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.

COLUMN: Bona, VCU’s spots in NCAA field secured before A-10 title game

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Jeff Uveino

DAYTON, OH — Win, and you’re in.

That’s the premise of the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament each year.

Regardless of its regular-season performance beforehand, a conference tournament championship secures a team’s spot in the NCAA tournament field. While that remains true for this year’s A-10 championship game, the stakes of the game are different than in recent years.

Both finalists have done enough to deserve a spot in the 68-team NCAA bracket. For No. 1 St. Bonaventure and No. 2 VCU, Sunday’s title game at University of Dayton Arena likely won’t determine whether each side gets to play in the NCAA tournament.

Instead, this year’s final will be for bragging rights, for NCAA seeding, and, for SBU, the chance to make history as the second team in program history to be crowned A-10 champions.

When the Bonnies arrived in Richmond last week for their first two A-10 tournament games, their postseason prospectus looked different than it did after SBU posted back-to-back convincing wins over No. 9 Duquesne and No. 4 Saint Louis in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

Now, as the A-10 regular-season champion that has advanced to the conference’s championship game, it would take an 1800s-style Wild West robbery by the NCAA selection committee to leave the Bonnies out of the tournament.

As of Monday, the NCAA’s “NET” ranking, the largely mysterious, overarching ranking that the committee prioritizes, ranks Bona 27th in the country, and VCU 35th. Ken Pomeroy, famous for his “KenPom” rankings, also has the Bonnies at 27th, while VCU checks in at 43rd.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, one of the nation’s most popular “bracketologists,” predicts the Bonnies to be a ninth-seed in the tournament, while listing the Rams as a No. 11 seed. Lunardi said on Sunday that he anticipates Bona will be in the NCAA field whether it wins the A-10 title game or not.

So, looking at the situation realistically, both A-10 finalists will be playing in the NCAA tournament whether they’re crowned league champions or not. This differs from SBU’s last trip to the A-10 final, when it needed to win the 2019 game to be included in the NCAA bracket.

The Bonnies lost that game, ending their season at the Barclays Center as abruptly as they had gotten there. The year before, Davidson upset SBU in the A-10 semifinals before upsetting top-seeded Rhode Island a day later to win the tournament. If the Wildcats had not done so, they would have been left out.

This is the first time since 2013 that the tournament’s top two seeds will play in its final. Bona’s only A-10 championship came the year before that, when the Andrew Nicholson-led Bonnies beat Xavier in the final to clinch an NCAA tournament spot that they wouldn’t have received without winning the tournament.

This year, that’s not the case. SBU has built a sufficient tournament resume over the last three months, compiling a 15-4 record while finishing 11-4 in the A-10 during the regular season. VCU’s situation is similar, as the Rams are 19-6 overall with a 10-4 A-10 record.

This year, it’s about pride and the chance to become a champion. For three Bona starters, it’s the chance to avenge 2019’s A-10 final loss.

The 2021 A-10 champion will receive the immediate satisfaction of knowing that it has reserved the league’s coveted automatic NCAA bid. The runner-up, barring an inexplicable snub, will hear its name called just hours later during the NCAA selection show.

Men’s basketball: Posley, Bonnies down Duquesne

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

It was St. Bonaventure’s Senior Day on Saturday afternoon, but the four Bonnies playing their penultimate game on their home court probably forgave Marcus Posley for stealing a lot of the spotlight.

The junior guard scored 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including six threes, to lead the Bonnies to a 92-75 victory over the Duquesne Dukes in front of 4671 fans at the Reilly Center. It was Bona’s first home win since they upset VCU on Feb. 7.

Posley’s performance snapped him out of a brutal nine-game stretch where he shot just 11-of-66 (11 percent) from three-point land. The Bonnies had slumped during his individual woes, but found an offensive flow as he found his scoring touch.

To combat junior guard Iakeem Alston’s recent struggles running the point, Bona coach Mark Schmidt started Posley at the point, with Andell Cumberbatch at shooting guard, Denzel Gregg at small forward, Dion Wright at power forward and Youssou Ndoye at center. Posley was able to dish out five assists in addition to his 29 points.

“The main thing was to just get the guys going first,” Posley said. “Coach wanted me to start at point guard, so I wasn’t really focused on taking a lot of shots. (I just focused) on playing good basketball and getting everyone involved first.

“When you hit the first couple the basket seems a little bit bigger. (I) found a rhythm a little bit early, so it’s a good feeling.”

