[Matthew Wright soars for two of his season-high 14 points in St. Bonaventure’s 72-69 loss to Canisius – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]
By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13
BUFFALO, N.Y. – St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt called a timeout with 40 seconds remaining, aiming to draw up a play that would put his team on top of Canisius in the waning seconds.
Over the past four years, there was no decision to make for Schmidt — he had Andrew Nicholson to give the ball to — but no more. There was now a mystery as to who would get the ball on the crucial possession.
However, Canisius countered with a zone, changing the entire play before the Bonnies had a chance. Schmidt barked out his zone offense call, and Charlon Kloof’s 3-pointer went off the back iron, and the Griffins had the ball.
“I think I was the only person in the gym who wanted to go into the zone, my assistants thought I was crazy,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said after his team’s 72-69 victory in front of a sold-out crowd in the Koessler Athletic Center. “As you coach, you have some instincts, and I said I’ll take the hit.”
And once Matthew Wright’s desperation 3-pointer clanked off the right side of the cylinder, the Bona faithful went silent, Canisius fans roared and Baron was a genius.
St. Bonaventure (2-1) dropped its sixth straight contest at Canisius (2-0) with the team’s last win coming during the 1995 season.
“We didn’t take care of the ball and didn’t do a good job of guarding them in the second half,” Schmidt said of his team’s 19 turnovers. “On the road, you cannot do that. They deserved to win.”
Sure, the Bonnies did turn the ball over 19 times, but that was not the difference in the game. The Griffins only scored 12 points off of those turnovers.
The difference in the contest came on defense coupled with the offense failing to score a field goal from the 7:03 mark to 0:06 mark.
“More or less, we lost our edge on defense,” Wright said after his 14-point effort on 6-of-10 shooting. “I don’t think we had a problem scoring. We got whatever shot we wanted, but toward the end of the game, we couldn’t guard.”
Losing an edge on defense? Against one of your biggest rivals?
It shouldn’t have happened, but it did.
And inside the high school-like gym, the 2,196 fans created a hectic scene as they taunted players from their seats, seemingly rattling the Bona squad.
“There’s two baskets and a 10-foot rim — it really doesn’t matter where we play,” Chris Johnson said of the hostile atmosphere. “We got to win the game regardless of where we play.”
“We had no excuse — it was like a home game for us,” Wright quickly added.
And the game seemed to turn on that timeout with 40 seconds left. Bona shot 50 percent from the field for the game and had four players in double digits, but Schmidt took out his biggest weapon at the most crucial point — Eric Mosley.
“They took Mosley out,” Baron said of the Bona guard who went 4-for-6 from 3-point range in a 14-point effort. “I thought he was their big shooter, and he left the point guard in.”
Without Nicholson on the bench, Schmidt had to go with his hot hand, but neither Mosley or Johnson, who was a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range, were given a chance to bring the Bonnies back.
St. Bonaventure may have a lot of players who are capable of scoring, but the question of who can be the go-to man down the stretch is still a mystery.
And on this night, it could have been Johnson or Mosley, but a critical coaching mistake cost the Bonnies a game they should have won. Tough losses emboldened last year’s squad, but what it will do to this year’s version remains very much a question.