried, however, about figuring out how they’d do it.

That task, as junior forward/center Osun Osunniyi said before the game, would be head coach Mark Schmidt’s responsibility. And, while Osunniyi and junior guard Jaren Holmes didn’t yet know on Wednesday what Schmidt’s plan for stopping Hyland would be, they knew he’d have the Bonnies ready.

“Schmidt, he’s a basketball genius,” Osunniyi said four days before Sunday’s final. “He’s going to look at film and find ways to see where (Hyland) has struggled and try to use that to our advantage.”

Holmes, despite calling Hyland a “tremendous shooter with unlimited range,” agreed with Osunniyi.

“Like (Osunniyi) said, we’ll let Schmidt deal with that,” Holmes said. “We’re just going to go out there and play. Schmidt’s going to have us ready and they’re going to have a game plan.”

Then came the final, played at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

When the teams retreated to their respective locker rooms at halftime, the Bonnies led by seven points. Hyland had zero. And he was 0-of-3 from the field.

Hyland picked up three fouls in the game’s first seven minutes. Two were offensive; one defensive. The sophomore guard subsequently sat for the rest of the half.

Hyland’s first point of the game came just under over two minutes into the second half, when he got to the line and hit a pair of free throws. His first field goal didn’t come for another seven minutes, as a layup with 9:11 left in the game broke his scoreless streak from the field.

Bona eventually won the game, 74-65, and led by double digits before Hyland got going offensively. Hyland finished with a game-high 21 points but only made four field goals, shot 4-of-11 from the field and scored 11 of his points from the free-throw line.

Schmidt and the Bonnies, the A-10’s best defensive team, slowed down Hyland when it mattered. They frustrated VCU’s top scorer. While impressive, the circumstance wasn’t isolated.

SBU held Jordan Goodwin, Saint Louis’ leading scorer and a first-team all-league selection, to 11 points in its A-10 semifinal win over the Billikens. Nine of those points came in the second half, when Bona maintained a double-digit lead.

In the A-10 quarterfinals, SBU held Duquesne’s Marcus Weathers, the Dukes’ leading scorer and a second-team all-league selection, to six points.

In their final two regular season games, the Bonnies held two more first-team A-10 players, Davidson’s Kellan Grady and Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher, to two and six points, respectively.

Notice a trend?

In the last month, SBU has repeatedly limited the offensive output of opposing stars. That’s helped the team to a league-best 60.4 points allowed per game.

The only members of the A-10’s six-man first team that the Bonnies haven’t held to single-digit scoring this season are Hyland and Tre Mitchell, the UMass forward which the Bonnies did not play against this season.

The numbers are one thing. The players’ trust in Schmidt’s ability to game plan, however, is another.

Schmidt has said multiple times that he’s felt the teams that have had the most success throughout college basketball’s COVID-ridden season are those that stick together and rally around adversity. When a roster wants to play for a coach, as trusts a coach, as much as the Bonnies do Schmidt, those challenges become easier.

After winning the A-10 regular-season title and tournament on its way to a 16-4 record, ninth-seeded Bona finds itself pitted against No. 8 LSU (18-9) in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.

If Schmidt plans to defend LSU by limiting its best player, he’ll have his hands full in doing so. Cameron Thomas, a freshman guard that will have his sights set on the NBA Draft in the near future, leads the Tigers’ offense with 22.6 points per game.

Checking in just behind Thomas are Trendon Watford (16.7 points per game) and Ja’Vonte Smart (15.9 ppg).

While we’ll learn of Schmidt’s defensive strategy against LSU on Saturday, his team’s success in limiting opposing stars this season has been undeniable down the stretch.

The nation’s eighth-best scoring offense, led by a top-20 NBA prospect, will be Schmidt’s biggest defensive challenge to date.

MBB: Bonnies win A-10 championship; punch ticket to NCAA tournament

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Jeff Uveino

DAYTON, OH — If there was a checklist for winning an Atlantic 10 championship game, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team had checked all but one box two years ago.

That final box, as junior guard Dominick Welch had said the week before this year’s final, was finishing.

SBU had came within eight minutes of an A-10 championship against Saint Louis two years ago, but fell short in the game’s final minutes.  Welch, Osun Osunniyi and Kyle Lofton, who each started that game as freshmen, made sure the same thing didn’t happen on Sunday.