“It’s not like that’s the first time we’ve done this; since Jay (Adams) got hurt we’ve done this,” Schmidt said. “Maybe this is the most we’ve done it, but I think Marcus is getting more comfortable in that spot and hopefully he can continue to do as well as he did today.

“It’s a transition that we’re making, and it’s late in the year but you can’t make any excuses; injuries are a part of the game. I thought (Marcus) struggled a little early, but hopefully this gives us a little bit of a confidence boost.”

The seniors were not too shabby themselves.

Andell Cumberbatch scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor, including four threes, for his second-best scoring output of the season (24 against Siena). Youssou Ndoye registered 15 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor and a 9-of-14 clip from the free-throw line. Chris Dees only had two points but was able to grab four rebounds and play efficient defense despite being in foul trouble for much of the second half.

“This game was for the seniors, and we can’t win for the seniors if the seniors don’t do their part,” Schmidt said. “I thought all three seniors played a role in this (win).”

“These last two games I’ve been coming out flat, especially in the first half, and it’s been hurting us,” said Ndoye. “Today I was just really focused on making sure that I came out aggressive so everybody could get into it early.”

The 92-point outburst was just what the doctor ordered after the Bonnies were able to score just 46 against George Washington.

“We wouldn’t have won today if we had scored 46 points,” Schmidt said. “You can play as well as you can defensively but you still have to play offense, you still have to score some points.

“It was good to see the ball going in from beyond the arc, so (Duquesne) had to space (the floor) out and then we could get the ball inside. If you don’t shoot the ball well from the perimeter everything’s collapsed and our (power forwards) and (centers) can’t do what they need to do.”

Defensively, the Bonnies paid close attention to getting the right individual matchups. Cumberbatch was on Dukes guard Derrick Colter for much of the contest, while Posley was matched up with guard Micah Mason.

Colter and Mason make up one of the best-shooting backcourts in the A-10, but were only able to make three combined three-pointers on Saturday. It was a far cry from the Dukes’ 14-of-28 mark from three last time these teams met.

“We tried to put some length on Colter,” Schmidt said. “I think he’s the engine that makes them go, and Andell’s our best perimeter defender (and) longest defender, and that’s what we tried to do.

“Marcus did a tremendous job on Mason, and we were switching a lot but they did a good job. One of the keys was trying to keep those guys in front of us, and we didn’t do a good job in game one (against them), but we did a much better job today. Both Marcus and Andell did a good job, but the other guys were there to help too.”

Dion Wright was only 3-of-9 from the floor, but went 9-of-12 at the foul line to give himself 15 points. Idris Taqqee played 20 minutes off the bench, a career high, scoring nine points and grabbing six boards. Denzel Gregg was affected by cramps but was able to score four points and grab five rebounds in 21 minutes.

“I thought (Denzel) and Idris did a tremendous job,” Schmidt said. “They didn’t score the ball a ton, but they did what they need to do. We’re a little bit shorthanded; it’s tough when you have to move guys around, but I thought Marcus said it right: it’s next man up.

“Everybody has to do their job… and everyone has to play better, which we hadn’t done in a couple games. Everybody has to elevate their game, and they did that today, including Youssou and Dion.”

The Bonnies’ victory elevated them to 15-12, 8-8 in the Atlantic 10. Bona likely must win both of their remaining games (at St. Louis on Wednesday, home against Fordham next Saturday) if they hope to climb to the seventh seed in the upcoming Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Men’s basketball quick hitters: Duquesne (home)

By Jeff Fasoldt @Jeff_Fasoldt

Posley regains his edge: It’s no secret that Marcus Posley has struggled to say the least since his two consecutive game winning layups at Davidson and home vs. VCU. However, today he shook off whatever’s been holding him back and put up 29 on 8-14 from the field. With point guard Jay Adams out still with a broken finger, Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt has been praying for Posley to step up and hit shots from outside—today his prayers were answered and Posley went 6-9 from three.

Cumberbatch shines on senior night: Not only did Posley have a big come back game, but senior Andell Cumberbatch showed he can score when he wants to. He was 6-12 from the field for 18 points including 4-9 from beyond the arc. The combination of Posley and Cumberbatch finally knocking down shots took Duquesne by surprise and was too much for them in this one.

Anything can happen: Going into this game Micah Mason and Derrick Colter were two of the hottest three point shooters in the A-10 at 42 and 46 percent. So, one would’ve expected this trend to continue against a Bonnies defense that has lacked solid three point defendability all season long. However, everything went the exact opposite of what you would have thought. The Bonnies shooters shined throughout the game while Duquesne struggled going just 3-15 (20 percent) from three.

