Bonnie seniors define their legacy

 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.

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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]

Behind the Wolfpack: Bonnies are peaking at the right time

[Da’Quan Cook partnered with Andrew Nicholson for a dominating inside presence in a victory over Fordham last night. – Photo by Melissa Scott]

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

St. Bonaventure may be peaking at just the right time.

Early season struggles against tough out of conference teams have given way to dominating efforts against Atlantic 10 foes.

In what may have been their best offensive game of the season, the Bonnies (15-10, 8-5) defeated the Fordham Rams (9-17, 2-11), 89-63 at Rose Hill Gym Wednesday night.

The Rams never stood a chance against the bigger and more talented Bona squad. In fact, the Rams never led and tied two times — the last of which with 14:54 remaining in the first half.

“There’s not much to say, they’re the better team,” Fordham coach Tom Pecora said after a second straight lopsided loss to the Bonnies. “They are where we want to be in a few years.”

The Bonnies utilized a team approach that was evident from the opening tip. By the first media timeout, every member of the starting lineup had scored.

By the end of the game, the Bonnies had four players in double digits. However, none had more of an impact than Andrew Nicholson.

The senior forward went 10-for-14 from the field including 2-for-3 from 3-point range for 30 points and nabbed nine rebounds.

“In my opinion he is the premier NBA prospect in the conference,” Pecora said of Nicholson.

But Nicholson had plenty of help.

Matthew Wright, coming off the bench for the second straight game, responded in an offensive capacity against the Rams.

The sharp shoooter who had lost his touch, rediscovered it and made the Rams pay.

The sophomore shot 3-for-4 from 3-point range, finishing the game with 10 points. Previously, Wright had hit only seven 3-pointers in A-10 play.

Following a 52-minute delay because of a broken rim, Demitrius Conger made sure the Bonnies would keep their momentum by nailing a 3-pointer.

Conger made his presence felt, shooting 4-for-6 for 13 points and grabbing five rebounds, including two on the offensive glass.

But no one benefited more from the success of Nicholson inside than Da’Quan Cook.

Playing out the final few games of his Bona career, Cook played with intensity from the opening whistle.

He overpowered the undersized Rams squad, bullying them inside the paint for 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting.

“I just tried to play my best off of Andrew,” Cook said of his effort. “When he gets the double, he does a good job of finding me in open spots.”

The Bonnies have been feeding off of Nicholson who is averaging 24 points per game in his last five contests, elevating the play of his teammates in the process.

“We’re making the right reads,” Cook said. “Everyone focuses on stopping Andrew, but that opens up stuff for everyone else and we just play off each other.”

Sitting in a three-way tie for third place with three games remaining, the Bonnies hope to continue making the right read — one that gets them to Atlantic City.

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

Youssou Ndoye Excites Bona Fanbase

[Photo courtesy of Tony Lee ]

By Tim Harfmann, Staff Writer, @Timharf

Facing Rhode Island on the road, Bonnies fans thought they were watching another game slip away as senior forward Andrew Nicholson fouled out with 3:36 remaining in overtime. 

 To make matters worse, senior forward Da’Quan Cook also fouled out of the game with 1:38 remaining and the Bonnies only up by a single point.

With two of their big men no longer available for the game, head coach Mark Schmidt turned to Youssou Ndoye to step up for the Brown and White. 

The freshman answered the call.

In the last 77 seconds of the game, Ndoye slamed down a powerful, two-handed, dunk to give the Bonnies a 67-66 lead. He then drew a charge, recorded a steal and grabbed the game’s final rebound in a 72-66 Bonnies victory.

Ndoye would not have made such an impact earlier this season.

“Youssou (Ndoye) started off a little slow and now he’s really starting to understand where to go and how to play within our system and what we expect,”  assistant coach Dave Moore said of Ndoye’s improvements. “Now he lets his instincts take over.”

The 6-foot-11 center not only had his finger prints on the win over Rhode Island, but also in a win over Richmond. He also supplied 9-points against Xavier in a loss at the Cintas Center.

