Lofton scores 1,000th point as Bonnies win at Fordham

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Ryan Surmay

BRONX, NY — After scoring 14 points on Wednesday, Kyle Lofton became the latest member of the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball 1,000-point club. 

Lofton led the Bonnies to a 68-54 win at Fordham, and Bona head coach Mark Schmidt spoke highly of the junior point guard.

“He’s a really good player, he’s a really good competitor… he’s our leader,” Schmidt said.

Scoring 1,000 points in two years and six games tells you all you need to know about Lofton. He’s the ultimate point guard for SBU, as he shares the ball and defends as regularly as he scores.

This was the Bonnies’ first game back after Jaren Holmes’ 38-point performance vs Saint Joseph’s. The game went back in forth in the first half, with neither team really establishing itself. The teams went into the locker room with the score tied at 37. 

The Rams used balanced scoring, having four of their starters score more than six points in the half. The Bonnies stayed with the hot hand of Holmes, who had 17 first-half points. The Rams were able to keep the game close by making seven three-pointers in the half, while the Bonnies only had three.  

“I thought we defended decently in the first half even though they hit seven [three’s],” Schmidt said. “But I thought our guys from a defensive standpoint did a great job. They hit two in the second half we hit our numbers… we held them to 17 points in the second half.”

The main keys to the win for Bona were defense and rebounding the ball. St. Bonaventure out rebounded Fordham 43 -24, including 15 offensive rebounds, which created second chances for the team to score. 

“The guys, they’re committed they understand in order to beat Fordham you need to defend,” Schmidt said. “They’re one of the better defensive teams in the Atlantic-10. It was like a test for us. I thought our guys did a really good job, especially in the second half.”

In terms of the offense, it was led once again by Holmes as he had 26 points, giving him 64 points over his last two games. 

“It’s come in the offense, he’s not forcing things, he’s hitting open shots,” Schmidt said. “I had no idea he had 20 at halftime by the way he plays.”

The Bonnies were able to hold Fordham to only three points in the final eight minutes of the game, all of which came from the free throw line.  

Jalen Adaway scored 14 points for Bona, while Dominick Welch pulled down 14 rebounds and Osun Osunniyi had seven rebounds and seven assists.

“Our guys are matured, and they understand how to win,” Schmidt said. “They’re not going to be the star of the team offensively every night. They understand the importance of winning games and how to win them. When the offense isn’t going well you got to do something else and they’ve done that.” 

After the win, the Bonnies improve to a 5-1 record while going 3-1 in the A-10. Their next game is against Duquesne at the Reily Center on Friday at 7 p.m., a game that will be broadcasted on ESPN2.  

Bona set for A-10 home opener Wednesday vs St. Joe’s; will host GW Saturday

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — It’s hard to declare a statement win in the first four games of the season, but Kyle Lofton’s dagger in the Robins Center on Saturday afternoon was a strong response for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team to conclude a week that started with adversity.  

On the Wednesday before Bona’s win over Richmond, sophomore forward Justin Winston announced his intention to transfer. Just hours later, the Bonnies suffered their first defeat of the season in an ugly game against Rhode Island, during which junior guard Jaren Holmes left early with back spasms. Three days later, the Bonnies responded in dramatic fashion and displayed the importance of experience in conference play.  

Lofton’s game-winner will be the play Bona fans remember from the team’s 69-66 win at Richmond, but a combined from the team resulted in a statement win that could impact the Bonnies going forward.  

“Beating them gave us, myself and the coaches confidence on how good we can be in this league,” Lofton said. “Guys like Jaren (Holmes) and Dom (Welch) that aren’t talked about much, they mean so much to this team.” 

After a week on the road, the Bonnies head home for their first Atlantic 10 conference games at the Reilly Center, the first being a Wednesday matchup against a St. Joseph’s team looking for its first win of the season.  

The Hawks’ current 0-7 record could be deceiving, as they had a daunting schedule that included matchups against Kansas, Villanova, and Tennessee. St. Joe’s has also fallen to A-10 opponents VCU and Rhode Island, the latter of which defeated the Hawks in overtime on Saturday.  

“There’s a lot of teams in this country that would be 0-7 playing the schedule they have played,” SBU head coach Mark Schmidt said. “They are much better than 0-7.” 

The Hawks are led by junior guard Taylor Funk, who averages 16.4 points per game. However, they will be without their leading scorer, senior guard Ryan Daly, who has averaged 17.2 points per game on the season. 

The Bonnies defeated the Hawks twice last season, 74-56 in the first matchup and 89-73 on senior day. Funk missed both games last season with a thumb injury, but as a 6’8 guard, his versatility will be the key for the SJU offense.  

