Bonnies fall short to Vermont for second straight year

photo by Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Matt Stasiw

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — With the amazing crowd presence in the Reilly Center on Friday night, every fan could already tell that a rematch between the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team and Vermont would be a battle until the end. 

The Bonnies have played Vermont each of the last three years in exciting non-conference duels.

This year, Vermont was too much for the Bonnies, as the Catamounts edged SBU, 61-59.

A year ago, then-junior Anthony Lamb, who averaged 21 points per game for the Catamounts, scored 41 against the Bonnies. 

On Friday night, Bona’s original game plan seemed to be any possible way to keep Lamb out of the picture. 

The Bonnies started of playing extremely hard with Amadi Ikpeze winning the tip off right away for the Bonnies and scoring the first basket just 29 Seconds into the game. 

Ikepeze proved to be the biggest offensive threat for the Bonnies, scoring 11 points and shooting 5-of-9 on field goals for the game. 

Unnecessary fouls, however, seemed to hold the Bonnies back early, with eight team fouls in the first nine minutes of play. 

Despite these early mistakes, the Bonnies, after being down 14-10 with 11:08 left, went on a 10-0 run in four minutes, capping it when a crazy basket by Bobby Plantutis that still managed to go in. 

Vermont answered right back, going on a 14-4 run to close out the first half, giving them a 28-24 lead heading into the locker room. 

The Bonnies held Anthony Lamb to just 9 points in the first half, keeping their game plan and motivation high going into the second half. 

Bobby Planutis scored the first points 30 seconds into the second half. 

The game kept roaring back and forth with the Bonnies finally going up 40-39 with 11:07 left in the game. 

However, the game plan seemed to fall apart when the Catamounts went on a 12-0 run over four minutes.

Then, an unlikely source of motivation led the Bonnies to come charging back into the game. 

Freshman Justin Winston used his aggressive play to snatch defensive rebounds and get to the line. 

Winston, who had 10 points on the night, helped the Bonnies to bring the deficit within five points, trailing 56-51 with 3:36 left to play. 

The Bonnies had many chances to come back, but unfortunately some late fouls and poor shooting held their efforts short, shooting 4-of-27 from three-point range for the game.  

“I thought we played extremely hard,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said. “If somebody told me that Anthony Lamb was going to score 15 points and go 0-for-7 from threes, I would have thought that we would’ve won.”

“We got to plat smarter and knock down shots,” Schmidt said when asked what his team’s biggest struggles were during the game. 

The Bonnies hope to improve to 1-2 on the season next Tuesday, as they travel to Siena for their first road contest of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

Bonnies humbled by Ohio in season opener

photo: Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE — When you lose by 12 points at home, there’s not too many positives to take away from the game.

That’s what Mark Schmidt, head coach of the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, had to say after his team was thrashed in its season opener by the Ohio Bobcats, 65-53, Tuesday night in the Reilly Center.

It was evident that Bona’s offense struggled against Ohio’s zone defense.

Schmidt compared it to Syracuse’s zone, saying it was essentially the same scheme.

“Their zone really affected us,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t attack it well and we weren’t aggressive. I think it was a combination of that, and us missing some shots.”

Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said that he came into the game hoping to keep Bona’s shooters off balance.

“I thought our zone helped win the game tonight,” he said. “They got some good looks and it probably would have been a different game if they hit some of them.”

SBU shot 3-19 from beyond the arc (15.8 percent), and 36.4 percent from the field.

Dom Welch and Kyle Lofton had forgettable games to begin their sophomore seasons.

Welch scored five points, shot 2-12 from the field and 1-8 from three-point range. His only made three was with less than a minute remaining in the game, when the Bonnies were trailing by 16 points.

Lofton, who scored eight points, shot 3-11 from the field and 0-2 from beyond the arc.

“Your better players have to play well, and those guys struggled tonight,” Schmidt said. “We have faith in them, but when they don’t play well it’s hard to score.”

Freshman guard Alejandro Vasquez led the Bonnies in scoring with 12 points.

Vasquez, just the third Bona freshman to start a season opener in the Schmidt era (Jaylen Adams and Lofton), showed that he isn’t afraid to shoot the ball.

