COLUMN: Bona’s recent impediment of opposing stars key to defensive success

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Jeff Uveino

DAYTON, OH — St. Bonaventure knew it needed a plan to slow down Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland.

The players knew that stopping Hyland, the Atlantic 10 player of the year, would be essential in defending VCU. They weren’t worried, however, about figuring out how they’d do it.

That task, as junior forward/center Osun Osunniyi said before the game, would be head coach Mark Schmidt’s responsibility. And, while Osunniyi and junior guard Jaren Holmes didn’t yet know on Wednesday what Schmidt’s plan for stopping Hyland would be, they knew he’d have the Bonnies ready.

“Schmidt, he’s a basketball genius,” Osunniyi said four days before Sunday’s final. “He’s going to look at film and find ways to see where (Hyland) has struggled and try to use that to our advantage.”

Holmes, despite calling Hyland a “tremendous shooter with unlimited range,” agreed with Osunniyi.

“Like (Osunniyi) said, we’ll let Schmidt deal with that,” Holmes said. “We’re just going to go out there and play. Schmidt’s going to have us ready and they’re going to have a game plan.”

Then came the final, played at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

When the teams retreated to their respective locker rooms at halftime, the Bonnies led by seven points. Hyland had zero. And he was 0-of-3 from the field.

Hyland picked up three fouls in the game’s first seven minutes. Two were offensive; one defensive. The sophomore guard subsequently sat for the rest of the half.

Hyland’s first point of the game came just under over two minutes into the second half, when he got to the line and hit a pair of free throws. His first field goal didn’t come for another seven minutes, as a layup with 9:11 left in the game broke his scoreless streak from the field.

Bona eventually won the game, 74-65, and led by double digits before Hyland got going offensively. Hyland finished with a game-high 21 points but only made four field goals, shot 4-of-11 from the field and scored 11 of his points from the free-throw line.

Schmidt and the Bonnies, the A-10’s best defensive team, slowed down Hyland when it mattered. They frustrated VCU’s top scorer. While impressive, the circumstance wasn’t isolated.

SBU held Jordan Goodwin, Saint Louis’ leading scorer and a first-team all-league selection, to 11 points in its A-10 semifinal win over the Billikens. Nine of those points came in the second half, when Bona maintained a double-digit lead.

In the A-10 quarterfinals, SBU held Duquesne’s Marcus Weathers, the Dukes’ leading scorer and a second-team all-league selection, to six points.

In their final two regular season games, the Bonnies held two more first-team A-10 players, Davidson’s Kellan Grady and Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher, to two and six points, respectively.

Notice a trend?

In the last month, SBU has repeatedly limited the offensive output of opposing stars. That’s helped the team to a league-best 60.4 points allowed per game.

The only members of the A-10’s six-man first team that the Bonnies haven’t held to single-digit scoring this season are Hyland and Tre Mitchell, the UMass forward which the Bonnies did not play against this season.

The numbers are one thing. The players’ trust in Schmidt’s ability to game plan, however, is another.

Schmidt has said multiple times that he’s felt the teams that have had the most success throughout college basketball’s COVID-ridden season are those that stick together and rally around adversity. When a roster wants to play for a coach, as trusts a coach, as much as the Bonnies do Schmidt, those challenges become easier.

After winning the A-10 regular-season title and tournament on its way to a 16-4 record, ninth-seeded Bona finds itself pitted against No. 8 LSU (18-9) in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.

If Schmidt plans to defend LSU by limiting its best player, he’ll have his hands full in doing so. Cameron Thomas, a freshman guard that will have his sights set on the NBA Draft in the near future, leads the Tigers’ offense with 22.6 points per game.

Checking in just behind Thomas are Trendon Watford (16.7 points per game) and Ja’Vonte Smart (15.9 ppg).

While we’ll learn of Schmidt’s defensive strategy against LSU on Saturday, his team’s success in limiting opposing stars this season has been undeniable down the stretch.

The nation’s eighth-best scoring offense, led by a top-20 NBA prospect, will be Schmidt’s biggest defensive challenge to date.

Bona, VCU prepare for A-10 final amidst eight-day layover

photo courtesy of Atlantic 10 conference

By Jeff Uveino & Noah Fleischman

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The last time the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team played in the Atlantic 10 championship game, it was SBU’s third game in as many days.

This year, due to scheduling changes, the Bonnies must navigate an eight-day gap in between the tournament’s semifinals and final. How will that impact the team’s preparedness?

“We’ll see,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said.

The top-seeded Bonnies will play No. 2 VCU on Sunday at University of Dayton Arena. Despite an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and SBU’s second A-10 championship in program history on the line, it’s business as usual for Schmidt’s side leading up to the final.

“We go about it just like we usually do,” Schmidt said. “If we had a week off, and we have weeks off during the season with the bye week, we approach it like that. Give our guys a couple days off and don’t go crazy in practice and try to build so we’re at our peak on Sunday at 1 o’clock.”

After back-to-back wins over No. 9 Duquesne and No. 4 Saint Louis on Friday and Saturday to advance to the final, Schmidt said that his team took Sunday and Monday off. A light Tuesday practice preceded a Wednesday practice in which the Bonnies will “ramp it up” for the rest of the week, Schmidt said.

