COLUMN: Bona’s loss to SEC foe LSU draws comparisons to 2018 NCAA defeat

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

BLOOMINGTON, IN — Maybe it was the identical margins of defeat.

Maybe it was the nearly identical final scores. Or the conference that the two opponents share.

Whatever it was, when the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team lost to LSU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, my mind could not shake SBU’s 2018 tournament loss to Florida.

Three years ago, the Jaylen Adams-led Bonnies were knocked out in the Round of 64 by Florida, 77-62, in Dallas. They shot 35% from the field and 16% from 3-point range, and fell behind in the first half before failing to assemble a comeback.

On Saturday, on the campus of Indiana University, the Bonnies were bested by LSU, 76-61. They shot 33% from the floor and 15% from distance, and trailed the entirety of the second half after going into halftime down by nine.

Maybe the feeling was justified.

Bona is now 0-3 against Southeastern Conference teams since Kentucky eliminated the Bonnies from the tournament in 2000. That game came down to the last possession, while the two more recent games had been decided long before.

Bona fans maintain optimism until zeros fill the clock. In 2018, that was the case. While the Bonnies had been out-played in the first half, a late-game comeback felt imminent, especially for a team that had won 14 of its last 15 games.

The same feeling filled Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Saturday, as the 500-or-so SBU fans that acquired tickets to the game held out hope that the Bonnies would find some second-half magic.

However, it never happened.

It didn’t in 2018. It didn’t in 2021. Instead of the thrill of a comeback, Bona fans felt the helplessness of the game clock slipping away.

While their playing styles varied, both teams were talented. Adams and Matt Mobley’s group shot the ball as well as any team in the Atlantic 10 (39% from distance), and rarely had as poor of a shooting night as it did against the Gators.

This year’s squad, led by a core of juniors that has grown up in front of the community’s eyes over the last three seasons, didn’t shoot the ball as well as 2018’s team. It did, however, defend as well as almost any team in the country, and its 60.4 points allowed per game was the fifth-best clip in the nation entering the tournament.

A poor shooting night from Kyle Lofton’s Bonnies was less surprising than one from Adams’ Bonnies. However, LSU out-rebounded and out-defended the former, beating SBU at its own game.

Despite the similarities that populate the pair of losses, one glaring difference exists that can’t be found in the box score: one team didn’t get another chance. The other will.

Adams, Mobley and Idris Taquee played the last game of their college careers against Florida. That season, successful enough for Bona to secure its second at-large bid to the tournament in program history, was the culmination of Adams’ four-year career at SBU.

The Bonnies added weapons for Adams along the way, such as Mobley and then-junior Courtney Stockard. It was the group’s best chance at a tournament run. Its only chance, really, after being excluded from the tournament in 2016 and failing to qualify the year after.

However, 2021’s group will get another shot to advance Bona past the Round of 64 for the first time since 1970. There won’t be any tricks or gimmicks involved.

They’re just all underclassmen.

Jaren Holmes, a guard that transferred to the program before the 2019-20 season, acknowledged that opportunity after LSU ended his junior season. While the sting of Saturday’s loss will be felt long after the flight back to Western New York, the Bonnies have the rare opportunity to bring their entire roster back from an NCAA Tournament team.

“To make it with these guys and to make it with these coaches and the year we had, I know for a fact that everybody back in Olean is happy and proud of us,” Holmes said.

Based on the hundreds of people that lined the streets of Olean, Allegany and the university as the Bonnies departed for Dayton ahead of last week’s A-10 championship, Holmes is right.

This season was one of the most important in program history. The Bonnies won the A-10 regular-season and tournament in the same year for the first time ever. They received a single-digit seed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.

Perhaps head coach Mark Schmidt will be playing with house money next year. Regardless, Holmes and the Bonnies will be back. He said so himself.

“We’ll be back,” Holmes said. “We’ll be back for sure. That’s all I have to say. We’ll be back. We’re not going to stop working. We’ll be back.”

