NEW: Lofton, Holmes use perimeter shooting to lead Bonnies over Davidson

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team hadn’t beaten Davidson in 1,090 days.

A driving force behind SBU’s four-game losing streak to Davidson (11-6, 6-3 A-10) had been the Wildcats’ perennially consistent 3-point shooting. On Sunday, however, the Bonnies (11-3, 9-3 A-10) used perimeter shooting to their advantage as they shot 52% beyond the arc in a 69-58 win over Davidson at the Reilly Center.

The Bonnies were 11-for-21 from 3-point range, with each of their three starting guards shooting over 50% from distance. Kyle Lofton scored a game-high 19 points while shooting 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Jaren Holmes was 5-for-7 from deep in an 18-point performance, while Dominick Welch shot 3-for-5 from distance on his way to nine points.

“You can go 9-for-11 sitting in the gym by yourself, but to do that in this type of environment against that type of team says a lot about our players,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said.

The trio of caught fire in the second half, shooting 9-for-11 (81.8%) from distance in the second stanza. The Bonnies built their first double-digit lead of the game halfway through the second half when two 3-pointers by Holmes were followed by back-to-back triples from Lofton to put the Bonnies up by 10.

“They’re a joy to coach,” Schmidt said of Holmes and Lofton. “They hit big shots. They deserve to have success because they’re always in the gym working. At times, they haven’t shot the ball well from the perimeter. They don’t stop working and they deserve to have those shots go down.”

Jalen Adaway and Osun Osunniyi each scored eight points for SBU, while Jalen Shaw added five points off the bench in the first half when Osunniyi sat for 10 minutes due to foul trouble.

Despite how well Bona shot the ball, Davidson hit more 3-pointers than SBU did, finishing at 13-for-37 (35%) from distance. Hyunjung Lee was 6-for-9 from deep to account for his 18 points, while three other Wildcats hit multiple triples in the game. Kellan Grady, the team’s leading scorer, racked up 18 points while shooting 7-for-12 from the field and 3-for-8 from the perimeter.

“Even though they made 13 threes, I thought we did a decent job defensively,” Schmidt said. “Holding that team to 58 points is a heck of a performance.”

Schmidt said that defense and rebounding were two “critical areas” of the game, and his team out-played the Wildcats in both of them. The Bonnies finished with a 39-25 rebounding advantage over the Wildcats while holding them to under 40% shooting from the field, something that Schmidt has repeatedly referred to as a goal of his each game.

“They’re going to make some shots, but you can’t give them two or three opportunities,” Schmidt said. “I always say, you’ve got to defend, you’ve got to rebound, take care of the basketball and make your foul shots. I thought we did that stuff.”

Before Sunday, SBU’s last win over Davidson came in February 2018, when Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley and Courtney Stockard combined for 98 points to lead the Bonnies to a triple-overtime victory. The past two seasons, Davidson had out-scored SBU by a combined 56 points in three games.

“The last two years, they got us, and they got us big,” Lofton said. “As a competitor, you don’t want that to happen. The key was just to bring the energy from the start and play with confidence. We did that today.”

The Bonnies and Wildcats will meet again in just three days at Belk Arena in Davidson, North Carolina, where Schmidt’s team will look to complete a regular-season sweep of Davidson for the first time since 2015-16.

“They’re going to make some adjustments, just like we are,” Schmidt said. “They’re not going to allow us to shoot 81% from threes and hopefully we don’t allow them to hit 13 threes. In terms of the scout, it makes it easier. Our guys know them.”

Bona has three games remaining on its schedule before the start of the Atlantic 10 tournament. Schmidt’s team faces three games in six days before heading to Richmond on March 3 to begin the tournament, which was moved up a week from its originally scheduled dates (other than the final).

“Our guys have put themselves in a situation where these games are really important,” Schmidt said. “There are some teams in this country that can’t wait until the season’s over because they aren’t playing for anything. Our guys have done a great job with the pandemic… and now we’re going to try to finish it.”

