Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies Rally Late To Defeat Buffalo


[Demitrius Conger races down the court for a dunk after a steal, helping St. Bonaventure to a 82-79 win over Buffalo – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]


By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – Chris Johnson stepped up to the free throw line and attempted a foul shot, but the ball slipped out of his hands, prompting a referee’s whistle to blow.

A lane violation.

Johnson then missed his next attempt and suddenly the Reilly Center had a pin stuck in its balloon. It seemed St. Bonaventure was on their way to another crushing loss, but with 1:20 remaining and trailing by three, Demitrius Conger made a big-time play.

Conger read an ill-fated pass from the Bulls Will Regan and took it down the court for a slam inciting a near riot from the 4,485 fans in the Reilly Center.

“I looked at the play and I just tried to anticipate it,” Conger said after his huge steal and dunk. “And luckily he threw it.”

But Bona was not in the clear yet.

They still trailed by one with 1:03 remaining and that’s when Matthew Wright locked in on defense, jabbed at the ball and came away with another steal.

He immediately raced up the court, pursued by two Bulls (2-7) defenders, and put Bona up by one, 80-79.

The Reilly Center literally began to shake in celebration. And following a timeout, Conger picked up another theft, clinching the victory.

Facing a bleak scenario, the Bonnies (4-2) leaned on their failure to win at Ohio and defeated the Bulls 82-79 in dramatic fashion.

“They’re an outstanding team,” Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon said of the Bonnies. “They’re a really energetic team that plays hard. He’s got a good team.”

And that is the key word – team.

No longer is this Bona squad a one man show, but instead they have multiple players who can beat you on any given night. Against the Bulls, nine Bona players made a dent on the score sheet, including four who reached double-digits.

“That’s how we’re going to win, we’re going to do it collectively,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said of his team. “It’s going to be a different guy every night.”

On this night, no one’s star shined brighter than the senior captain.

Conger’s talents have flickered across stat sheets before – the near triple-double against UMass comes to mind – and it did so again.

While he scored a team-high 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting, his best output of the season, it was the calmness he displayed in the final minute that set him apart.

When the team looked to be on the verge of imploding, he took control and breathed some life into his battle-scarred teammates. And the team responded, especially Wright.image

“Coach always gets on me for jogging my lane,” Wright said after his 11-point effort on 5-for-10 shooting. “I sprinted ahead and (Marquise) found me.”

And the Bonnies surely did a lot of sprinting.

Each time they had a chance, they raced down the court to a tune of 23 fast break points – a season high. Bona players are also wanted for theft after picking the Bulls’ pockets for 12 steals resulting in 21 points off of turnovers.

But there is still a glaring weakness in this team. After finishing last season ranked 13th in the nation in free throw percentage, they shot just 57.9 percent from the line (22-for-38) on the night.

“When the first guy goes up there and misses two, it becomes contagious,” Schmidt said of his team’s struggles. “We’re going to continue to work on it, but we have good shooters.”

Luckily for the Bonnies, winning is also contagious. And with an unselfish approach on offense, lockdown defense and a gritty attitude, this Bona squad can continue to pile on the wins anyway they can.

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies Can’t Overcome History, Fall To Canisius

[Matthew Wright soars for two of his season-high 14 points in St. Bonaventure’s 72-69 loss to Canisius – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

BUFFALO, N.Y. – St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt called a timeout with 40 seconds remaining, aiming to draw up a play that would put his team on top of Canisius in the waning seconds.

Over the past four years, there was no decision to make for Schmidt — he had Andrew Nicholson to give the ball to — but no more. There was now a mystery as to who would get the ball on the crucial possession.

However, Canisius countered with a zone, changing the entire play before the Bonnies had a chance. Schmidt barked out his zone offense call, and Charlon Kloof’s 3-pointer went off the back iron, and the Griffins had the ball.

“I think I was the only person in the gym who wanted to go into the zone, my assistants thought I was crazy,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said after his team’s 72-69 victory in front of a sold-out crowd in the Koessler Athletic Center. “As you coach, you have some instincts, and I said I’ll take the hit.”