NEW: Schmidt, Kenney react to DePerro’s passing

photo: Jeremy Castro

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — As the St. Bonaventure University community watches its basketball teams conclude their seasons, and the university’s spring sports teams begin their seasons, they will do so with heavy hearts.

On Monday morning, Dr. Dennis DePerro, the university’s 21st president, died after spending months battling COVID-19. The news was a significant blow to the university, but also to the athletic department.  

DePerro’s commitment to the athletics at St. Bonaventure was steadfast, and to athletic director Tim Kenney, this commitment was profound and demonstrated in his character. 

“He exuded what it was, what this place is about. His kindness, his personality, he knew the student athletes,” Kenney said. “You don’t see that with a lot of presidents at times, and he knew them.” 

DePerro had a special connection with student-athletes at St Bonaventure. Having two sons who played soccer at Providence College, DePerro understood what it means to be a student athlete.

“He understood athletics, and that couldn’t be understated enough,” Kenney said. “A lot of the student-athletes I saw today…. they couldn’t believe it,” Kenney said. 

Faculty in the athletic department took the news with the same sorrow as the athletes. With his passing, the department knew they lost someone who was more than their boss. 

“He was our boss, but he was more of a friend. It’s very rare in this day and age that you have that,” Kenney said. “The person you knew was the way he led; there was no ego involved with that.” 

Mark Schmidt, head coach of SBU’s men’s basketball team, emphasized his own relationship he had developed with DePerro.  

“He was a friend. He was a guy that I could walk into his office at any time and sit down and talk to,” Schmidt said. “He really supported athletics, in particular men’s basketball.” 

Schmidt was appreciative of his leadership, and acknowledged its power within the basketball program.  

“It starts from the top, and when the top guy believes in athletics and its mission and believes in basketball and the importance of it, you’re in a good spot.” 

Dr. DePerro’s understanding of athletics translated to his leadership. DePerro was even-keeled and never overreacted, according to Schmidt. He made it a point to be approachable, and this tightened his bonds with the players and the coaches.  

“As a boss, that’s the kind of guy you want. Someone that’s always gonna be there with you, you know, in good times and bad times,” Schmidt said. “He had a doctorate degree, but he didn’t act like he had a doctorate degree; he was just one of us.” 

The men’s basketball team had DePerro’s cardboard cutout specially placed at the Reilly Center for Monday night’s game against Dayton, and the team wore commemorative stickers bearing his initials. Schmidt and the Bonnies will head to Richmond this week for the A-10 tournament, but will dedicate the rest of their season to DePerro. 

“He knew how important athletics is to this university,” Schmidt said. “He understood how important basketball is to this university, and he was as supportive as any person on this campus.” 

Lofton scores 1,000th point as Bonnies win at Fordham

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Ryan Surmay

BRONX, NY — After scoring 14 points on Wednesday, Kyle Lofton became the latest member of the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball 1,000-point club. 

Lofton led the Bonnies to a 68-54 win at Fordham, and Bona head coach Mark Schmidt spoke highly of the junior point guard.

“He’s a really good player, he’s a really good competitor… he’s our leader,” Schmidt said.

Scoring 1,000 points in two years and six games tells you all you need to know about Lofton. He’s the ultimate point guard for SBU, as he shares the ball and defends as regularly as he scores.

This was the Bonnies’ first game back after Jaren Holmes’ 38-point performance vs Saint Joseph’s. The game went back in forth in the first half, with neither team really establishing itself. The teams went into the locker room with the score tied at 37. 

The Rams used balanced scoring, having four of their starters score more than six points in the half. The Bonnies stayed with the hot hand of Holmes, who had 17 first-half points. The Rams were able to keep the game close by making seven three-pointers in the half, while the Bonnies only had three.  

“I thought we defended decently in the first half even though they hit seven [three’s],” Schmidt said. “But I thought our guys from a defensive standpoint did a great job. They hit two in the second half we hit our numbers… we held them to 17 points in the second half.”