Ndoye has played double-digit minutes in each of the last 6 games, at least partly due to Nicholson’s recent foul trouble. 

“It’s huge especially when Andrew gets in foul trouble and we need Youssou in crunch time,” Moore said of Ndoye.” He really comes in and he’s just really active.” 

Nicholson fouling out in three of the past four games has given Ndoye the chance to gain vital experience in conference play.

“The more experience he can get, the better,” Moore said. “We’re going to rely on Youssou and we’re going to need him to be good.”

Ndoye credit’s his senior counterpart for some of his improvements.

“[Andrew’s] been helping me a lot whether it’s doing extra workouts or telling me what to do on the court,” said Ndoye.

The freshman said the coaches having confidence in him, makes him play more confidently. 

“It tells me that I can be special and I need to work harder,” Ndoye said. “When Andrew gets into foul trouble, I have to come in and step up. I’m just trying to do the best that I can do when he’s out of the game.”

The Dakar, Senegal native has improved his scoring from 1.6 points per game during non-conference play to 3.5 points per game during A-10 Conference games. 

He may not be Bonaventure’s leading scorer, but it is Ndoye’s defense that helps the Bonnies stay alive against their opponents.

“Youssou’s not the scorer that Andrew was as a freshman, but the rebounding, the shot blocking, the defense that he gives us, with his natural ability, has been huge for us,” Moore said. 

Moore leads player development for the men’s basketball team and sets goals for each player to accomplish.

So what is left for this freshman to accomplish with eight games remaining in the regular season?

“When we go big and we have size in there, we need him to be dynamite,” Moore said. “When he’s in the game we need him to rebound, run, block shots and get tip-dunks. We need all those activities and everything he can bring.” 

These days Ndoye’s trying to improve his post moves and free throw shooting during practices. 

In fact, he has scored in the last six games.

“I’m trying to be more aggressive, and I’m just getting more comfortable being on the court,” Ndoye said.

Ndoye said the Bonnies are trying to go as far as they can go while taking it one game at a time.  

With each passing game, Ndoye continues to improve, showing the potential that has fans dreaming of the possibilities.

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]

Lee-aving Nothing Behind: Nicholson needs to be a superstar

By Tony Lee, Editor In Chief, @sHecKii

Andrew Nicholson has made only one out of six shots, committed four fouls and forced three turnovers in the last four minutes of St. Bonaventure’s five losses.

In those games, the senior forward converted just 3-of-14 jump shots in the second half. On top of scoring 4.4 more points per game in the five wins, Nicholson shoots 58.8 percent from the field compared to 42.4 in the losses. He nearly doubles his free throw attempts (18, 34) and nearly triples the amount made (10, 29) in the wins, too.

The heartbreaking 67-65 loss to NC State (7-4) Tuesday featured Eric Mosley having a breakout game, Demitrius Conger continuing his hot streak, Da’Quan Cook dunking over players and Matthew Wright hitting a big three to tie the game despite a horrid shooting day prior to it.

But where was Nicholson — the Bonnies superstar, potential NBA lottery pick and a Naismith Preseason watch list player?

By no means do I suggest Nicholson chokes or doesn’t play hard — he scored and grabbed a team-high 16 points and 6 rebounds Tuesday.

But superstars are graded on an unrealistic, and somewhat ridiculous, curve. Just ask LeBron James who can get a triple double in the NBA Finals, but get vilified for “choking” in the fourth quarter.

Nicholson at Cleveland State converted 6-of-8 shots with zero fouls and three blocks in the first half. In the second, Nicholson fouled out with 3:32 left after converting just 1-of-3 shots. 

Nicholson against Virginia Tech and Arkansas State played better in the second half, but missed all three of his shots with three minutes to play.

At Illinois in the last four minutes, he committed two fouls, turned the ball over twice and missed a potential game-tying three — albeit a tough task for a 6-foot-9 post player.