The top-seeded Bonnies (16-4) built a first-half lead and didn’t give it up on their way to beating No. 2 VCU (19-7), 74-65, at UD Arena.

After sitting with four fouls for five minutes of the second half, Welch provided the dagger.

With 1:16 left in the game, the Bonnies leading by eight and the shot clock winding down, Welch pivoted away from a defender and nailed a 3-pointer.

The Bona lead became 12 points. The pro-Bona crowd that made the 400-mile trip to Dayton broke into a frenzy. And, moments later, SBU head coach Mark Schmidt raised his hands above his head as he embraced his staff, overcome with emotion.

For the second time in program history, the Bonnies won the Atlantic 10 tournament. They’ll represent the Atlantic 10 as the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“Two years ago, four of our guys couldn’t finish,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t finish that game and we lost, and a lot of times you don’t get a second chance in life. We got a second chance, and those guys finished.”

Welch finished with 13 points while Lofton scored 23 points and handed out six assists. Perhaps the player of the game, however, and the most valuable player of the tournament, was Osun Osunniyi.

The junior forward/center finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Like his teammates that experienced 2019’s A-10 final, the 55-53 loss had been stuck in his head ever since.

“Yeah, it was on our mind,” Osunniyi said. “We were one shot away from where we are right now. That’s been on my mind, (Lofton’s) mind. The guys who came in our class that are juniors now, that’s been on our mind since day one and it was on our mind when we faced Saint Louis in the semifinals.”

Osunniyi’s presence under the rim throughout the tournament, despite not having its own column on the stat sheet, was paramount to the success of SBU’s defense.

“We didn’t change what got us (here),” Schmidt said. “We defended, we rebounded and we took care of the basketball. Against VCU, a talented team that is so well coached, if you don’t take care of the basketball… when they get numbers, it’s lethal.”

Defense, as Schmidt has said for weeks, continues to be Bona’s staple. SBU’s efforts to limit VCU leading scorer and A-10 player of the year Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland were largely successful despite Hyland’s team-high 21 points.

Hyland sat for over 10 minutes in the first half after picking up three early fouls. The sophomore guard scored all of his points in the second half, many of which came after the Bonnies had built a double-digit lead.

“The goal was to deny him the ball as much as we could,” Schmidt said. “He’s just a talented guy. One thing we didn’t do, and especially in the second half, was we fouled him too many times.”

Hyland was 4-of-11 from the field, most of his points coming from an 11-of-12 free-throw shooting performance.

“When you lose your best player, the team’s not going to be as good,” Schmidt said. “You knew that he was going to come back and be aggressive in the second half, but I thought our guys did a really good job making it hard for him.”

Hyland’s efforts brought his team within seven points midway through the second half, but Bona prevented the Rams from coming all the way back. Vince Williams Jr. tallied 12 points and nine rebounds for the Rams while Josh Banks scored 10 points.

Jaren Holmes scored nine points and pulled down seven rebounds for Bona while Jalen Adaway scored 10 points. Osunniyi, Lofton and Adaway were each included on the all-tournament team.

“It’s a special group,” Schmidt said. “Not that the other groups aren’t special, but in the moment now, I hold these guys close to my heart. They endured a lot of things this year and were able to come through.”

SBU’s second NCAA tournament in four years marks the third time that the Bonnies will go “dancing” under Schmidt. They first did it in 2012 after winning the A-10 tournament as the No. 4 seed, then received an at-large bid in 2018.

Bona received a No. 9 seed in this year’s tournament, and will play No. 8 LSU on Saturday in Indianapolis in the tournament’s first round. For Lofton, Osunniyi and many more, playing in the NCAA tournament will fulfill a childhood dream.

“Going to Indianapolis for the NCAA tournament is like a dream come true,” Lofton said. “Since kids, we’ve been working for that, and to finally live the dream is amazing.”

For Schmidt, the chance to take basketball-crazed St. Bonaventure back to the NCAA tournament is priceless. Schmidt has rebuilt the program over his 14 years as head coach, and now continues to oversee one of the most successful periods in the program’s history.

“The smiles on our guys’ faces: that’s what you coach for,” Schmidt said. “Those are the memories that will last a lifetime. You see those big smiles, and how proud and satisfied the players are. For them, this is a dream come true. When you’re playing in the backyard or down at the playground, this is what you dream of.”

