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.