“We don’t want to win the practices, we want to win the game on Sunday,” Schmidt said. “You’ve got to be careful, it’s late in the season, you don’t go long with practice. You try to make sure we know what we’re going to do against VCU and how we’re going to guard them and so forth, but you be careful that you don’t wear our guys out.”

For VCU, the eight days in between the two games was the best case scenario. Head coach Mike Rhoades said his team spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday rehabbing injuries in the training room with athletic trainer Dennis Williams. 

“I feel as though it can help us rejuvenate,” sophomore guard Bones Hyland said of the gap between the semifinal and championship.

The Rams were dealing with injuries during the A-10 tournament in Richmond, including Hyland returning from a foot sprain. Junior forward Vince Williams exited VCU’s quarterfinal game against No. 7 Dayton with back spasms, but played in the semifinal game against No. 4 Davidson. 

Rhoades said the team prepared for St. Bonaventure during the week, but they also remained focused on getting healthy. 

Each team seeks its second A-10 championship in school history, as VCU has amassed a 1-4 record in A-10 finals while SBU has gone 1-3.

The Bonnies and Rams are scheduled to tip-off at UD Arena at 1 p.m. Sunday in a game that will be broadcasted on CBS.

MBB: Osunniyi, Adaway frustrate Saint Louis; Bonnies punch ticket back to A-10 final

photo courtesy of Atlantic 10 conference

By Jeff Uveino

RICHMOND, VA— Mark Schmidt has admitted that his team’s offensive efficiency comes and goes. Schmidt’s defense, however, continues to be the staple that wins games for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team.

The No. 1 Bonnies (15-4), the Atlantic 10’s top-ranked defensive team, frustrated No. 4 Saint Louis (14-6) on the defensive end of the floor on their way to beating the Billikens, 71-53, in an A-10 tournament semifinal at the Siegel Center on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi made his presence felt in the post from the game’s start.

The junior center tallied eight points, five rebounds and seven blocks while matching the signature physicality that Saint Louis brings in the paint. Osunniyi’s presence under the basket could be felt around the arena, as he repeatedly rejected Billiken shots in a first half that saw six of his blocks.

“I thought that (Osunniyi) was terrific,” said Schmidt, SBU’s 14th-year head coach. “He was the difference defensively. He was the eraser. He was the rim protector, and he did so much for us defensively.”

The Bonnies, which allow a league-best 60.1 points per game, held the Billikens to 37% shooting from the field and 29% from 3-point range. Holding an opponent to under 40% shooting, as Schmidt has said periodically, is a goal of his team each game.

“From a defensive standpoint, we couldn’t have played better,” Schmidt said. “Saint Louis is a very physical team and they dominated us in St. Louis earlier in the year. I thought that the key to the game was that we needed to control the paint.”

Bona avenged a regular-season loss to the Billikens that came exactly one month before Saturday’s victory. In that game, SLU out-scored Bona 20-18 in the paint, while SBU built a 34-20 advantage in that category on Saturday.

“We didn’t play on our heels. I thought that in game one, they knocked us back and we played on our heels,” Schmidt said. “You need to play downhill against Saint Louis, against those physical, athletic bodies. I thought we did a good job of playing downhill.”

While Osunniyi anchored Bona’s defensive unit, Jalen Adaway kept SBU’s offense rolling in a second half that Bona led for its entirety. Adaway scored a game-high 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, while also pulling down seven rebounds.

Adaway said that SBU’s quick start, including the 11-2 lead that it assembled to start the game, was key.

“We’ve been harping on things like that the whole year, just coming out energetic from the jump,” Adaway said. “Tonight especially, we just emphasized coming out from the jump and getting on top, playing confident and playing our game.”

Schmidt praised Adaway’s effort on both ends of the floor, saying that he played “extremely well.”

“He’s not the biggest guy, but I thought he defended the block really well,” Schmidt said. “He scored for us and moved the ball both ways.”

The Bonnies used bench scoring to jump on the Billikens early. Sophomore guard AJ Vasquez came on to replace Adaway in the game’s first minute while Adaway was treated for a bloody nose.

Vasquez gave the Bonnies an immediate boost by hitting two 3-pointers. Dominick Welch, who scored a game-high 18 points in SBU’s quarterfinal win over Duquesne on Friday, hit a triple of his own shortly after. The Bonnies navigated the rest of the half without the junior guard, however, after he picked up his second foul.

Bona took a 33-25 lead into halftime before dominating a second half in which they shot 52% from the field. SBU entered the game as two-point underdogs, but led by 22 points at the under-eight media timeout. By that point, a Saint Louis comeback was far from in the works.

“We really emphasize patience because the defense is going to lead the offense,” Adaway said. “We have so many talented players offensively that it’s going to come. Just locking in on defense really opens things up and makes it a lot easier for us.”

Jaren Holmes finished with 15 points for the Bonnies, nine of which came in the second half. The junior guard also pulled down seven rebounds and dished out three assists. Kyle Lofton earned his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Welch scored nine points to round out the SBU starting five.