Bona fans travel to Dayton for A-10 final

photo courtesy of University of Dayton

By Nic Gelyon

DAYTON, OH — It’s been a long couple of weeks for Bona fans.  

First, sadness. The Bonnies entered the Atlantic 10 tournament with heavy hearts, punctuated by the death of former St. Bonaventure University president Dr. Dennis DePerro. 

But then, elation. Blowout wins against Duquesne and St. Louis put the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team in position to do something they’ve never done before—win the Atlantic 10 championship as the one-seed in the tournament. 

Now the weekend of the A-10 championship game has finally arrived. Bona’s versus VCU.

It’s an atmosphere a true Bona fan wouldn’t want to miss. Good news for many, however, as fans will be in Dayton for Sunday’s game at UD Arena. 

But, whether you leave Saturday or Sunday for the game depends on if you want to endure a three-day quarantine. 

If you’re traveling for the game, know that the state of Ohio currently doesn’t have any COVID-19 protocols for people visiting from other states. In other words—take comfort in knowing you won’t have to quarantine upon arrival. You definitely won’t have to plan as far ahead. 

Coming back to New York could spell a different story. 

If you stay in Dayton, or anywhere in Ohio, for more than 24 hours, you may be subject to that pesky three-day quarantine upon returning home. Travelers are also advised by the state to fill out the New York state traveler health form, which can be found and filled out online at the New York State Department of Health website. 

This is all part of the New York State COVID-19 travel advisory, still in effect for any state that doesn’t border New York. 

The university also discouraged student travel to Dayton — but acknowledged it can’t prohibit it. 

“For those who do go [to the game],” the university said in an email to students, “They need to be mindful that they will need to follow COVID-19 protocols.” 

In other words—the university can’t prevent kids from going, so all they ask is that travelers stay safe. 

And since the university won’t be providing transportation to the championship this year—also  due to COVID-19 protocols—students must find their own way down to Dayton. 

For many students, that will mean driving to the game. Gas seems to be expensive in Erie, the highest prices being around $2.97 in the Flagship City. But the deeper you get into Ohio, the gas prices seem to drop. For example—gas in Columbus is as low as $2.47 in some places, as of Friday.  

You might be asking yourself—what will the experience be like when you get into UD Arena on Sunday? It’ll be an interesting experience, especially as Bonas fans haven’t been able to see a game in-person at the Reilly Center this season. 

The first thing you should know: UD Arena will be at about ten-percent capacity for the game Sunday. That means upwards of 1,300 fans could be in the stands—a far cry from the 300 that could attend regular season Flyers games. 

The executive director of UD Arena, Scott DeBolt, says, “There will be a lot of energy in the building.” 

Some other things ticket holders should know — the experience will be completely cashless. 

You won’t have to pay for parking, as the parking fee is included in your ticket price. And you won’t be able to pay cash at the concession stands, either. They only take cards.  

Obviously, the usual COVID-19 protocols will be enforced at the game. You’ll only be allowed to remove your mask when you’re actively eating or drinking at your seat; at all other times, you must be masked. 

“Wear your mask when you’re supposed to and don’t gather out in the concourse,” was the advice given by DeBolt. “Sit in your assigned seats… have a hot dog and a soda and enjoy the game.” 

As for a couple students who are going: 

Hannah Miller is a women’s basketball manager. She went to Richmond with the women’s basketball team, and so she got to experience their championship atmosphere. Still, she’s excited.

“I’m a senior, and this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do,” Miller said. 

And, of course, who could forget ‘Captain Beer’, Dom Grecco. And don’t forget his eight friends who are tagging along.  

“We looked at each other and said, ‘we’re doing it’”, Grecco said. “We’re just going to build up all that energy we’ve missed all year and hope to put it into one game.” 

Grecco is sticking four people in one car and five in another. His cohort in buying the tickets, Noah Minton, noticed the wildly fluctuating prices of the tickets. 

“We thought about getting tickets, so I looked on Ticketmaster, Seat Geek, Vivid Seats; they were a couple dollars more on Ticketmaster, so I went back to Seat Geek,” Minton said. “But in that two minute span, I saw the prices go up another $12, and I said, ‘Dom, we got make a decision’”. 

Miller noticed the same thing when buying her tickets. “The prices kept going up minute by minute,” she said. “But we got them cheaper than they are now.” 