He took several good shots, and on other occasions, looked like he was trying to force it.

Vasquez shot 3-11 from the field and 2-7 from three.

Lost in the scenes from the night was an injury to Bonnies sophomore forward Osun Osunniyi.

With 15:49 left in the second half, Osunniyi stayed down on the floor after a play and appeared to be holding his knee.

The preseason all-conference and all-defensive team selection was helped off the floor by the Bona coaching staff, and looked like he was in a lot of pain. Osunniyi finished with six points in 11 minutes.

No additional information on the injury was provided after the game.

In his long-anticipated Bonaventure debut, forward Bobby Planutis scored eight points and pulled down 10 rebounds, including six offensive boards. He threw down an impressive transition dunk in the first half.

For Ohio, the three-headed attack of Jordan Dartis, Ben Vander Plas and Jason Preston was enough to beat the Bona defense.

Dartis led the scoring with 19 points, and shot 7-15 from the field. Vander Plas added 12 points for the Bobcats.

Perhaps the most impressive stat line, however, came from Preston.

The sophomore guard handed out 13 assists to go with 11 points, six rebounds and seven steals.

“(Preston) controlled the game for them,” Schmidt said. “We knew he was a good player and tried to keep him out of the paint, but he just controlled the game.”

Boals said that he was proud of his team for going into a hostile road environment and starting its season on the right foot.

“In order to win a conference championship, you’ve got to win tough games,” Boals said. “This place is as good as any. I’ve been at Duke and I’ve been at Kansas, and this place gets loud.”

For SBU, things don’t get any easier, as they host the defending America East conference champion Vermont Catamounts on Friday night.

“It’s never good to be young, but that’s just the way it is and we need to overcome that,” Schmidt said. “Hopefully this is a wake-up call and hopefully it shows the young guys what Division I basketball is all about.”

 

Planutis brings scoring ability, leadership to Bonnies

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

When the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team made its run to the Atlantic 10 championship game in March, Bobby Planutis had to sit and watch.

Planutis, who had decided to transfer to SBU after one season at Mount St. Mary’s, was ineligible to play last season because of NCAA transfer rules.

The sophomore forward from Hazelton, Pennsylvania must have made an impact on his teammates last year, however.

Planutis was voted as a team captain for the 2019-20 season, and is hoping to make an immediate impact for the Bonnies.

“I’ve worked on all aspects of my game, but especially with the strength coaches in the weight room,” Planutis said. “I was lifting four of five days a week for the past 18 months or so.”

Planutis isn’t afraid to identify himself as a shooter.

At Mount St. Mary’s, he averaged 5.9 points per game and shot an impressive 49% from three-point range.

“I think it helps (our offense) that I’m 6’8 and can shoot,” Planutis said. “Hopefully, that will help open up the floor for some other guys.”

Bona head coach Mark Schmidt talked about how Planutis can fit into his offense.

“(Planutis) is a catch-and-shoot kind of guy,” Schmidt said. “In the game today, the (power forward) man has become a face-up guy. If you have a guy in that position that can shoot, it creates better spacing on the floor and opens up the lanes.”

Schmidt said that Planutis’ ability to shoot the ball will stretch opposing defenses and allow the Bonnies more opportunities to get the ball to guys in the paint.

Planutis said that having well-known players such as Kyle Lofton, Dom Welch and Osun Osunniyi around him will help his game.

“I hope they get double teamed,” he said with a laugh. “Then, I can get some open shots. It makes it easier to play when the guys around you are good.”

It was Bona’s recent success, along with a bit of name recognition, that drew Planutis to SBU.

“My prep coaches knew Bona well, which helped me get to know the school,” Planutis said. “The winning that was happening here was also a big draw.”

Planutis mentioned how the Bonnies reached the NCAA tournament in 2017-18, which was his prep school year at Bridgton Academy in Maine.

In the Bonnies’ preseason exhibition vs. Alfred University, Planutis shot 5-7 from the field, including 1-3 from beyond the arc, to score 11 points in 18 minutes.

He also pulled down four rebounds.

Schmidt said that based on Planutis’ work ethic, he thinks the sophomore will adjust to Atlantic 10 competition just fine.