And once Matthew Wright’s desperation 3-pointer clanked off the right side of the cylinder, the Bona faithful went silent, Canisius fans roared and Baron was a genius.

St. Bonaventure (2-1) dropped its sixth straight contest at Canisius (2-0) with the team’s last win coming during the 1995 season.

“We didn’t take care of the ball and didn’t do a good job of guarding them in the second half,” Schmidt said of his team’s 19 turnovers. “On the road, you cannot do that. They deserved to win.”

Sure, the Bonnies did turn the ball over 19 times, but that was not the difference in the game. The Griffins only scored 12 points off of those turnovers.

The difference in the contest came on defense coupled with the offense failing to score a field goal from the 7:03 mark to 0:06 mark.

“More or less, we lost our edge on defense,” Wright said after his 14-point effort on 6-of-10 shooting. “I don’t think we had a problem scoring. We got whatever shot we wanted, but toward the end of the game, we couldn’t guard.”

Losing an edge on defense? Against one of your biggest rivals?

It shouldn’t have happened, but it did.

And inside the high school-like gym, the 2,196 fans created a hectic scene as they taunted players from their seats, seemingly rattling the Bona squad.

“There’s two baskets and a 10-foot rim — it really doesn’t matter where we play,” Chris Johnson said of the hostile atmosphere. “We got to win the game regardless of where we play.”

“We had no excuse —  it was like a home game for us,” Wright quickly added.

And the game seemed to turn on that timeout with 40 seconds left. Bona shot 50 percent from the field for the game and had four players in double digits, but Schmidt took out his biggest weapon at the most crucial point — Eric Mosley.

“They took Mosley out,” Baron said of the Bona guard who went 4-for-6 from 3-point range in a 14-point effort. “I thought he was their big shooter, and he left the point guard in.”

Without Nicholson on the bench, Schmidt had to go with his hot hand, but neither Mosley or Johnson, who was a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range, were given a chance to bring the Bonnies back.

St. Bonaventure may have a lot of players who are capable of scoring, but the question of who can be the go-to man down the stretch is still a mystery.

And on this night, it could have been Johnson or Mosley, but a critical coaching mistake cost the Bonnies a game they should have won. Tough losses emboldened last year’s squad, but what it will do to this year’s version remains very much a question.

Behind the Wolfpack: Bonnies aim high

[Photo by Tony Lee]

By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

As he lay in his dorm room waking up from a night’s rest, Andrew Nicholson was unaware of the news that was quickly spreading across St. Bonaventure’s campus.

For only the second time in the university’s history, they had a player who had earned the Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year Award (POY). 

The A-10 POY said it’s the best news he has woken up to.

“I woke up and saw a few texts congratulating me,” Nicholson said. “The team was big in me getting the award.”

Not the words you would expect from a projected first-round NBA draft pick, but the modest senior is the reason St. Bonaventure is heading into Atlantic City with a bye.

He is the reason they have continued to improve every season.

And he is the reason St. Bonaventure has a chance to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years. 

Waiting for the Bonnies tomorrow is the Saint Joseph’s Hawks who are looking for revenge after their two-overtime loss at the Reilly Center Feb. 29.

The Hawks combination of Langston Galloway and Carl Jones accounted for 40-points in the previous meeting, providing problems galore for Bonnies guards. 

Expect St. Bonaventure to be prepared for what the Hawks will bring this time around.

And with the Bonnies guards playing better late in the season, Nicholson has elevated his game.

“We’ve been shooting the ball really well,” Matthew Wright said. “The better we shoot, it takes away the double from Andrew and that makes us extremely dangerous.”

Winning four out of their final five games, the Bonnies enter the A-10 Tournament riding high.

Kloof displayed the team’s confidence.

“We’re going to play three games and win them all,” Kloof said with a smile.

It’s easy to see where the confidence starts.

They have weapons all over the court and can go nine-deep.

Guards Eric Mosley and Kloof play off of each other, bringing different styles into the game, forcing the opponent to make the adjustment.

Chris Johnson provides an offensive spark and high energy off the bench. Wright brings 3-point shooting ability and he continually makes great decisions with the basketball.