Schmidt, Osunniyi among Bona all-conference honorees

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The team had already won the Atlantic 10 regular-season championship and advanced to the conference’s tournament final.

Now, after individual all-conference awards were announced on Wednesday, it’s no surprise that the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team received numerous honors.

Bona head coach Mark Schmidt was named A-10 coach of the year for the second time in his career (2016) after leading the team to a 13-4 regular-season record and 11-4 A-10 mark.

“Believe me, it’s not my award, it’s our program’s award,” Schmidt said. “My assistant coaches do an unbelievable job. It’s special for our program, and I’m humbled to be selected by my peers to be the coach of the year, but there are a lot of people that are involved. It’s not just a one-man show, as everybody knows.”

Bona junior forward/center Osun Osunniyi was named A-10 defensive player of the year, the first time in program history that a Bonnie has received that recognition.

“Even if I didn’t win the award, I know I have my teammates’ respect of being a great defender,” Osunniyi said. “I’m not really big on personal accolades or achievements… I’m focused on Sunday.”

Osunniyi leads the A-10 with 2.8 blocks per game, totaling 54 on the season. Schmidt complimented Osunniyi’s elevated confidence this season, and noted associate head coach Steve Curran’s efforts to work with him in the post.

“His defense has always been ahead of his offense, much more in his freshman and sophomore years,” Schmidt said. He’s much more aggressive, confident, and his footwork is getting better.”

Bona got three all-conference nods, as junior guard Kyle Lofton was named first-team all-league for the second time in his career. This is the second-straight year that Lofton, who averages 14.2 points and 5.5 assists per game, received first-team honors.

Osunniyi and junior guard Jaren Holmes were each named second-team all-league, while Osunniyi’s inclusion on the A-10’s all-defensive team marks the third time in as many years that he has received that honor.

Holmes, who was also named to the A-10’s all-academic team, averages 13.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Osunniyi has been no slouch on offense, either, averaging 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

“It’s just a great feeling knowing what we’ve accomplished so far, but also knowing that the job’s not finished yet,” said Holmes, whose Bonnies will play VCU on Sunday for the A-10 championship. “We have a lot more to accomplish as a group and as a family.”

COLUMN: Bona, VCU’s spots in NCAA field secured before A-10 title game

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Jeff Uveino

DAYTON, OH — Win, and you’re in.

That’s the premise of the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament each year.

Regardless of its regular-season performance beforehand, a conference tournament championship secures a team’s spot in the NCAA tournament field. While that remains true for this year’s A-10 championship game, the stakes of the game are different than in recent years.

Both finalists have done enough to deserve a spot in the 68-team NCAA bracket. For No. 1 St. Bonaventure and No. 2 VCU, Sunday’s title game at University of Dayton Arena likely won’t determine whether each side gets to play in the NCAA tournament.

Instead, this year’s final will be for bragging rights, for NCAA seeding, and, for SBU, the chance to make history as the second team in program history to be crowned A-10 champions.

When the Bonnies arrived in Richmond last week for their first two A-10 tournament games, their postseason prospectus looked different than it did after SBU posted back-to-back convincing wins over No. 9 Duquesne and No. 4 Saint Louis in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

Now, as the A-10 regular-season champion that has advanced to the conference’s championship game, it would take an 1800s-style Wild West robbery by the NCAA selection committee to leave the Bonnies out of the tournament.

As of Monday, the NCAA’s “NET” ranking, the largely mysterious, overarching ranking that the committee prioritizes, ranks Bona 27th in the country, and VCU 35th. Ken Pomeroy, famous for his “KenPom” rankings, also has the Bonnies at 27th, while VCU checks in at 43rd.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, one of the nation’s most popular “bracketologists,” predicts the Bonnies to be a ninth-seed in the tournament, while listing the Rams as a No. 11 seed. Lunardi said on Sunday that he anticipates Bona will be in the NCAA field whether it wins the A-10 title game or not.

So, looking at the situation realistically, both A-10 finalists will be playing in the NCAA tournament whether they’re crowned league champions or not. This differs from SBU’s last trip to the A-10 final, when it needed to win the 2019 game to be included in the NCAA bracket.

The Bonnies lost that game, ending their season at the Barclays Center as abruptly as they had gotten there. The year before, Davidson upset SBU in the A-10 semifinals before upsetting top-seeded Rhode Island a day later to win the tournament. If the Wildcats had not done so, they would have been left out.