“He can really shoot the ball,” Schmidt said. “He presents a lot of problems because he’s a screen and pop guy and it’s hard for a five man to go out there and get to his shot. “He has a high IQ for the game so he is going to be a handful (on Wednesday).” 

The Hawks like to shoot the three, and will look to sophomore guard Dahmir Bishop to do so. Bishop has averaged 10.3 points per game and has shot 34.8% from three-point range to contribute offensively in the absence of Daly. Jack Forrest, a sophomore guard, has averaged 8.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.  

“They are playing free. If you’re a shooter that’s the type of style you want,” Schmidt said. “It’s imperative we do the best job we can keeping the ball in front of us.” 

St. Joe’s leads the A-10 in three-point attempts, but the Bonnies pose the best three-point defense in the conference.  

“Transition defense and one-on-one defense is going to be crucial (on Wednesday),” Schmidt said.  

After their matchup against St. Joe’s, the Bonnies will welcome George Washington to the Reilly Center Saturday afternoon. The Colonials have a 3-7 record, but have started 2-1 in A-10 play with wins against Fordham and Duquesne.  

The Bonnies swept GW in two games last year, edging them 71-66 on the road before rolling, 72-47, at home.

The Bonnies tip off against St. Joe’s at 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon on ESPN+. On Saturday, tip off is scheduled for noon against George Washington. That game can be shown on NBC Sports Network.  

Bonnies begin A-10 play with pair of road games at Rhode Island, Richmond

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Mark Schmidt breaks each college basketball season down into three parts: non-conference play, conference play and the postseason.

For Schmidt and the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, the first part of the season didn’t go according to plan. The team had six of its eight scheduled games canceled due to a variety of COVID-19 concerns, but won both of the games it was able to play.

After beating Akron and Hofstra, the Bonnies enter Atlantic 10 play undefeated for the first time in program history.

“You just accept it and do the best job you can,” said Schmidt, who is in his 14th season as head coach at SBU, of the team’s unprecedented non-conference slate. “We knew this was going to happen. When it happens, it’s like a punch to the gut, but it is what it is. We’re 2-0, and now we turn our attention to the A-10. It would be just like that if we would have played 11 or 12 games in the non-conference.”

Bona begins A-10 play with a pair of road games against two of the conference’s perennial championship contenders. SBU will first travel to Rhode Island on Wednesday, where they will take on the 3-5 Rams.

“(Rhode Island has) got good size,” Schmidt said. “They’ve got high-major transfers. They’re very aggressive offensively and defensively.”

The Rams, who were picked to finish sixth in the league (Bona was picked to finish fourth), have not only already played eight games this season, but have played three games against Power Five conference opponents. URI’s losses include Arizona State, Boston College and Wisconsin, while the Rams own wins over South Florida, San Francisco and Seton Hall.

URI has lost three games in a row after previously enjoying a three-game winning streak. The Rams have already played one A-10 game, falling at home to Davidson on Dec. 18.

“We’ve got to try to keep them in the half court offensively, and take care of the ball so we don’t turn it over so they can get out on the break,” Schmidt said. “If this is a game that is in the 80s or 90s, they’re probably going to win. We’ve got to try to control tempo as much as we can and do a good job of keeping the ball out of the paint.”

Rhody is led by senior guard Fatts Russell, who has averaged 14.4 points per game and over three assists per game this season. The last time the Bonnies played the Rams, Russell scored 29 points in an 81-75 URI win at the Reilly Center.

“It’s very important for us to take care of the basketball and get shots up,” Schmidt said. “If we can do that and hopefully get some second shots, we’ll be okay. They are a tremendous athletic, physical half-court team.”

Senior guard Jeremy Sheppard averages 9.3 points per game for the Rams, while Antwan Walker, a forward who transferred to the program from Georgetown, averages 8.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

For Bona, Osun Osunniyi has been a bright spot in the middle of Schmidt’s offense. The junior forward/center has averaged 19.5 points and 10 rebounds per game in Bona’s two victories, while junior guards Kyle Lofton and Dominick Welch trail closely behind, each scoring 16.5 points per game over SBU’s young season.

Bona will enjoy the return of transfer guard Anthony Roberts, who missed the team’s first two games due to an extended quarantine period. Roberts averaged 12.7 points per game for Kent State last season.

Despite the lack of in-game reps that the Bonnies have gotten to prepare for A-10 play, Schmidt said that his team is excited to play “no matter who they’re playing.”