Entering the tournament with the most talented team they have had since 2000, the Bonnies aim to win three straight and dance into the NCAA Tournament.

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Photos from St. Bonaventure’s 98-93 double-overtime victory vs. Saint Joseph’s Wednesday at the Reilly Center.

St. Bonaventure (17-10, 10-5) cliched a first-round bye in the Atlantic 10 Conference playoffs. 

Photos by Tony Lee, @sHecKii

[Related: Column – Lee-aving Nothing Behind: No. 44]

Ryan Doberstein (@FlyinRyan324) of took photos from St. Bonaventure’s 81-61 victory against Rhode Island Saturday at a sold-out Reilly Center.

Photos from the 62-47 win over Richmond at home on Jan. 28.

[Photos by Melissa Scott]

[Related: Behind the Wolfpack – Bonnies finding wining recipe]

Behind the Wolfpack: Bonnies finding winning recipe

[Sophomore Charlon Kloof directs the Bonnies offense to a win against Richmond – Photo by Tony Lee]

By Ryan Lazo, feature columnist, @RMLazo13

Fresh off an overtime victory at Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure returned home in a five-way tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 Conference and ended the night in a three-way tie for first.

Yes, that’s right. 

Seven games into the A-10 slate, the Brown and White is in first place. 

Facing a Richmond team that had come off of a 44-point win over Fordham, the Bonnies (12-7, 5-2) never allowed the Spiders (12-10, 3-4) to lead in a 62-47 victory in the Reilly Center.

“We dominated on the defensive side of the ball,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said. “We won this game because we defended and rebounded.”

[Related: Audio podcast of the Jan. 28 presser]

They also won because of the play of sophomore point guard Charlon Kloof. 

Kloof may not have compiled eye-popping stats, 3-of-5 from the field for 11 points and three assists, but his impact goes beyond the numbers. 

Playing 31 minutes, Kloof operated as the floor general, calling out and executing plays to keep this Bona machine rolling through the A-10. 

However, perhaps his presence is really felt on the defensive side of the ball.

Playing in a conference filled with play-making guards such as Tu Holloway and Tony Taylor, Kloof is asked to keep his counterparts in check.

He did more than keep Richmond’s starting guards in check. He had them on an island, completely shutting down the tandem of Darien Brothers and Cedrick Lindsay.

Averaging a combined 27.5 points per game heading into the contest, Kloof helped limit them to a combined 3-of-18 shooting for just eight points.

“The point guard is the quarterback,” Schmidt said of Kloof. “If he’s aggressive and he’s dominating the ball then that helps out everyone else. He does a great job of keeping the ball in front of him.”

But Kloof says it’s a team effort that has allowed him to limit opposing guards.

“People just see me and think I’m stopping the play, but (Demitrius) with his wingspan is in the passing lane stopping a pass,” Kloof said. “It’s really a team effort on defense.”

[Related: Photos from St. Bonaventure’s 62-47 victory over Richmond at home]

However, Kloof didn’t win this game by himself. He had the help of three other Bonnies scoring in double figures.

Andrew Nicholson paced the Bonnies with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, but was once again plagued by foul trouble, limiting him to only 26 minutes.

Chris Johnson also gave a defensive and offensive spark to the Brown and White, scoring 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting with two steals.

Demitrius Conger also dropped in an additional 10 points, but struggled shooting. The Brooklyn native went only 3-of-7 from the field and has cooled off from his blistering start to the season.

However, it was Kloof and the defense that were the keys to this Bona win. Playing a suffocating defense that limited the Spiders to only 26.5 percent shooting, well below their season average of 44 percent, they had no chance to win.

Suffocating defense. Out rebounding their opponent 43 to 27 and timely shooting.

The Bonnies are peaking at the right time, finding the winning recipe to contend in the highly competitive A-10.

Chris Johnson scored six out of the last eight St. Bonaventure baskets to close out George Washington in its Atlantic 10 Conference debut. 

Johnson, a transfer from Kilgore College (Texas), finished the game with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting (1-of-2 from three), 4-of-4 free throws, three rebounds and a steal.

The junior forward gave The Intrepid an exclusive interview after the game.

Column to follow soon.