This is the first time since 2013 that the tournament’s top two seeds will play in its final. Bona’s only A-10 championship came the year before that, when the Andrew Nicholson-led Bonnies beat Xavier in the final to clinch an NCAA tournament spot that they wouldn’t have received without winning the tournament.

This year, that’s not the case. SBU has built a sufficient tournament resume over the last three months, compiling a 15-4 record while finishing 11-4 in the A-10 during the regular season. VCU’s situation is similar, as the Rams are 19-6 overall with a 10-4 A-10 record.

This year, it’s about pride and the chance to become a champion. For three Bona starters, it’s the chance to avenge 2019’s A-10 final loss.

The 2021 A-10 champion will receive the immediate satisfaction of knowing that it has reserved the league’s coveted automatic NCAA bid. The runner-up, barring an inexplicable snub, will hear its name called just hours later during the NCAA selection show.

MBB: Osunniyi, Adaway frustrate Saint Louis; Bonnies punch ticket back to A-10 final

photo courtesy of Atlantic 10 conference

By Jeff Uveino

RICHMOND, VA— Mark Schmidt has admitted that his team’s offensive efficiency comes and goes. Schmidt’s defense, however, continues to be the staple that wins games for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team.

The No. 1 Bonnies (15-4), the Atlantic 10’s top-ranked defensive team, frustrated No. 4 Saint Louis (14-6) on the defensive end of the floor on their way to beating the Billikens, 71-53, in an A-10 tournament semifinal at the Siegel Center on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi made his presence felt in the post from the game’s start.

The junior center tallied eight points, five rebounds and seven blocks while matching the signature physicality that Saint Louis brings in the paint. Osunniyi’s presence under the basket could be felt around the arena, as he repeatedly rejected Billiken shots in a first half that saw six of his blocks.

“I thought that (Osunniyi) was terrific,” said Schmidt, SBU’s 14th-year head coach. “He was the difference defensively. He was the eraser. He was the rim protector, and he did so much for us defensively.”

The Bonnies, which allow a league-best 60.1 points per game, held the Billikens to 37% shooting from the field and 29% from 3-point range. Holding an opponent to under 40% shooting, as Schmidt has said periodically, is a goal of his team each game.

“From a defensive standpoint, we couldn’t have played better,” Schmidt said. “Saint Louis is a very physical team and they dominated us in St. Louis earlier in the year. I thought that the key to the game was that we needed to control the paint.”

Bona avenged a regular-season loss to the Billikens that came exactly one month before Saturday’s victory. In that game, SLU out-scored Bona 20-18 in the paint, while SBU built a 34-20 advantage in that category on Saturday.

“We didn’t play on our heels. I thought that in game one, they knocked us back and we played on our heels,” Schmidt said. “You need to play downhill against Saint Louis, against those physical, athletic bodies. I thought we did a good job of playing downhill.”

While Osunniyi anchored Bona’s defensive unit, Jalen Adaway kept SBU’s offense rolling in a second half that Bona led for its entirety. Adaway scored a game-high 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, while also pulling down seven rebounds.

Adaway said that SBU’s quick start, including the 11-2 lead that it assembled to start the game, was key.

“We’ve been harping on things like that the whole year, just coming out energetic from the jump,” Adaway said. “Tonight especially, we just emphasized coming out from the jump and getting on top, playing confident and playing our game.”

Schmidt praised Adaway’s effort on both ends of the floor, saying that he played “extremely well.”

“He’s not the biggest guy, but I thought he defended the block really well,” Schmidt said. “He scored for us and moved the ball both ways.”

The Bonnies used bench scoring to jump on the Billikens early. Sophomore guard AJ Vasquez came on to replace Adaway in the game’s first minute while Adaway was treated for a bloody nose.

Vasquez gave the Bonnies an immediate boost by hitting two 3-pointers. Dominick Welch, who scored a game-high 18 points in SBU’s quarterfinal win over Duquesne on Friday, hit a triple of his own shortly after. The Bonnies navigated the rest of the half without the junior guard, however, after he picked up his second foul.

Bona took a 33-25 lead into halftime before dominating a second half in which they shot 52% from the field. SBU entered the game as two-point underdogs, but led by 22 points at the under-eight media timeout. By that point, a Saint Louis comeback was far from in the works.