“There are a lot of guys that don’t work when they take a year off, but (Planutis) realized that the season was going to come quickly and he really took advantage of the year,” Schmidt said. “He’s a much better player than he was last year, and hopefully that translates on the court.”

As far as leadership goes, Schmidt said that Planutis’ teammates selecting him as a captain speaks volumes about what they think of him.

“It shows his commitment, leadership skills and how important basketball is to him,” Schmidt said. “It shows that he has the respect of his teammates.”

SBU opens regular season play on Tuesday night when it hosts Ohio University.

 

What we learned from St. Bonaventure-Alfred exhibition

photo: Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Jeff Uveino

Wednesday night’s exhibition vs Alfred University went the way it does every year for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team.

They worked out some kinks, rotated players and ran over an inferior opponent.

Still, there are several things that we can learn from the Bonnies’ 90-45 victory over the Saxons. We saw a sneak peak of how the offense could run, an idea of the hierarchy of players coming off the bench, and may have discovered a newcomer who can really play.

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday night.

Alejandro Vasquez could be an impact player sooner than we thought

When Vasquez was announced as a starter for the Bonnies, it probably came as a surprise to many. It certainly did to me.

The freshman guard went on to score 20 points in 26 minutes, shoot 7-14 from the field and 3-7 from three-point range.

He hit three’s on back-to-back possessions in the second half, and put a defender on the ground with a step back before the second one.

“He’s picked up the system quicker than some other guys we’ve had in previous years,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said. “He can shoot the ball when he takes good shots. We need two or three young guys to help us, and hopefully he’ll be one of them.”

After Vasquez’s performance, I can’t help but draw parallels to Kyle Lofton’s arrival on the scene in the exhibition last season.

Before that game, little was known about Lofton, who was expected to come off the bench at point guard for last year’s Bonnies. Lofton scored 15 points against Alfred, went on to start every game for SBU, and was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team.

If Vasquez can be anywhere near the player for the Bonnies this year that Lofton was during his freshman year, it makes this Bona team a lot deeper than we thought it was.

And maybe, just maybe, Vasquez could be Schmidt’s latest start to come out of nowhere.

Planutis and Winston will complement each other well at power forward

Schmidt started sophomore guard/forward Bobby Planutis in a lineup that featured three other guards (Vasquez, Lofton, Dom Welch) and one forward (Amadi Ikpeze).

It’s been noted in the preseason that Planutis will most likely share time at power forward with freshman forward Justin Winston.

Winston played 21 minutes compared to Planutis’ 18, but scored just two points compared to 11 from Planutis.

Based on the different skill sets of the two players, it led me to think that the Bona offense would need to adjust when one of the players comes into the game for the other.

It’s been well noted that Planutis is a shooter, while Schmidt has repeatedly said that Winston has more bounce to his game and can attack on the inside.

However, Schmidt said that the offense can run smoothly regardless of whether Planutis or Winston is in the game.

“(Planutis) has a better feel right now because he’s been in the system for an extra year,” Schmidt said. “We run a ball screen motion offense, so (Planutis) can pop and shoot it, while (Winston) can pop and use his ‘junk in the trunk’.”

Planutis and Winston giving opposing teams two different looks could be a nice compliment for the Bonnies at the four position this year.

Ikpeze’s offseason work could make the Bonnies a lot more dangerous

A lot has been said about Ikpeze’s commitment to getting in shape and improving his game this past offseason.

In the exhibition, he looked great on the offensive end.

Ikpeze scored six points, which came off of two hook shots around the basket and one jumper from the free-throw line. He looked more comfortable on the offensive end than in years past.

“I was able to play okay, but there are things that I can improve on,” Ikpeze said. “Hopefully I can just keep working and build on my game to get ready for the real thing next Tuesday night.”

Ikpeze was referring to the Bonnies’ regular season opener, in which they’ll host Ohio University.

Ikpeze played nearly 12 minutes, while sophomore Osun Osunniyi, who started 21 games at forward last year, played 10 minutes.

SBU relied heavily on Osunniyi last season. If the two can each play at a high level this year, it makes Bona both deep and dangerous at forward.