After playing URI, Bona will travel to Richmond to play the Spiders, who were the preseason favorite to win the A-10. The Spiders enter A-10 play with a 6-2 record, owning wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt. On Dec. 22, Richmond lost at home to Hofstra, a team that Bona had defeated three days prior.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” Schmidt said. “We’ve played two games.”

Bona and URI are scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. That game can be seen on ESPN+. The Bonnies will tip off against the Spiders at 5 p.m. on Saturday in a game that can be seen on CBS Sports Network.

“These two games aren’t going to tell us how good we are or how bad we are, just like the first two games that we played didn’t tell us how good we are or how bad we are,” Schmidt said on Tuesday. “I’ll probably tell you in three or four weeks where we’re at.”

Bona survives Hofstra comeback, wins home opener

photo by Craig Melvin

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — For a moment, it looked like another run-away victory. Then, it wasn’t.

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team defeated Hofstra for the second year in a row on Saturday, in a game that turned out to be much closer than the contest’s start would have indicated.

When the Bonnies jumped out to a 30-7 lead early in the first half, flashbacks of SBU’s 28-point victory over the Pride last December transpired. The Bonnies carried a 15-point lead into halftime, but Jalen Ray got hot for Hofstra from the three-point line in the second half and led the Pride back.

After a frenzy of lead exchanges in the game’s final 10 minutes, the Bonnies went on a 13-3 run to close the game and beat Hofstra, 77-69.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “You knew they were going to come back, but I didn’t think they were going to come back in the second half and outscore us by 27 at one point.”

Trailing by 13 points with 15 minutes left in the second half, Hofstra went on a 29-14 run that spanned 11 minutes and gave the Pride a 66-65 lead. From there, Schmidt’s group responded.

With the game tied at 66 points each, Dominick Welch hit a three-pointer that was followed by a 12-foot floater by Kyle Lofton and two Osun Osunniyi dunks.

“When they took the lead, I thought our guys collected themselves, didn’t hang their heads and fought back,” Schmidt said. “But we beat a good team. Our goal was to be 2-0, and 1-0 at home, and we accomplished that.”

Lofton scored a team-high 16 points, and also dished out nine assists and pulled down four rebounds. Welch scored 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds while shooting 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.

“We got comfortable with the lead,” Lofton said. “When we got to the end, we knew it was go time. We couldn’t play laid back. We had to be aggressive. We knew that we had to get stops and rebounds, and finish out possessions.”

Osunniyi had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He briefly came out of the game two minutes into the second half after picking up his second personal foul.

Osunniyi was replaced by Jalen Shaw, who scored four points in nine minutes of action. In the eight minutes that Osunniyi was on the bench, the Bona lead shrunk from 13 points to three.

“I got into foul trouble, so me not being in the game, I just tried to bring energy from the bench,” Osunniyi said. “It all comes down to the veteran leadership and the more experienced guys telling everybody to stay calm, run our offense and play defense.”

Ray, who scored a game-high 28 points, was instrumental in Hofstra’s second-half comeback. He shot 6-for-10 from beyond the arc, including 5-for-7 in the second half, when 19 of his points were scored. Isaac Kante finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Pride, while former Bona guard Tareq Coburn scored nine points.

Schmidt mentioned several positives that he took away from his team’s performance, including out-rebounding Hofstra by 15 and having a team total of 19 assists compared to 11 turnovers.

“We’ve got to get better,” Schmidt said. “We can’t give up 20-point leads. There are a lot of challenges going on, but I’m proud of our mental toughness.”

Lofton, Welch and Osunniyi each reaching double-digit scoring figures was also encouraging, Schmidt said.

“We need them,” he said. “They’re juniors now; they’re the main guys. Those three guys, along with Jaren (Holmes), need to score the ball.”

Holmes finished with nine points and eight rebounds, while Jalen Adaway had nine points and five rebounds. Eight different Bonnies got on the score sheet.

This is the first time that SBU has started 2-0 in a season since 2013-14, and the first time that Bona has won its home opener since 2016-17. Bona will host “Big 4” rival Buffalo on Tuesday to wrap up the Bonnies’ non-conference schedule.

“I think everybody is slowly starting to find their way on this team,” Osunniyi said. “The new guys are trying to find their way and see where they fit in. That’s good for us.”

Bonnies return to Reilly Center for rematch against Hofstra

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Sean Casey

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The Bonnies’ long-awaited return to the Reilly Center will finally be here on Saturday, as Mark Schmidt and the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team square off against Hofstra.

The Pride will be led by associate coach and acting head coach Mike Farrelly, due to head coach Joe Mihalich being on temporary medical leave. Coming off of a win at Rocket Mortage Fieldhouse vs Akron, the Bonnies look to stay perfect in their second game of the season. 

