Bonnies NCAA Tournament Preview: First Four

By: Jeff Uveino

“You dream as a player to play in the big dance.”

That’s what St. Bonaventure Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said in his press conference after the Atlantic-10 tournament this past weekend, and it’s what his Bonnies will be doing on Tuesday.

For the first time since 2012, the Bonnies are back in the NCAA tournament.

After receiving an at-large bid, St. Bonaventure will travel to Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday to play in the ‘First Four’ round.

The Bonnies will take on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins at 9:10 P.M. for the right to become the 11th seed in the Eastern Regional and face 6th seeded Florida.

This will be the first matchup between the Bonnies (25-7) and the Bruins (21-11) in over 40 years. Their last meeting came in 1975, when UCLA rolled over the Bonnies on the way to a National Championship.

UCLA comes in at 21-11, including an 11-7 record in their conference (the Pacific 12). They were eliminated in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament via an overtime loss to the Arizona Wildcats, who enter the NCAA tournament as a 4th seed.

The Bruins have a good amount of offensive firepower, averaging nearly 82 points per game. They rank 2nd in the Pac-12 and 28th in the nation in scoring.

The Bruins offense is led by junior guard Aaron Holiday. Holiday can shoot it with the best of them, averaging 20.3 points per game. He is an 83% free throw shooter, and 43% three point shooter. Holiday scored 34 points in back-to-back games in the Pac-12 tournament, in wins over USC and Stanford.

Another factor into the UCLA attack that could trouble the Bonnies is their size. The Bruins start three players who are 6’8 and taller, including 6’8 freshman forward Kris Wilkes, 6’11 senior forward Gyorgy Goloman, and 7’0 senior center Thomas Welsh.

Welsh averages 13 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, and poses a significant threat under the basket. Wilkes averages 13.7 points per game, and Goloman averages 7.3 PPG. Welsh and Goloman can also shoot it from downtown, as they both average over 40% shooting from three point range.

The Bonnies big men will be faced with the task of slowing down this attack from under the basket, which will be no easy task given their recent injury problems. Bonnies forwards Courtney Stockard and Josh Ayeni both suffered injuries during the Atlantic-10 tournament in Washington, DC this past weekend, and their status for Tuesday is still up in the air.

Stockard suffered a hamstring injury during the Bonnies quarterfinal win over the Richmond Spiders, and did not play during their semifinal loss to the Davidson Wildcats. Ayeni went down with an apparent knee injury during the Davidson game, and did not return.

No official word has come out about Stockard yet, but sources have told the Intrepid he’s probable to play. Ayeni is currently questionable, though sources said they don’t expect him to play.

St. Bonaventure will still have forwards Amadi Ikpeze (4.7 PPG) and LaDarien Griffin (8.7 PPG) for starters, as well as Tshiefu Ngalakulondi (2.3 PPG) off the bench.

Getting healthy, as well as controlling the glass, will be big factors if the Bonnies want to be successful on Tuesday.

Despite the challenges the Bruins bring to the table, Coach Schmidt is confident in his team’s ability.

“We won thirteen straight games, had some huge non-conference wins, and some big wins in our league,” he said. “I don’t think there was a hotter team going into the postseason than us.”

The Bonnies will look to their high-scoring guards to keep pace with UCLA, including seniors Jaylen Adams (19.8 PPG) and Matt Mobley (18.5 PPG).

Mobley earned A-10 All-Championship Team honors last weekend after his performance in the conference tournament, including making 9-of-13 three pointers in a 29-point outing against Richmond.

Coach Schmidt has been to the NCAA tournament before, appearing three times as a player at Boston College. However, none of his current players have, and he knows that they will be getting an opportunity of a lifetime.

“It’s probably the best day of your life as a college basketball player [when selected],” he said. “They deserve to have those goosebumps.”

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Mens basketball: Quick Hitters (Dayton)

By Jeff Fasoldt @Jeff_Fasoldt

The end of a season: Like every conference tournament in college basketball, only one team and its fans goes home happy. This year it was not St. Bonaventure, and it’s students and loyal alumni who showed up in the masses to support their team. However, finishing 18-14 with tremendous careers from Chris Dees, Andell Cumberbatch and Youssou Ndoye is nothing to hang your head too long about. Next year, Jay adams will be back as he missed the whole tourney and a large part of the latter half of the season with a broken finger. Dion Wright will be back, and so will most of the core of this Bonnies team so don’t worry Bonnies fans, the future is bright.

Hot shooting not enough: All season long the Bonnies have struggled to make shots from outside, leading teams to play zone against them to negate the big men, Ndoye and Wright, inside. Today was a different story. The Bonnies shot 67 percent from the field in the first half, and 58 percent overall in the game. Wright and Posley accounted for 50 of the Bonnies 71 points.