The main keys to the win for Bona were defense and rebounding the ball. St. Bonaventure out rebounded Fordham 43 -24, including 15 offensive rebounds, which created second chances for the team to score. 

“The guys, they’re committed they understand in order to beat Fordham you need to defend,” Schmidt said. “They’re one of the better defensive teams in the Atlantic-10. It was like a test for us. I thought our guys did a really good job, especially in the second half.”

In terms of the offense, it was led once again by Holmes as he had 26 points, giving him 64 points over his last two games. 

“It’s come in the offense, he’s not forcing things, he’s hitting open shots,” Schmidt said. “I had no idea he had 20 at halftime by the way he plays.”

The Bonnies were able to hold Fordham to only three points in the final eight minutes of the game, all of which came from the free throw line.  

Jalen Adaway scored 14 points for Bona, while Dominick Welch pulled down 14 rebounds and Osun Osunniyi had seven rebounds and seven assists.

“Our guys are matured, and they understand how to win,” Schmidt said. “They’re not going to be the star of the team offensively every night. They understand the importance of winning games and how to win them. When the offense isn’t going well you got to do something else and they’ve done that.” 

After the win, the Bonnies improve to a 5-1 record while going 3-1 in the A-10. Their next game is against Duquesne at the Reily Center on Friday at 7 p.m., a game that will be broadcasted on ESPN2.  

Bona fades late, opens A-10 play with loss at Rhode Island

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Anthony Goss

KINGSTON, RI — The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team prides itself upon limiting its opponents defensively, then controlling the offensive pace of the game by taking optimal shots and using the boards as a means for extra chances. 

Wednesday’s matchup against Rhode Island saw the Bonnies struggle with the latter.  

In their conference opener, the Bonnies traveled to Kingston to face URI in what was an ugly game from the opening tip to the final buzzer. The Bonnies and the Rams combined for 44 turnovers as both teams failed to establish any consistent rhythm on offense.  

“They pressured us, but we had a lot of unforced turnovers,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “It just looked like we were a step slow.” 

Another problem for St. Bonaventure was rebounding, as Rhode Island controlled the glass, out-rebounding SBU, 42-29. Both teams were equal on the offensive glass, but URI limited second possessions for the Bonnies by dominating the boards defensively. 

In the first half, the Bonnies secured a 12-6 advantage, but their lead soon dwindled, and the rest of the half was a back-and-forth contest. With neither team able to find a consistent source of scoring, the Bonnies took a 29-27 lead into the break.  

Despite their merits on the defensive end, offensive woes plagued the Bonnies’ scoring attack, as baskets seemed few and far between. The Bonnies shot 39% from the field and only shot 10 free throws compared to 25 for the Rams.  

“We missed a lot of bunnies, you know, we didn’t take the ball to the basket hard enough,” Schmidt said. 

Rhode Island used a 13-0 run to steal the lead at the beginning of the second half, helped by the shooting of Jeremy Sheppard, who led the Rams with 17 points. The Bonnies responded with 10-0 run, led by Jalen Adaway and Anthony Roberts, who made his debut for the brown and white. 

Adaway made an impact in his third game as a Bonnie, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds.  

“We hung in there,” Schmidt said. “Got off to a bad start in the second half, but we fought back and showed some toughness.” 

St. Bonaventure eventually knotted the game at 47 all with 5:24 remaining, but Mahkel Mitchell of Rhode Island responded with a dunk that put the Rams up for good, as they held on to defeat the Bonnies, 63-57.  

The Bonnies’ dynamic duo of Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi had a quiet afternoon, as Lofton finished with only points and Osunniyi finished with eight points. Osunniyi, stifled by the Rams’ defense, fouled out with 3:47 remaining.

Antwan Walker turned in a double-double for the Rams with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Jermaine Harris had eight points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

“There’s no moral victories.” Schmidt said. “We didn’t play well enough to deserve to win today.” 

The Bonnies will prepare for a quick turnaround, as they head to Richmond to face the Spiders, the preseason favorite in the A-10, on Saturday.  