Second half done Wright: Dion Wright is no doubt the Bonnies most consistent player, proven by the fact that he goes for at least 10 points almost every game. Today, as the Bonnies guards were playing well, he got off to a slow start—not scoring in the first half. But, the second half was another story as Wright scored 15, and ultimately became the dagger that ended the Dukes as he scored nine from the free throw line.

Quotes:

Duquesne head coach: Jim Ferry

“It’s tough on the road, your margin of error is significantly smaller.”

“We have to focus on getting better, we have two more games before the tournament so we’re just going to go get ready for our next game.” 

St. Bonaventure head coach: Mark Schmidt

“Give our guys credit, Colter and Mason shot 3-15 from three.”

“When you make the first one the basket seems to get bigger.” (on Posley)

“All three seniors played a big role in this one and I’m very proud of how they played.”

 

 

 

Men’s basketball: Duquesne (Away) Preview

By Chuckie Maggio and Jeff Fasoldt

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies, winners of two straight games, head to Pittsburgh on Thursday, where they will face the Duquesne Dukes at 7 in the Palumbo Center.

Bonaventure (10-6, 3-2 in the A-10) is making its second visit to the Steel City this season, the first being the four-point loss to the Pitt Panthers. They come in with momentum after strong wins against George Mason and St. Joseph’s.

Duquesne (6-10, 1-4) has been struggling to get back into the victory column after a win against St. Joe’s. They lost close ones to Rhode Island and VCU but lost more significantly to Dayton and Saint Louis.

The two battles between these teams last year were last-minute affairs. Dukes guard Derrick Colter hit a buzzer-beating three to down the Bonnies at the Palumbo Center, while Bona center Youssou Ndoye’s layup with 33 seconds left broke the tie at the Reilly.

Will the Bonnies extend their win streak to three, or will the Dukes break their three-game losing skid? Here’s the full, properly-inflated preview.

The Coaches:

St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 117-115 as Bonnies coach.

Duquesne- Jim Ferry. 27-49 as Dukes coach.

Key players for Duquesne:

Derrick Colter- 5-11 Junior guard. Colter comes into this game as the Dukes leading scorer at 12.5 points per game. He also has a good ability to dish it out and give his teammates some easy points as he also leads Duquesne in assists at 3.3 per game.

Micah Mason- 6-2 Junior guard. It’s no secret that Colter and Mason are the two key pieces to an average Duquesne team. Colter is averaging 28.8 minutes per game while Mason is leading the team at 29.5 minutes per game. Mason is right behind his backcourt partner in scoring at 10.6 points per game. Both guards are shooting over 45 percent on the season.

Keys to victory for Duquesne: The reality for the Dukes is that they need Mason and Colter to perform to win. They have no chance against the Bonnies if those two are not up to par. Colter is really their only best three-point shooter at 52 percent so he’s going to have to be on fire from beyond the arc for Duquesne to have a chance.

Keys to victory for Bonaventure: The Dukes are only a percentage point better than Bonaventure at defending the three-pointer, so the perimeter is going to be a focal point in this one, and the Bonnies will have to be sharp. Marcus Posley will need to continue his hot shooting from behind the arc and Jay Adams will have to break his slump, as he is one for his last 12. Defensively, contesting Colter and Mason will be top priority. Both are over 40 percent from deep.

Predictions:

Chuckie- Which Bonnies team will we see Thursday night? I’m going with the good Bonnies, offensively and defensively. Posley will have another 20-point game, Mason will be held in check and SBU will pick up another W before the tough stretch of their conference schedule begins. 78-73 Bonnies

Jeff- It’s always a question which Bonnies team will show up, especially on the road, but I’m going with the Bonnies in this one. They’ll be looking for revenge after last years buzzer-beating loss. 76-74 Bonnies. 

Women’s basketball: Duquesne preview

By Joseph Phelan, @JPhelan13

Duquesne takes on St. Bonaventure with second place in the Atlantic 10 on the line Saturday afternoon.

Each team has an 8-3 conference record.

Bonaventure has five games remaining. A top-four seed means Bonaventure would begin tournament play on Friday March 7 in the quarterfinals in Virginia.

It’s a big game for Bonaventure for a number of reasons. Conference seeding implication is a major reason, but Saturday’s game will give Bona a chance to see where they stand among the conference’s elites. The Bonnies have two nice wins against Saint Joseph’s, Fordham and La Salle, but dropped their conference opener at Duquesne.