Wright for three: Dion Wright had made one three pointer all season long. Tonight he went 4-5 from three and 10-11 from the field, playing in all 40 minutes. And, if that wasn’t enough he also led the Bonnies in rebounds with nine.

Ndoye’s struggles: Youssou Ndoye had a nightmare of a time facing Dayton’s Kendall Pollard. Pollard held Ndoye to just four points in the game. Ndoye did pick up eight rebounds but his scoring was missed down low.

Sibert steps up: Jordan Sibert is an NBA-caliber player on this Dayton team. Tonight he went 5-12 for 19 points. He also hit the biggest three of the game, a dagger that put Dayton up by two with just seconds to play and ultimately the final blow to end St. Bonaventure’s season.

Quotes:

Jordan Sibert: “We just wanted to get the ball out of Posley’s hands.” (talking about last play of the game)

“Kendall did a great job being aggressive.” “We piggybacked off his energy.

Archie Miller: “We didn’t talk about it.”  (on attempting to beat a team three times on the season. “The one thing about beating a team twice in the regular season in my opinion is you beat them twice so you can do it again.”

“Dion Wright from three threw a monkey-wrench into what we were doing.” 

Mark Schmidt: “I thought that Dion couldn’t have played better. Marcus couldn’t have played better.” “Im really proud of our guys, disappointed about how it ended, but I can’t complain about the effort.” 

 

 

Men’s basketball: Dayton (Away) Preview

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies head to Dayton on Saturday for a 12:30 matinee with the Flyers. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Network.

The day after a demoralizing last-minute loss to UMass, the Bonnies’ bad luck continued when starting point guard Jaylen Adams underwent surgery for a broken finger, as first reported by TheBonaBlog.com’s Ian Nolan and confirmed by Adams on his Twitter account.

The loss of Adams was the last thing coach Mark Schmidt’s team wanted to see. No Atlantic 10 player had more assists or a better assist-to-turnover ratio in conference play than the star freshman, who played 32.5 minutes a game and was named A-10 Rookie of the Week three times.

The responsibilities at the point are now passed to junior Iakeem Alston. The junior college transfer has given Schmidt eight solid minutes a game off the bench, with 27 assists to 19 turnovers and a phenomenal euro-step move that leaves defenders in his tracks. He’s also got 11 steals on the season, showing his defensive abilities. He will need to be at the top of his game to make up for the loss of Adams.

The first time the Bonnies faced the Flyers, who are tied with four teams for first place in the A-10, they were crushed 78-61 at the Reilly Center and UD had 14 three-pointers. Archie Miller’s group showed they can still dominate a game despite only having seven scholarship players.

Will we see more of the same on Saturday, or can Bonaventure steal another road game? Here’s the full breakdown:

The Coaches:

St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 119-118 as Bonnies coach, 1-7 against Dayton.

Dayton- Archie Miller. 81-44 as Flyers coach, 3-1 against St. Bonaventure.

Key players for Dayton:

Jordan Sibert- 6-4 senior guard. Sibert went for 22 in the Jan. 8 matchup with Bonaventure on the strength of 9-for-16 shooting from the floor, including four threes. The Cincinnati product has scored double-digit points in six of the last nine games, with a career-high 29 points against Fordham. The senior continues to be a model of consistency and the leader of this team.

Dyshawn Pierre- 6-6 junior forward. Pierre had 15 points and seven rebounds in that Jan. 8 game. The Canadian is averaging 12.6 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds, the kind of big boost in production the Flyers sorely needed when Devon Scott and Jalen Robinson were kicked off the team in December.

Kendall Pollard- 6-6 sophomore forward. Everyone was paying attention to Sibert and Pierre at the beginning of the season, but Pollard has become a valuable part of this offense as well. He only scored five points on Jan. 8, but has averaged nearly 15 points a game since, with three 20-point performances. His matchups down low are not favorable going into this contest, but you can’t count him out.

Keys to victory for Dayton: Dayton knows how to beat Bonaventure: shoot early and often from deep. The way to beat Bona continues to be to make threes, and that will be the gameplan again on Saturday. Another reason they won the first meeting was that they made Youssou Ndoye a relative non-factor, limiting him to 1-for-4 shooting from the floor and just eight points. Neutralizing the seven-footer is another piece of the checklist because when he’s on his game the Bonnies are nearly unstoppable.

Keys to victory for St. Bonaventure: Alston’s play is obviously going to be a focus with Adams’ absence. With his majorly-increased workload, the junior must make good decisions with the ball, be a defensive stopper and make his free throws; he’s 11-for-23 from the foul line this season. Ndoye will have to be a force from the beginning; he wasn’t in the losses to UMass and Rhode Island. Posley’s leadership role also increases in the backcourt, as he may need to guide Alston to keep the team afloat in the game’s tough stretches.

Prediction: The Bonnies can still win ballgames without Adams, but they will probably not win this one. Pollard is going to be the player of the game in front of a sold-out crowd that has propelled the Flyers to a 12-0 home record this season. The team will need to mesh with Alston as their point guard, and a road environment is not the best place to do so. I just don’t see them beating the league-best Flyers, but this season hasn’t made all that much sense so who knows? 71-62 Dayton

Men’s basketball: Wright looks to find place in #Bonnies rotation

By Joe Pinter, @JPinter93

Watching the raising of the Atlantic 10 and NCAA Second Round banners on opening night last year had to be tough for the freshman on the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team.

Fighting for playing time on a senior-laden roster was even harder than missing out on a historic run in March.

Dion Wright played in 13 games last season but only averaged about five minutes per game. His best performance came on March 2 vs. Dayton. Wright played only 11 minutes but had 15 points on 6 for 7 shooting.

He took the learning experience in stride and worked hard in the off season.

“I feel like I spent a lot of hours in the gym, and I got better with my jump shot and my strength,” Wright said. “I think last year I weighed about 210 lbs. I’m at about 218 lbs. right now.”

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Wright looks to find place in #Bonnies rotation”

Bonnies Rally Late, Fall To No. 14 Flyers

By Ryan Lazo, Editor-In-Chief, @RMLazo13

Game Story: Attempting to end a six-game losing streak, St. Bonaventure hosted No. 14 Dayton in the Reilly Center. And these Bonnies may have turned in their best effort of the season. Bona tightly contested each and every Flyers’ shot limiting them to just ( ) shooting for the night. But a late-rally would fall short, Bona fell to the Flyers, 67-63.

Frantic Finish: Trailing by 13 points with just 37 seconds remaining, the Bonnies went on a 9-0 run to pull the gap to just four points, 65-61. But Bona would not score again until an Alaina Walker jumper went through nylon with just one second remaining.

Moral Victory: Facing the No. 14 team in the country and the A-10’s top-scoring offense which averages 77 points per game, Bona played up to their opponents. They battled Dayton point for point and did not relent until the final whistle, possibly making this game something to build on not only for this season, but for the future.

Board Problems: Bona was out rebounded on the glass by a 50 to 35 margin including Dayton’s 20 offensive rebounds. However, Bona battled Dayton on each possession, limiting the Flyers to just 32 percent shooting on the game. 

Senior Strong: The lone starting senior Alaina Walker turned in another solid outing. Walker led all scorers with 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting, grabbed five rebounds while also dishing out two assists and nabbing two steals

Ortega’s Streak: Doris Ortega has now scored in double figures for the seventh consecutive game after dropping in 12 points on just 4-for-7 shooting. 

Solid Half: The Bonnies, losers of six straight, played an all-around first half. The Brown and White only stared at a 32-24 deficit because of limiting their turnovers (eight) and holding Dayton to just shooting 31.4 percent in the half. Emily Michael’s 3-pointer as time expired in the half pulled Bona to within eight at the half.

Freshmen Impact: Emily Michael, Katie Healy and Nyla Rueter once again made significant contributions to Bona’s effort against the Flyers. The trio combined for 32 of the Bonnies’ 63 points on the games, showing the hope for the future with such a young team.

Young Flyers: Dayton graduated seven seniors from last’s championship winning squad, including four starters but have not missed a beat. Their victory over Bona keeps them undefeated in Atlantic 10 Conference play

Rematch: These two team’s faced off in last year’s Atlantic 10 Conference Championship game as the Flyers raced out to a 27-5 lead. But the Bonnies did not wilt, battling back to take a lead in the second half, but Jessica Jenkins’ 3-point attempt as time expired went off back iron.

Quotes: Jim Crowley “This can only be a victory if we understand that if we play hard all the time then this is what can happen. For the first time in a while, we played the game hard. We didn’t worry about the scoreboard, we just played the game hard.”

Crowley, “That looked like a Bonaventure basketball team. Whether it was an extra pass, helping each other out, we did it. We blocked nine shots. That’s covering up for on another.

Doris Ortega “They thought they were going to come in here and blow us out by 30, but they didn’t. We didn’t get the win, but I’m really proud of my team. We could have given up but we just kept coming back, especially in the last minute.”

Dayton coach Jim Jabir, “St. Bonaventure deserved to win. I’m in no way happy with my team. Our record is gaudy. Our ranking is nice. But it doesn’t in anyway shape or form show how we are currently playing.”

Jabir “Coming to hear is like going to the dentist where you know you have to go, but it’s going to hurt. I don’t think people realize how good Jim Crowley truly is.”