Men’s basketball conference schedule released for Bona, A-10

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Peter Byrne

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Coming into the day, St. Bonaventure only had three games on its men’s basketball schedule, all of them being non-conference.

However, today, the Atlantic 10 came released its conference schedule for the 2020-2021 season.

The Bonnies will start conference play with a home game against the Saint Louis Billikens. The exact date is to be determined at this time, but it should be both the conference and home opener for the Bonnies in A-10 play.

The Bonnies will play Richmond, who was picked to finish first in the league, twice in January, the first meeting being in Virginia on Jan. 2, followed by a Jan. 20 meeting at the Reilly Center.

Finally, the Bonnies will have their final home game on Feb. 28 against Dayton and will finish the regular season at Duquesne on March 3.

Here is SBU’s complete A-10 schedule.

Date   Opponent    Television   Time  

TBD | vs Saint Louis 

12/30 | at Rhode Island  

1/2 | at Richmond | CBSSN 

1/6 | vs Saint Joseph’s 

1/9 | vs George Washington | NBCSN | 12:00 pm  

1/13 | at Fordham 

1/16 | vs Duquesne  

1/20 | vs Richmond | CBSSN 

1/23 | at Saint Louis | ESPN 

1/30 | at Davidson | CBSSN 

2/3 | at Saint Joseph’s 

2/6 | vs George Mason 

2/14 | at Massachusetts | NBCSN | 2:00 pm  

2/17 | vs VCU | CBSSN 

2/21| at George Washington | NBCSN | 2:30 pm  

2/24 | vs LaSalle  

2/28 | vs Dayton | ESPN  

3/3 | at Duquesne  

Kessler finds new home at SBU

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Ryan Surmay

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Even though this season is different from previous, that doesn’t take away from the preparations Callie Kessler has made for the upcoming season. 

It’s not easy being an athlete during COVID-19, with schedules and practices constantly changing.  From the time she started playing, however, Kessler was always prepared for the big spotlight. That led her to where she is now, in her freshman year on the St. Bonaventure women’s lacrosse team.

“I started playing youth lacrosse in 2nd grade, and in 6th grade I started travel,” Kessler said. “Then I played club (lacrosse), which other coaches go to. We went to the ESPN Center in Florida, which was big to be seen by other coaches.”

When asked why she decided to come to Bona’s, the North Haven, Connecticut gave an answer that is familiar among the SBU community.

“I came on campus in January and right away it felt super homey,” she said. “Even through I’m so far, it feels like home is 10 minutes down the street because everyone is so welcoming. All coaches are so welcoming and have an open-door policy, so everyone is comfortable going to them.”

For some people, it’s a big adjustment to go from high school, where it’s obvious that a Division I athlete would be the best player on the field, to then go to a much more competitive league. 

Kessler said the speed of the collegiate game will be a challenging adjustment.

“Playing club, we got to play with some of the college rules,” she said. “It is going to be much faster and girls are much stronger, but I’ll get adjusted.” 

In this unique season, Kessler said she is most excited to learn to play with her new teammates, and learn how the collegiate schedule works.

While a significant knee injury has kept her out of practice and the team’s intra-squad scrimmage on Oct. 24, Kessler will look to return to her prior form and be a huge addition for her team over the next four years.  

Saint Louis second half comeback clinches A-10 title

By: Isaiah Blakely 

With 3:04 left in the first half the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (18-16) were up 34-19 and had a 91.8 percent chance to win and book their ticket to the NCAA tournament.

But Saint Louis (23-12) didn’t give up.

The comeback started when the Billikens ended the first half strong by cutting the lead down to nine because of a Jordan Goodwin three pointer.

The second half completely flipped in St. Louis’s favor.The Billikens outscored the Bonnies 30-19 in the second half.

Saint Louis started out on a 7-0 run. The Billikens stymied the Bonnies offense in the second half. The Bonnies shot 26 percent in the second half and had multiple long scoring droughts including a six-minute drought in the middle of the half.

Goodwin was the catalyst for the Billikens scoring 16 points and had 13 rebounds including six offensive rebounds.