Continue reading “Women’s basketball: Duquesne preview”

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies Receive A Boost From Gathers, Drop Duquesne

image

[Charlon Kloof draws the Duquesne defense into the middle of the paint during St. Bonaventure’s 68-60 victory in the Reilly Center – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in chief, @RMLazo13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — If St. Bonaventure wants a chance to defend their Atlantic 10 Conference Championship in Brooklyn, these are the games they need to win.

The Duquesne Dukes entered the Reilly Center holding an eight-game losing streak and were the only team in the Atlantic 10 to still be winless. The Dukes also had not won in the Reilly Center since 2009, making them the perfect recipe to get the Bonnies going.

And the Brown and White certainly feasted on the Dukes, early and often, in a game that was never in doubt, winning 68-60 in front of 4,991 boisterous fans.

“I think you saw a team in St. Bonaventure that has won a championship and kind of pulled that game out down the stretch with experience and we did not,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said after his team’s ninth straight defeat.

While the Bonnies (10-10, 3-4) do have experience on their side, they also suffered a blow before the game even began when Matthew Wright was ruled out due to a left foot injury.

The junior sharpshooter had propelled Bona to two historic victories in Philadelphia with his 3-point shooting prowess. Wright went 6-for-10 from three in the victories over Temple and Saint Joseph’s and is shooting a blistering 57 percent in A-10 games, but his replacement had the answer.

“We need other guys stepping up,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said of his team. “And that’s the sign of a good team and hopefully it can continue.”

And in Wright’s absence, it was Jordan Gathers who put his stamp on the game with back-to-back buckets, seemingly turning back the clock to the player who helped the Bonnies to an A-10 title.

“Once you hit your first shot, the floor starts to open up and the basket starts to get bigger,” Gathers said after his 5-for-5 shooting night for a career-high 13 points. “I just felt comfortable out there shooting it today.”

The Los Angeles native’s outburst could not have come at a better time for the Brown and White. Duquesne (7-14, 0-7) made a conscious effort to key on Demitrius Conger and Chris Johnson, St. Bonaventure’s two leading scorers, and needed someone else to step up.

Conger was blanketed all night by the Dukes’ Kadeem Pantophlet, frustrating him to just a 2-for-8 shooting night for 11 points. To Ferry, it was the best defensive effort anyone has put on the senior out of Brooklyn.

“We did a tremendous job on Demitrius Conger, I think the best job anyone has done on him this year,” Ferry explained. “And then you get Jordan Gathers to hit three threes, and what does he have on the year now? Five, six? He hasn’t made them all year.”

And Ferry’s right.

Conger is the Brown and White’s biggest offensive weapon, making him the point of emphasis for opposing teams. But when a team has other players producing from out of nowhere, it’s the maturation of a team beginning to gel.

With unexpected production from Gathers, clutch 3-pointers from Michael Davenport and Charlon Kloof, Bona received production from everywhere they looked, a mark of a mentally tough squad stepping up when needed.

Even Eric Mosley got into the act, scoring 14 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range.

“When we’ve won we shot the ball,” Schmidt said. “Saint Joseph’s, Temple, today. We made some tough shots and when we shoot it, we have a chance to win.”

Truth be told, it’s very hard to lose when you shoot 12-for-22 from 3-point range on the game for an absurd 54.5 percent. And it’s even tougher when you dominate the boards by a 35 to 24 margin.

It’s a recipe for success and with just nine games left, four of those at home, Bona needs to win out. After suffering through the most difficult stretch of their schedule — St. Bonaventure was the only team in the A-10 to play all of the top-4 teams in the preseason poll in their first six games — the opportunity is in front of them.

While Bona still has to play some tough teams including La Salle, Butler, UMass and Charlotte — three of those are within the friendly confines of the Reilly Center.

“We had five games left in the Reilly Center and we want to be 5-0,” Schmidt said of his team’s goal. “You can’t accomplish that without being 1-0 and that was the goal today.”

If they accomplish that goal, Bona will be able to defend their A-10 title in Brooklyn. And as we’ve seen last year and this season, if the Brown and White get hot at the right time and shoot a blistering percentage from outside, they can beat anyone.

Whether they get the chance to step foot on the court at the Barclays Center will come down to defending their home court and receiving contributions from everyone — becoming the mentally tough team they have shown glimpses of being.