Jordan Goodwin scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Saint Louis, while Javonte Perkins scored 10 points.

SBU now advances to its fifth A-10 tournament championship in program history, a game in which the Bonnies are 1-3. Their lone A-10 championship came over Xavier in the 2012 tournament, while their most recent trip to the final was 2019’s loss to Saint Louis.

Bona will have eight off-days before the final, which will be held at University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio on March 14. SBU will play No. 2 VCU, with which it split two regular-season games.

“We’ve won playing half-court defense and rebounding the ball,” Schmidt said. “And today, we did well at both ends.”

Osunniyi’s seven blocks gave him 47 on the season, a league-best average of 2.61 per game.

“He’s a special player, especially a defensive player, and there isn’t anybody better,” Schmidt said.

Adaway agreed with his head coach.

“Defensive player of the year,” he said of Osunniyi.”He has to be.”

Men’s basketball: Davidson Preview

By Chuckie Maggio and Jeff Fasoldt

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies hope to end their two-game losing streak when they head to Davidson to face the Wildcats on Wednesday night at 7.

Bonaventure comes into this one at .500 (4-4) in the Atlantic 10, while Davidson comes in at 5-3. The Wildcats are 9-0 at home this season, while the Bonnies are 4-4 on the road.

Davidson’s conference title hopes seemed to take a hit when Jack Gibbs, the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer, suffered a slight meniscus tear against Richmond on Jan. 17. He has not returned to game action since.

The absence of Gibbs hasn’t significantly affected the Cats yet, as they have gone 2-1 without him, beating Dayton in the first game he missed. Will it affect them against the Bonnies on Wednesday? Here’s the full breakdown:

The Coaches:

St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 118-117 as Bonnies coach.

Davidson- Bob McKillop. 486-296 as Wildcats coach.

Key players for Davidson:

Tyler Kalinoski- 6-4 senior guard. Kalinoski is Davidson’s most trusted player going for close to 35 minutes a game and also the leading scorer averaging 16.7 points per game. If that’s not enough, he also leads the Wildcats in rebounding at 6.1 rebounds per game. He’s second in assists with almost four assists per game. From three, Kalinoski is dangerous at 43 percent.

Peyton Aldridge- 6-7 freshman forward. Aldridge is a sharpshooter from deep with the highest percentage on the team (43.8), and he averages 11.2 points per game. Aldridge is just a freshman but may be the best player on this team besides Kalinoski. A McDonald’s All-America nominee in high school, Kalinoski has the size and three point range to sink the Bonnies.

Keys to victory for Davidson: Davidson is a team that has added great athleticism to a coaching philosophy that thrives off of passing and knock-down shooters. The key to victory for the Wildcats is stretching the Bonnies defense out. As a team they shoot close to 40 percent from beyond the arc, something that could be a nightmare for the Bonnies.

Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: First and foremost, the Bonnies need to win the rebounding battle if they are going to steal a huge road game. They’ve been out-rebounded the last two games, which is atypical for them, and Davidson is just as good a team on the glass; both teams average 37 boards a game. Secondly, they will have to defend with the kind of intensity they had against Rhode Island rather than against La Salle. After holding the Rams to 53 points and only three three-pointers, they were unable to carry that defensive intensity over to Saturday’s game, when the Explorers 66 points and nine threes. Davidson has the tenth-best offense in the nation (80 ppg) thanks in large part to its 38.9 three point shooting percentage, good for 27th in the country from behind the arc. It’s all about defense in this one.

Predictions: 

Chuckie- Bona’s perimeter defense is just too poor to beat Davidson’s three-crazy attack. Davidson coach Bob McKillop follows the same blueprint he became known for when Steph Curry was a Wildcat- shoot early and shoot often. Like those teams, this Davidson team has big-time tourney aspirations. The Bonnies will not end their losing streak in Charlotte. 81-70 Wildcats

Jeff- There is not a worse matchup for the Bonnies than this Davidson offense. Davidson should win this one by a large-margin, and it only helps that they’re playing on their home court. However, Davidson has been extremely inconsistent this year losing to St. Josephs by five, Richmond by almost 20 and barely beating George Mason in overtime. For this reason only I’m picking the Bonnies in this one. 69-65 Bonnies. 

Women’s soccer: Bonnies’ offense sputters in loss to Davidson

By Chuckie Maggio

In the middle of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ inaugural 1976 season, in which they went 0-14, coach John McKay was asked what he thought of his team’s execution. His reply? “I’m all for it.”

St. Bonaventure women’s soccer coach Steve Brdarski isn’t the kind of coach to even think of making such a quip, but the team’s offensive execution-or lack thereof-was one of the biggest pitfalls in their 2-0 loss to Davidson on Friday afternoon.

The Bonnies outshot the Wildcats 11-7 with two more shots on goal, but many of those shots were long balls from outside the 18-yard box. The good chances from close range were all wide left or wide right, and the frustration intensified with every near miss.

“They took advantage of their opportunities, we didn’t; that’s (the game) in a nutshell,” Brdarski said. “We played good soccer at times and had some moments where we thought we were definitely going to score, but we just didn’t do enough to convert those chances.

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