SBU and Hofstra last faced off on Dec. 7 of last year, when the Pride traveled north to St. Bonaventure in what was Bona’s 50th anniversary celebration of its 1970 Final Four team. Members of the historic team returned to a packed Reilly Center to watch the Bonnies team soar to a 28-point victory, led by Dominick Welch and Jaren Holmes each scoring 17 points.

Despite the score gap, it was a talented Hofstra team that went on to win the Colonial Athletic Association and is favored to defend that title this season. 

Hofstra has played four more games than the Bonnies, compiling a 3-2 record. The Pride have been led by senior guard Tareq Coburn, who has averaged 20 points per game while shooting 15-plus free throws in two games, something the Bonnies will need to keep an eye on.

Another player to watch is senior guard Jalen Ray, who is the Pride’s minutes leader, averaging 35 per game while scoring 16 points per game and handing out four assists per game. 

Hofstra is a fast team that has been playing a 2-3 zone defense often this season, and Schmidt realizes the importance of countering what they are doing.

“We need to be able to attack their 2-3 zone effectively, getting good shots,” said Schmidt, Bona’s head coach. “It’s hard to run when the ball is going through the net, and if you’re missing shots and turning the ball over, that’s when they’re at their best.” 

In Bona’s win over Akron, the team scored 81 points despite only hitting one three-pointer, so the Bonnies will look to improve on their jump shooting against Hofstra. 

Osun Osunniyi was dominant on both ends of the floor, scoring 25 points to go with eight rebounds. 

SBU relied on its starting unit heavily against Akron, with all five starters playing 27 minutes or more, while the bench played a combined 34 minutes. It will be interesting to see if the Bonnies look to their bench more in this game with Schmidt expressing concern over the team’s fitness following a late-November quarantine.

“Usually in the preseason and once the season starts, you’re in game shape, but we’re not,” Schmidt said. “At least we’re playing.”

Saturday’s tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m., and can be seen on ESPN+ and heard on 95.7 WPIG.

“They’re a talented team,” Schmidt said of Hofstra. “There’s a reason why they’re picked to win (their conference) again. The game is not going to be like it was last year.”

Schmidt talks preseason, new challenges as Bona men begin practice

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Despite having zero seniors on his roster, Mark Schmidt views this year’s Bonnies as a “veteran team.”

Schmidt, who is in his 14th season as head coach of the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, found himself in a familiar situation in an unfamiliar year on Thursday: The day before the team’s first official practice of the season.

“Nothing has changed in our minds,” Schmidt said. “We’re going about (the first day of practice) just like we would last year. Build the fundamentals.”

NCAA rules allow SBU, like every other Division I basketball program, to hold 30 practices over 42 days leading up to Nov. 25, when teams can begin playing games.

Schmidt said that while he’d like the preseason to feel as normal as possible, he has concerns about getting his players ready.

“I tell the guys when they leave practice, there’s a sense of urgency,” Schmidt said. “The other thing is, there’s no scrimmages this year. There’s no exhibition games. It’s scary that the first game we play counts.”

Normally, Bona plays a “secret scrimmage” in a closed setting before playing an exhibition game at the Reilly Center. SBU has played Alfred University in that game each of the past four years.

SBU enters the season with seven returning players and seven new players. The roster is made up of nine juniors (including transfers), two sophomores and three freshmen. And, what the Bonnies lack in seniority, many of them make up for in big-game experience.

“When you have a young team, I don’t think they know how hard you have to work or what shape you need to be in,” Schmidt said. “Having a veteran team, these guys know. They understand how difficult being successful in the Atlantic 10 is. Any program that has had some success, it makes it easier for the coach because the veterans can say to the young guys, ‘Here’s what you need to do’.”

Kyle Lofton, Osun Osunniyi and Dominick Welch each played big roles in SBU’s trip to the Atlantic 10 championship game two seasons ago, in which the Bonnies lost to Saint Louis. Schmidt will count on the trio, who are now all juniors, to show younger players what it takes to win in the A10.

With the lack of game time against other teams leading up to the start of the regular season, it may be difficult for new players to make enough of an impression to get consistent minutes. Schmidt acknowledged that it may be hard for some of his younger guys to crack the starting lineup, as Bona returns almost all of its scoring from a year ago after only losing one senior to graduation.

“We always talk about having tests,” Schmidt said. “You practice for two or three weeks, and your first test is the scrimmage. That really determines who’s playing well, who’s going to have a spot. Then you have the exhibition game. That’s when the coaches decide, these are going to be the eight or nine guys (who will play).”

This year, players will have to earn their minutes in practice.

