Behind The Wolfpack: New Era Begins For The Bonnies With A Win

[Demitrius Conger and the rest of the Bonnies employed their havoc defense in a 65-55 win over Bethune-Cookman – Photo by Melissa Scott]

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

The Atlantic 10 Conference Champions and NCAA Tournament banners were raised high into the rafters, officially closing the curtain on the magical season that occurred in Olean, N.Y. last year.

St. Bonaventure raised the curtain on a new season, a new era of Bonnies basketball, as they faced off with Bethune-Cookman in their season opener at the Reilly Center in front of 4,215 spectators.

And the Brown and White did not disappoint their fans, dropping the Wildcats by a 65-55 score – the lowest amount of points surrendered in a season opener since 2000 in a 68-53 victory over New Mexico State.

After scoring 104 points in their exhibition victory, much was made of the Bonnies up tempo offense, but it was slowed down considerably by the Wildcats.

“They delayed the ball, holding it for 20-25 seconds,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said after his team’s victory. “For the most part, we were disciplined, but they got us of out our rhythm a little bit.”

That would be an understatement.

At times, the Bonnies (1-0) looked lost on offense as they just tossed the ball around the perimeter while looking for holes that would not open up. Time and time again, they would struggle to find an open man and end up taking a bad shot, resulting in shooting just 8-for-22 in the first half.

“We were really stagnant,” Matthew Wright said after his 13-point performance on 5-for-8 shooting. “You can’t be stagnant on a zone. There has to be player ball movement. We were too unselfish and hesitant to shoot.”

Wildcats (0-1) head coach Gravelle Craig said he took the Bonnies out of their comfort zone by playing zone.

“I saw that they were bigger and more athletic than us,” Craig said after the game. “I rather have had them shoot jump shots and working hard for shots then have them driving and dunking over us.”

But halfway through the second half, the Bona offense erupted with two consecutive 3-pointers from Demitrius Conger and Wright to jumpstart the struggling offense, producing a 13-4 run.

Forcing turnovers led to easy baskets, as the Bonnies displayed their own version of the havoc defense, converting the miscues into 21 points, sealing the too-close-for-comfort victory.

Welcome to the new era of St. Bonaventure basketball.

No longer do the Bonnies have a star player to bail them out when things are not going their way. Instead, they have a multitude of experienced players who are capable of taking over a game at any point.

And on this night, that player was Eric Mosley.

“I thought Eric was the player of the game,” Schmidt said of his offensive sparkplug.

Mosley entered the game and became instant offense for St. Bonaventure. The senior guard dropped in 14 points on 4-for-8 shooting including 3-for-6 from 3-point range.

But he didn’t stop there.

His intense defensive pressure led to two steals and points for the Bonnies when they needed them most.

However, no one had a bigger impact on the defensive side of the ball than Youssou Ndoye, Bona’s new starting center.

Ndoye may have struggled from the field as he unveiled his Nicholson-esqe jump-hook, but his five blocks on defense — a career high — changed the game.

“I was trying to be aggressive because I wasn’t making my shots,” Ndoye said after his 2-for-6 performance. “I had to do something on defense to help my team.”

Truth be told, it was a total team effort to earn the win as nine Bona players recorded points in the opener. And Wright said they are only going to get better.

“We are nowhere near where we want to be,” Wright said. “We have the blueprint of what we want to do from last year. We’re just going to get better.”

Learning a new offense and defense, the Bonnies struggled early and were brought to the limit. But the winning attitude from last year resurfaced as they answered every Wildcats’ run. Time will tell if that attitude will continue to lead to victories.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies’ Staff Looks To Runs In The Future

[Photo courtesy of gobonnies.com]

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

Allen Iverson may have given practice a bad name, but it’s where most college basketball players improve each season, and that’s exactly what Matthias Runs has in front of him.

Last week, the NCAA ruled the 7-foot forward from The Netherlands was ineligible to play this coming season, but he would be able to practice with the team. The experience he will gain is going to be immeasurable.

“It’s critical,” Bonnies assistant coach Dave Moore said about Runs’ practicing. “You are going up against a guy that is bigger and stronger then you every day, so you’re either going to die or get better. We’re excited that Matthias is going to be able to practice and develop with us.”

Developing players outside of games is nothing new to the Bona coaching staff. Last season witnessed the immediate growth of two freshmen — Jordan Gathers and Youssou Ndoye.

Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt always states that the best thing about freshman is they become sophomores, but he saw both of his freshmen take significant strides during the course of the season.

And the foundation for both of their success came down to the hours spent during practice.

For Ndoye, it meant going toe-to-toe with future first-round NBA draft pick and Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year Andrew Nicholson.

“Youssou really took it as a challenge and got better and better every day,” Moore said of the energetic big man. “You saw the results at the end of the season with the contributions he made.”

Ndoye, following a rocky beginning to the season in which he was plagued by foul trouble, showed his true ability when he took over an overtime game against University of Rhode Island for a critical victory.

In the game’s final 77 seconds, Ndoye dunked, drew a charge, blocked a shot and grabbed the game’s final rebound.

Ndoye’s trajectory is exactly what Moore and the rest of the Bona coaching staff has in mind with Runs.

“Those guys (in the Canarias Basketball Academy) know how to work,” Moore said of where Runs played last season. “They are already used to being worked as hard as they can, so it helps shorten the learning curve.”

Demitrius Conger, the Bonnies leading returning scorer, said being able to practice is key for the European big man.

“For him coming over from Europe, it’s a really different game, but to have that year to get ready helps,” Conger said.

Runs agreed, saying he has already seen the differences.

“It’s way more physical,” Runs said of what he’s experienced. “I’m bruised up every time I’m getting off the court.”

But Moore said the Bonnies latest CBA import has what it takes to be special.