PREVIEW: Bonnies look to boost tournament resume, snap four-game skid against Davidson

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The last time the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team beat Davidson, it took 55 minutes of game time, three 30-point scorers and four Bonnies fouling out.

That was SBU’s 117-113 triple-overtime victory over the Wildcats in February 2018. Since then, the Wildcats have enjoyed a four-game winning streak over the Bonnies. On Sunday, Davidson (11-5, 6-2 A-10) will look to extend its winning streak over SBU (10-3, 8-3 A-10) at the Reilly Center.

“The last couple times we’ve played Davidson, we haven’t done a good job of keeping the ball in front of us,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “They made 13 threes last year and 15 against us the year before. If they make those numbers and shoot 50% from 3-pointers, it’s going to be a long night.”

Since Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley and Courtney Stockard combined to score 98 points and beat a Peyton Aldridge-led Wildcats team just under three years ago, Bob McKillop’s team has dominated SBU. The Wildcats bounced the second-seeded Bonnies out of the A-10 tournament later that season, have beat them by a combined 56 points in their three meetings since.

The Wildcats swept a two-game season series in 2018-19, edging SBU at the Reilly Center in early February before beating up on the Bonnies in an ugly, low-scoring Belk Arena game toward the end of the regular season.

Last year, a much-anticipated primetime game at the RC turned sour quickly for the Bonnies when Davidson scored 47 points in the first half and shot 13-for-26 from 3-point range in the game to blow SBU out.

“You just can’t give them open looks,” Schmidt said. “You need to make them earn contested shots. It’s imperative that we get the ball in front of us so that they’re not getting the ball in the paint and knocking down kick-out threes.”

This year, each team finds itself on the NCAA tournament “bubble,” and a win would assist either side’s tournament resume. Until Friday, Davidson hadn’t played a game in nearly a month after COVID-19 concerns had caused a string of six postponements. The Wildcats hosted Southern Virginia, a Division III team, on Friday before traveling to SBU.

The importance of the Wildcats’ matchup with SBU was heightened on Wednesday when the A-10 announced that it would be playing its men’s basketball championship tournament a week earlier than scheduled, leaving one less week for teams to make up games that have previously been postponed.

“I think what they’re doing it smart, and I don’t know all of the details,” Schmidt said. “I know that they’re trying to move it up so if a team gets the virus, there’s time for them to get through it.”

The tournament’s championship game will be played as planned, however, on NCAA “selection Sunday.”

“It will be interesting what you do for that week,” Schmidt said. “This year has been challenging and unique, and this is another situation where it’s the first time. Hopefully we’ll have that opportunity.”

Davidson out-scores its opponents by an average score of 74-64, and does so with a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces to Bona fans. Senior guard Kellan Grady, who scored 39 points and shot 16-for-16 from the free-throw line in the Bona/Davidson triple-overtime game as a freshman, leads the Wildcat offense with 17.9 points per game this season.

Sophomore guard Hyunjung Lee, who scored 14 points at the Reilly Center last season, averages 13.3 points per game. Senior guard Carter Collins checks in at 13 points per game, while junior forward Luka Brajkovic averages 10.1 points per game.

“We have to do a good job on transition defense,” Schmidt said. “We have to take care of the basketball so they’re not getting out on the break and getting three’s in transition. If you give these guys open looks, they’re high-quality 3-point shooters.”

Bona boasts its own starting lineup of five double-digit scorers, including a team-high 15.4 points per game by junior guard Kyle Lofton, but will need to slow down a Davidson offense that has averaged 85 points per game against SBU in the teams’ previous six meetings. Of course, the triple-overtime game construes that number somewhat, but Davidson has scored over 80 points in four of those games.

Sunday’s game is scheduled to tip-off at 3:30 p.m., and will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Network.

“Our guys have done a good job of turning the page and going on to the next game,” Schmidt said. “We’re lucky to have an experienced team that can deal with it.”