“We have a feel of the veteran guys, it’s more the younger guys,” Schmidt said. “It’s been a little more difficult for them because they didn’t have the summer to really learn the culture of St. Bonaventure basketball. Those intrasquad scrimmages are going to be very important.”

Schmidt said that the Bonnies would be scrimmaging in practice much more than normal, and that he wanted to create more opportunities for practices to feel like games. That will involve a plethora of 5-on-5 basketball, he said, as well as the possibility of bringing referees to officiate intrasquad scrimmages.

Another one of Schmidt’s concerns that comes with the lack of games, he said, is the lack of having things to look forward to.

“We’d look forward to the Kent State scrimmage, and look forward to the exhibition game,” Schmidt said. “Right now, it’s just 30 days of practice. It’s a concern that we don’t have those rehearsals to find out what we’re good at and what we need to improve upon.”

As far as when the Bonnies will actually play games? Schmidt said he has “no idea.”

“We think that we’re going to start Nov. 25 in one of these bubbles, but we don’t know,” Schmidt said. “We haven’t really gotten any direction or final say from the Atlantic 10 on whether they’re going to play a couple of their non-conference games in December. There haven’t been any contracts signed. It’s just a fluid situation, and we’re working on it every day.”

The Bonnies will hold a three-hour practice on Friday afternoon, which will become the standard length of their practices going forward. 

“Oct. 15 was highlighted on our family calendar. I tell my wife, the marriage has stopped for six months,” Schmidt said with a grin. “The basketball season has started.”

Duquesne gets revenge, beats Bonnies in overtime

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Two and a half weeks ago, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team outlasted Duquesne on the road.

On Wednesday night at the Reilly Center, the Dukes returned the favor.

Duquesne survived a late-game Bona comeback before forcing overtime and beating the Bonnies, 81-77.

Sincere Carry found himself at the free throw line in multiple game-changing scenarios for the Dukes, including when he hit two free throws to force overtime.

Then, with six seconds left in the extra stanza and Duquesne leading by two, the sophomore guard hit two more free throws to end Bona’s hopes of last-minute magic.

Carry finished with 18 points, including four in the overtime period.

“I thought Duquesne got off to a better start and had more energy than us in the first half, but our guys really responded coming out of halftime,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “We took the lead and then it was back and forth, but we had our opportunities.”

Michael Hughes, who was matched up with Bona center Osun Osunniyi for much of the game, also had 18 points.

“I thought Hughes hurt us at the end of the game,” Schmidt said. “He had two or three jump hooks. He didn’t have his best game, but he’s a great player.”

Hughes had four points in the final two minutes of regulation, as well as a big bucket with less than two minutes left in overtime.

“(Hughes) knows how to play in the post and he has good moves,” Osunniyi said. “I gave him too much position inside and he got some easy buckets later in the game, which hurt us a lot.”

Osunniyi had 23 points and 13 rebounds of his own, shooting 10-for-15 from the field.

“They out-toughed us in the first half, and we tried to play harder in the second half,” Osunniyi said. “When you play a good team like that, you can’t have mental lapses.”

Neither team helped itself offensively, as the Bonnies and Dukes combined to shoot 27 percent from 3-point range and 60 percent from the free throw line. Each team forced 16 turnovers.

“They made one more play than we did,” Schmidt said. “We had a great game against them (on the road) and we had another great one against them tonight, but we came out on the short end this time.”

Jaren English had 15 points for the Bonnies, while Kyle Lofton scored 14 points.

English was forced into Lofton’s usual point guard position late in regulation when Lofton went down with an apparent ankle injury, but the sophomore was able to come back into the game after a minimal stint on the bench.

Dominick Welch picked up his sixth double-double of the season, as he scored 10 points to go along with 14 rebounds.

Lamar Norman Jr. put up 14 points for the Dukes, while Tavian Dunn-Martin, who lit up Bona in the teams’ first matchup, finished with nine points.

“You have to pick your poison with them,” Schmidt said. “Do you double team Hughes and then give up open three’s, or guard him straight up?”

The win was monumental for Duquesne’s Atlantic 10 tournament seeding hopes, as the Dukes moved to 9-6 in the league and 19-8 overall, good enough for a share of fifth place.

SBU fell to 10-5 in the A10 and 18-10 overall. The Bonnies now sit in fourth place in the A10, after Richmond defeated George Washington on Wednesday night to move to 11-3.

Up next for Bona is a Saturday trip to La Salle, where tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

“We have competitive guys in our locker room and they’re upset that we lost,” Schmidt said. “We’ll come back in 24 hours and get ready for La Salle. That’s always been the mentality.”