“There is not too many people on the planet his size that can move the way he can move,” Moore said of Runs’ natural ability. “It’s exciting to be able to work with.”

While Runs needs to get stronger, the excitement around the coaching staff about the talent he possesses and the work he puts in can lead to greater success.

“We want him to be a pro,” Moore said of Runs.

If that happens, then St. Bonaventure fans will have even more reasons to cheer in the coming years and help warm up those long and harsh winters in Western New York with victories.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu

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.

Behind the Wolfpack: Defensive play sends Bonnies into semifinals

[Charlon Kloof soars toward the rim for two of his career-high 19-points in a 71-68 St. Bonaventure victory over Saint Joseph’s – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

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

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (March 9) – In a game that featured 24 lead changes, it seemed destined to move to 25 as the Saint Joseph’s Hawks took the ball down the court with 36 seconds left.

As the seconds ticked down, the Hawks fans grew louder, while St. Bonaventure fans held their collective breaths, anticipating the play that was unfolding before them.

Langston Galloway came quickly off a ball screen at the top of the key and drove the lane while the Bonnies’ Andrew Nicholson deftly moved to his left and sealed off the middle.

Galloway took off for a mid-range jumper, Nicholson soared straight up and the whistle blew – a charge.

St. Bonaventure ball.

“I shot an air ball on offense, so I wanted to get it back on defense,” Nicholson, the Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year said. “I made a big play, took the charge.”

The play stamped the Bonnies’ ticket into the semifinals of the A-10 Championship Tournament, a 71-68 victory that sets up a date with University of Massachusetts Amherst at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

After these two teams played a two-overtime thriller at the Reilly Center, the Hawks had their game plan.

They knew they had to focus all of their defensive assignments around stopping Nicholson.

They knew they had to keep Demitrius Conger off the boards.

But they did not account for Youssou Ndoye or Charlon Kloof.

Ndoye dominated the first half by grabbing eight rebounds, two less than the entire Hawks team in the game’s opening 20 minutes, blocked two shots and slammed in two dunks.

Meanwhile, Kloof used his agility to his advantage, driving into the lane and finishing shots with ease. The sophomore set a career-high with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field.

“Everyone knows we wouldn’t be here without Andrew, but we also wouldn’t be here without Charlon,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said of his point guard.

However, no one’s line was more impressive than the Bonnies’ senior forward.

Nicholson dropped in 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots during the final games of his Bona career.

The Bonnies now face a UMass team that they lost to earlier this season, but that was a different St. Bonaventure team.

This team has heart, drive and an A-10 Player of the Year leading the way as it tries to head to the final for the first time since 2000.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu

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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.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu

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

Behind the Wolfpack: Anything is possible in the A-10

[Senior Andrew Nicholson helped St. Bonaventure defeat Duquesne with a 21-point, 23-rebounds effort – Photo by Melissa Scott]

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

It has been wild ride for this St. Bonaventure team with many ups and downs.

 The Bonnies breezed through the early part of the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule, holding a 5-2 record and sitting atop the standings.

Fans were ecstatic, living and breathing Bonnies basketball and once again there were high hopes. Then a two-game slide happened. 

They dropped two tough road games to Saint Louis and University of Massachusetts Amherst. As they headed into the Reilly Center last night, the feeling around the team was different.

Fans were down on their team, worried about the inability to keep a road lead. They worried about Andrew Nicholson’s frequent foul trouble. They worried about the current place in the standings. 

But most of all they wondered if they would be disappointed again.

However, in front of 4,505 spectators, the Bonnies (13-9, 6-4) did not disappoint and defeated the Duquesne Dukes (14-10, 5-5), 69-48.

Some of the worries seemed to be alleviated with the victory.

Nicholson logged 35 minutes of game action, scoring 21 points and grabbing 23 rebounds. He became only the fourth Bonnies player in history to have a 20/20 game.

The quiet senior said it best.

“I’ve only had games like that in my dreams,” Nicholson said, inciting laughter.

The Bonnies also recovered from a slow start, falling behind early only to take a lead they would never relinquish. 

The victory avenged their 15-point loss to the Dukes on Jan. 7 and also moved their home record to an astounding 9-1. 

Take a look at the standings after Saturday’s action and St. Bonaventure is now all alone in the No. 4 spot, only a half game behind both Xavier and UMass at 7-4. 

The A-10 race is still wide open and the Bonnies have too much talent to count them out.

With Nicholson on the court, the Bonnies will always have a chance. He makes up for the mistakes of others, grabbing offensive rebounds at key moments.

He did plenty of that against the Dukes, nabbing eight-offensive rebounds, helping the Bonnies record 22-second chance points.

Then there’s Demitrius Conger who may not always produce big statistical numbers, but seems to always come up with a play when the Bonnies need it.

Conger only shot 4-of-10 from the field for nine points, but nabbed seven offensive rebounds to give the Bonnies more shot opportunities.

With Matthew Wright struggling with his shot, Chris Johnson hopped off the bench and quickly dropped in 12 of his 15 points in the first half.

The junior forward supplied the spark the Bonnies needed to help get in front of Duquesne and open up the inside for Nicholson. 

Then there are the two Bonnies point guards, Eric Mosley and Charlon Kloof, who seem to pick each other up when the other is struggling. 

This time it was Mosley who supplied the spark.

The junior picked up his fellow teammate by shooting 5-of-7 from the field, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range for 12 points. 

Even freshmen Youssou Ndoye and Jordan Gathers have helped the Bonnies in some capacity, whether it be through their defensive effort or timely offense.

And with three of their final five games in the Reilly Center, anything is possible for these Bonnies.

Even a top-4 finish? 

Nothing is impossible in the wild and competitive A-10.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu