photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Jeff Uveino
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team has played Duquesne more than any other Atlantic 10 opponent in its history.
The teams had met 124 times as of Friday, and the Bonnies’ historical rivalry with the Dukes has been renewed recently, with six of their last seven meetings being decided by six points or less.
Friday night’s contest at the Reilly Center appeared to be headed in the same direction before the Bonnies extended their lead late in the second half and beat the Dukes, 62-48.
SBU was led by junior guard Kyle Lofton, who scored a game-high 28 points on 8-for-16 shooting from the field and 12-for-14 from the free-throw line. Jaren Holmes scored 11 points and pulled down nine rebounds, while Alejandro Vazquez added 11 points off the bench for SBU.
“Shots weren’t falling, but you can’t always depend on shots to fall,” Lofton said. “You can depend on getting inside. You get in the paint; things happen. Being in attack mode early and throughout the whole game usually is a positive.”
The Bonnies took a 27-23 lead into the halftime locker room and didn’t relinquish it in the second half. SBU took the lead for good with 11:36 remaining in the first half, but led by single digits all but once until there was only one minute left in the game.
The Bonnies closed the game on an 11-2 run.
“I thought (Lofton) was tremendous, I thought Osun (Osunniyi) really got his legs back,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “We were really active. To hold that team to 48 points, it was a tremendous defensive game. Offensively was a struggle, but thank goodness we had (Lofton), and he hit some big shots.”
Osunniyi pulled down 12 rebounds to go with eight points for Bona. He was matched up with Duquesne forwards Michael Hughes and Marcus Weathers for most of the night, holding each to single-digit rebounds while blocking four shots in the game.
“It was a physical battle,” Schmidt said. “Going into the game, we knew that Hughes and Weathers were two physical inside guys. It was a concern when we played Rhode Island and they got us physically, and we challenged our guys. We got a second test and now we (needed) to pass that test, and I thought we did.”
Bona’s lone A-10 loss came to Rhode Island over two weeks ago.
Hughes finished with 14 points and three rebounds, while Weathers scored 12 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Ryan Murphy added eight points off of the bench for the Dukes.
The Bonnies only shot 36% from the field and were 2-for-16 from beyond the three-point line, but held Duquesne to just under 36% shooting itself. Bona benefitted from getting to the free-throw line, from which the team shot 20-for-27, while the Dukes were 3-for-9 from the line.
“Everybody struggled offensively other than (Lofton), so when (he) got it going a bit, you try to run stuff for him,” Schmidt said. “He had that mid-range jumper working. You go to your hot hand, and Kyle was that.”
Many of Vazquez’s minutes came at the expense of Dominick Welch, who sat for most of the first half after picking up his second foul less than five minutes in. Eddie Creal also played four minutes in Welch’s absence.
“It’s going to happen,” Schmidt said of foul trouble for Welch, who finished the game with 0 points and two rebounds. “Guys are going to get in foul trouble, that’s why you need your bench. Those guys aren’t going to play a ton, but when they get their name called, they’re going to be ready.”
This was SBU’s fourth-straight A-10 win, as the team improved to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the league. Duquesne fell to 3-5 overall and 2-4 in conference play.
The Bonnies will return to the RC on Wednesday to battle Richmond in a rematch of two of the A-10’s most successful teams so far this season. The Spiders’ lone conference loss came at the hands of a Lofton game-winning shot when they hosted the Bonnies less than two weeks ago.