Courtney Stockard was keeping the Bonnies in it by scoring 10 of the final 12 points for the Bonnies, but he fouled out with a less than a minute to go in the game.

The Billikens down the stretch went on a 12-2 run to take a six-point lead with 1:30 left. Missed free throws and a turnover gave the Bonnies the ball back down two with 45 seconds left.

The Bonnies had three chances to tie or win the game, but shots from Dom Welch, Kyle Lofton, and Nelson Kaputo all missed, and the Billikens came away with the 55-53 victory in the Atlantic 10 championship and now have an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

“We had three opportunities that we missed, but they were good shots…that’s the way it goes. Some jump shots just don’t go in, Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said.

The Bonnies freshmen struggled to score. Lofton, Welch and Osunniyi combined for 13 points.

Stockard ended his Bonaventure career with 22 points and five rebounds. LaDarien Griffin was the only other player in double figures. Griffin finished with a double-double 10 points and 11 rebounds.

A-10 tournament’s most valuable player Tremaine Isabel had nine points and five assists.

Lofton joined Isabel on the A-10 tournament all conference team alongside Isabel’s teammate Javon Bess, VCU’s Marcos Santos-Silva and Rhode Island’s Cyril Langevine.

 

Second half run pushes the Bonnies past Rhode Island

By:Isaiah Blakely 

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies had a slow start offensively again in the Barclays Center, this time in the semifinals against the Rhode Island Rams.

The Bonnies picked it up on both ends of the floor late in the first half. The momentum and confidence carried through the rest of the game as the Bonnies (18-15) defeated the Rams (18-15) 68-51 to move on to the Atlantic 10 tournament final tomorrow afternoon.

The Rams came out fast early on holding a 22-12 lead with nine minutes left in the first half. Rhode Island guards Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell scored a combined 18 points on 8-29 shooting. Seven of their points were scored early in the first half. Junior Cyril Langevine lead the Rams in scoring with 15 points.

Rhode Island’s defense was also giving the Bonnies fits early. The Bonnies were shooting 3-14 halfway through the first half.

The Rams took a 15-point lead after a Tyrese Martin three pointer with four minutes left in the half.

Then the Bonnies made their run.

The Bonnies went on a 13-0 run led by Bonaventure’s freshmen Dominick Welch and Kyle Lofton.

Welch helped keep the Bonnies afloat in the first half scoring 10 of his 13 points in the first half.

Lofton was good all afternoon scoring 23 points and adding five assists.

“The freshmen don’t play like freshmen. Kyle (Lofton) in my opinion was the best guy on the court,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said.

The Bonnies went into the locker room down 29-27. Second half was more of the same for the Bonnies.

The Bonnies outscored Rhode Island 41-22 in the second half.

The Bonnies offense also got some help from their big men. LaDarien Griffin and Osun Osunniyi combined for 5 points in the first half. Second half the duo combined for 19 points. The senior Griffin had 13 points and six rebounds while the freshman Osunniyi had a double-double 10 points 11 rebounds and four blocks.

Senior Courtney Stockard struggled from field only shooting 1-11 but free throws from him, Griffin and Lofton helped put the game away. The Bonnies as a team shot 16-17 from the line.

Along with the almost perfect free throw shooting from the Bonnies, the Rams went seven and a half minutes without a field goal. During that period the Bonnies went on a 20-3 run that gave them a 21-point lead.

The Bonnies calling card continues to be defense as they move to 15-0 when holding opponents to under 60 points. The Bonnies have also held 10 straight opponents to under 40 percent shooting.

“It’s the best defensive team we’ve had since I’ve been the coach,” Schmidt said. “It’s a mindset. We’re not a great offensive team. We haven’t been a great offensive team all year, but the kids are figuring it out that in order for us to win we’ve got to defend.”

The Bonnies face off against the winner of Saint Louis and Davidson for the Atlantic 10 tournament title and a ticket to the NCAA tournament tomorrow at 1:00.

 

 

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