“We really emphasize patience because the defense is going to lead the offense,” Adaway said. “We have so many talented players offensively that it’s going to come. Just locking in on defense really opens things up and makes it a lot easier for us.”

Jaren Holmes finished with 15 points for the Bonnies, nine of which came in the second half. The junior guard also pulled down seven rebounds and dished out three assists. Kyle Lofton earned his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Welch scored nine points to round out the SBU starting five.

Jordan Goodwin scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Saint Louis, while Javonte Perkins scored 10 points.

SBU now advances to its fifth A-10 tournament championship in program history, a game in which the Bonnies are 1-3. Their lone A-10 championship came over Xavier in the 2012 tournament, while their most recent trip to the final was 2019’s loss to Saint Louis.

Bona will have eight off-days before the final, which will be held at University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio on March 14. SBU will play No. 2 VCU, with which it split two regular-season games.

“We’ve won playing half-court defense and rebounding the ball,” Schmidt said. “And today, we did well at both ends.”

Osunniyi’s seven blocks gave him 47 on the season, a league-best average of 2.61 per game.

“He’s a special player, especially a defensive player, and there isn’t anybody better,” Schmidt said.

Adaway agreed with his head coach.

“Defensive player of the year,” he said of Osunniyi.”He has to be.”

PREVIEW: Bona faces Saint Louis with A-10 final on the line

photo courtesy of Atlantic 10 conference

By Jeff Uveino

RICHMOND, VA — They beat St. Bonaventure in the 2019 Atlantic 10 championship game. They beat them by 23 points in Bona’s 2019-20 season finale. They beat them exactly one month ago.

Now, the Saint Louis men’s basketball team stands in the Bonnies’ path to the 2021 A-10 championship game.

After beating No. 9 Duquesne in Friday’s quarterfinals, No. 1 St. Bonaventure will play No. 4 Saint Louis at the Siegel Center on Saturday with a trip to next week’s A-10 final on the line.

The Billikens beat No. 5 Massachusetts, 86-72, in Friday’s quarterfinals, and a familiar face to Bona fans led the way for Saint Louis. Senior guard Javonte Perkins, who scored a game-high 21 points in SLU’s 70-59 defeat of the Bonnies on Feb. 6, scored a team-high 16 points on Friday.

Saint Louis’ senior class has developed as fierce a rivalry with SBU as any other A-10 team in its four seasons, as the Bonnies and Billikens have split six contests since 2017-18. The Bonnies took the first three games, two of which were won by a Jaylen Adams-led Bona team in 2018. However, since SBU beat the Billikens at the Reilly Center in 2018-19’s regular-season finale, Saint Louis has taken three straight.

If there’s one thing that Bona head coach Mark Schmidt’s team has done since its core of now-juniors joined the team prior to the 2018-19 season, however, it’s mature.

When Kyle Lofton, Dominick Welch and Osun Osunniyi started the 2019 A-10 championship game, all three were freshmen. While Schmidt said after Friday’s win that his players didn’t think about past games such as that defeat, he’s been consistently adamant about his team’s experience level this season.

“I’ve been lucky to have these experienced guys that know how to win,” said Schmidt, reiterating a point he’s made about his team since the preseason’s first press conference.

Lofton, Welch and Osunniyi have combined to make 210 starts for the Bonnies in just under three years.

The only matchup between the two defensive-minded teams this season was at Chaifitz Arena in Saint Louis, where the Billikens held the Bonnies to 36% shooting from the field while shooting it at 43% themselves. Bona junior guard Kyle Lofton scored a team-high 17 points in that game, while junior guard Jaren Holmes scored 12 points and junior forward Jalen Adaway tallied 10 points.

SBU is the A-10’s top defensive team, allowing an average of 60.5 points per game, while Saint Louis checks in at third in the league, giving up 64.7 points per game.

Saturday could be the last time that Bona battles SLU’s current senior class. Hasahn French, Javonte Perkins and Jordan Goodwin have each become familiar names to the SBU fans that have watched them beat their Bonnies three times in a row.

Now, Schmidt’s core of juniors gets a chance to avenge its recent losses to the Billikens. And, if they do, University of Dayton Arena and the A-10 championship game await them on March 14.

MBB: Osunniyi leads Bona offense from inside out

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.”