By Joseph Phelan, Staff Writer, @jphelan13
With 5:18 remaining in the game, the Florida State Seminoles took the lead for the first time in the game and promptly extended their lead by eight after a dunk from Okaro White.
One would figure St. Bonaventure would roll over to the ACC Champion Seminoles, the No. 3 seed and the Associated Press’ No. 10 team in the country?
Not a chance.
Although the Bonnies failed to secure a win and advance to the third round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, losing to the Seminoles 66-63, they never gave up and hustled on every posession.
And that gave them a chance.
Andrew Nicholson and Demitrius Conger scored the final nine points for the Bonnies, but it was not enough.
The Bonnies displayed defensive intensity from the beginning, forcing Florida State into difficult shots. But they could not make enough plays on the offensive end.
“They’re the fifth best defensive team in the country,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said. “We’re right there with them. There are no negatives about this game. We lost. But we gave a great performance.”
In fact, behind Charlon Kloof, the Bonnies held Florida State’s top scorer, Michael Snaer, scoreless.
But it was Bernard James who could not be stopped.
James, a six-year U.S. Air Force veteran, finished with a team-high 19 points.
But even he was no match for his counterpart on the Bonnies.
Nicholson once again tried to resemble Bob Lanier, tallying 20-points and seven-rebounds while displaying a deft outside shot.
“The guy (Nicholson) was really focused,” James said. “I have nothing but respect for him. I see why he is an NBA prospect.
While the season is officially over for St. Bonaventure, unlike in previous years, there is hope for the future.
With all but two players coming back, St. Bonaventure looks primed to compete for another NCAA tournament berth.
Those two seniors, Da’Quan Cook and Nicholson, may not have played their final game in the Reilly Center, but they still received fan support.
Over 713 miles away from the Bona campus, fans invaded Nashville, Tenn. to support the Brown and White.
While many will look at the final play when discussing Cook’s play, he also poured in eight-points, grabbed five-rebounds and nabbed two steals in 28 minutes of action.
His defense on Florida State’s James and Xavier Gibson helped keep St. Bonaventure in the game.
Hiding disappointment, Cook remembered what he helped the program accomplish.
“I left a great something for them (underclassmen) to follow behind,” Cook said.
Schmidt knows his success is directly tied to Nicholson.
“Without the guy next to me (Nicholson), I’m not sitting here,” Schmidt said. “We are not who we are. The program is back because of Andrew Nicholson.”
Nicholson finished his Bonaventure career with 2,103 points and leaves behind a bigger impact than points scored.
“He is everything to me,” Schmidt said. “He is everything to this university. He is going to go down as one of the greatest alumnus of this university.”
The Bonnies failed to win their first tournament game since 1970, but the foundation is laid for another successful season.
“We are going to go back, work hard at it and hopefully be back next year,” Charlon Kloof said.