Nicholson could have tied the game on Tuesday, but missed a jumper with 24 seconds left. If not for Alex Johnson missing the front end of an one and one, the game could have been lost with Nicholson’s brick.

Nicholson, a preseason John R. Wooden Award watch list player, deservedly receives most of the accolades. But this season, there are no signs of the Nicholson who drained consecutive game-winning jumpers against University at Buffalo and St. John’s last season.

Nicholson has been a warrior, playing through bronchitis. His 30 turnovers this season is lower than last season’s total up to this point (33), despite facing more double and triple teams than he ever has.

However, he is scoring about six less points and grabbing 2.3 less rebounds per game than last year after 10 games. But most alarmingly, Nicholson has not lived up to the absurd expectations placed upon him.

With injuries to Marquise Simmons and Michael Davenport, his role on both sides of the court is amplified. NBA scouts now come watch him play almost on a game-to-game basis.

He doesn’t have the luxury of playing with a vocal, fiery captain like Ogo Adegboye, either.

Schmidt at press conferences has not given a straight answer about what the Bonnies could do to win these close games.

Though unfair because it seemingly discredits what Nicholson has accomplished this season, a lot of the blame has to go onto St. Bonaventure’s superstar.

The 2011-12 St. Bonaventure season’s fate — as well as Nicholson’s draft stock — may depend on how he responds after Tuesday’s heartbreaking loss.

Behind the Wolfpack: Closing games the way they should

By Ryan Lazo, feature columnist, @RMLazo13

Mark Schmidt stresses the importance of opening the second half strongly — but today might have been the only time his players executed that well.

Last season alone, the Bonnies surrendered leads, like losing to Xavier, 79-65, after a five-point halftime lead, and to La Salle, 75-73, after an 11-point lead.  

However, Friday’s 79-58 drubbing against Cornell showed not only St. Bonaventure’s (1-0) maturity, but also a reason to believe second-half meltdowns are of the past.

Holding a narrow lead over the Big Red, 40-38, the Bonnies came out with determination in the second to put the game away. They displayed a killer instinct, going on a 15-4 run within the first five minutes, inciting delirium in the Reilly Center Arena.

After nailing 8 threes in the first half, Cornell (0-1) went 0-for-6 from threes in the second

“You always talk about stops and scores,” Schmidt said. “In the second half, we put both of them together. And that’s what you have to do to beat a good team.”

Schmidt said the defense keyed the run, but the adjustments his players made won the game. 

One of those key players was Da’Quan Cook, who helped supply some of that defensive effort. One of his team-leading three steals showed his athleticism as he used his long arms to intercept a pass out of the air, Darelle Revis like.

“My main focus was to go out there and not let them get shots up … contest every shot,” Cook said. “My main focus was defense — and everything else just fell in place.”

Cook may well have his own island — Cook Island — if he keeps playing with this defensive intensity that translates into offensive points.

The senior also supplied much of the dirty work inside, totaling seven rebounds, including two offensive that led to four Bonnies points.

Also turning it on in the second half was Lute Olsen Preseason All-America Team member, Andrew Nicholson.

Despite having a small army surround him throughout the game, Nicholson scored 14 of his team-high 24-points in the second.

With his supporting cast making plays around him, Nicholson became even more dangerous, driving to the hoop and hitting fade away jump shots with ease.

Sophomore Matthew Wright also stepped up, especially in the absence of senior Michael Davenport who, according to the team trainer, suffered severe cramping.

Davenport received an IV and oxygen after he was carted off the court in the second half. Wright, however, left Cornell’s defenders gasping for air on the court.

His pivot fake at the top of the key left one Cornell defender on the ground, leaving Wright to drain an open shot, stretching the lead to 18 with 4:21 left. 

Eliminating a habit is tough to do, but with a second half surge, the Bonnies are beginning to erase past problems and showing a killer instinct to match.

Hopefully this will be a pattern — not an abnormality — this season.

[Photos by Tony Lee, @sHecKii]