PREVIEW: Bona faces Saint Louis with A-10 final on the line

photo courtesy of Atlantic 10 conference

By Jeff Uveino

RICHMOND, VA — They beat St. Bonaventure in the 2019 Atlantic 10 championship game. They beat them by 23 points in Bona’s 2019-20 season finale. They beat them exactly one month ago.

Now, the Saint Louis men’s basketball team stands in the Bonnies’ path to the 2021 A-10 championship game.

After beating No. 9 Duquesne in Friday’s quarterfinals, No. 1 St. Bonaventure will play No. 4 Saint Louis at the Siegel Center on Saturday with a trip to next week’s A-10 final on the line.

The Billikens beat No. 5 Massachusetts, 86-72, in Friday’s quarterfinals, and a familiar face to Bona fans led the way for Saint Louis. Senior guard Javonte Perkins, who scored a game-high 21 points in SLU’s 70-59 defeat of the Bonnies on Feb. 6, scored a team-high 16 points on Friday.

Saint Louis’ senior class has developed as fierce a rivalry with SBU as any other A-10 team in its four seasons, as the Bonnies and Billikens have split six contests since 2017-18. The Bonnies took the first three games, two of which were won by a Jaylen Adams-led Bona team in 2018. However, since SBU beat the Billikens at the Reilly Center in 2018-19’s regular-season finale, Saint Louis has taken three straight.

If there’s one thing that Bona head coach Mark Schmidt’s team has done since its core of now-juniors joined the team prior to the 2018-19 season, however, it’s mature.

When Kyle Lofton, Dominick Welch and Osun Osunniyi started the 2019 A-10 championship game, all three were freshmen. While Schmidt said after Friday’s win that his players didn’t think about past games such as that defeat, he’s been consistently adamant about his team’s experience level this season.

“I’ve been lucky to have these experienced guys that know how to win,” said Schmidt, reiterating a point he’s made about his team since the preseason’s first press conference.

Lofton, Welch and Osunniyi have combined to make 210 starts for the Bonnies in just under three years.

The only matchup between the two defensive-minded teams this season was at Chaifitz Arena in Saint Louis, where the Billikens held the Bonnies to 36% shooting from the field while shooting it at 43% themselves. Bona junior guard Kyle Lofton scored a team-high 17 points in that game, while junior guard Jaren Holmes scored 12 points and junior forward Jalen Adaway tallied 10 points.

SBU is the A-10’s top defensive team, allowing an average of 60.5 points per game, while Saint Louis checks in at third in the league, giving up 64.7 points per game.

Saturday could be the last time that Bona battles SLU’s current senior class. Hasahn French, Javonte Perkins and Jordan Goodwin have each become familiar names to the SBU fans that have watched them beat their Bonnies three times in a row.

Now, Schmidt’s core of juniors gets a chance to avenge its recent losses to the Billikens. And, if they do, University of Dayton Arena and the A-10 championship game await them on March 14.

Bona falls at sharpshooting Saint Louis

photo courtesy of

By Nic Gelyon

ST. LOUIS, MO — Yes, Saint Louis is still very good.  

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team lost a close game on Saturday to the Billikens at the Chaifetz Center, 70-59. The Billikens are now 8-1 on their home court. 

This season, it has seemed that once the Bonnies steal the game’s momentum from a team, they would never give it back. But on Saturday, Saint Louis showed they it was up for the challenge. 

“It just seemed like whenever we made a mistake, they made us pay for it,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said after the game. “That was the difference.” 

Kyle Lofton led the Bonnies with 17 points, with five rebounds and five assists. Jaren Holmes, despite early foul trouble that caused him to miss the majority of the first half, made a tremendous impact. He put up 12 points and six rebounds in just 26 minutes. 

For the Billikens, Javonte Perkins led in scoring with 21 points, with six rebounds and four assists. Scoring 17 of his 21 points in the second half, his efforts proved key in defeating the Bonnies. Hasahn French, also in foul trouble for most of the game, managed to notch seven rebounds in just 16 minutes.

The Bonnies came in looking to enter the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in almost fifty years. They also looked to snap a two-game losing streak to SLU, dating back to the Atlantic 10 championship game in 2019.  

The Billikens made a return to form Saturday, following a month-long pause and two-straight conference losses. They rebounded well, notching 34 boards. They passed the ball well, ending up with 17 assists. They shot well from long range, banking 11 threes.

The Billikens played with heightened energy early in the first half. As Saint Louis built an early 17-4 lead, they didn’t turn the ball over. They scored at will. They were clean.  

On the other hand, the Bonnies were erratic, their play a sequence of missed shots, turnovers, and bad passes.  

But, as Schmidt rightfully noted, his team fought back. “We didn’t play great, but I thought we played hard and dealt with some adversity,” he said. 

The Bonnies did it this time with a return to their style of play. They didn’t rely on the three, but decided to take it at the right time. They drove to the hoop, instead of passing inside. They held their ground defensively, and as a result, forced six turnovers. 

Impressively, the Bonnies made their comeback without one of their most versatile players, Jaren Holmes. Holmes was forced to sit just seven minutes in with three fouls and was replaced by Alejandro Vasquez for the rest of the half.  

Coincidentally, it was a Vasquez three that cut their deficit to three points.  

So, the Bonnies went into halftime down five, after Jalen Adaway missed after a last-second jumper. The Bonnies didn’t make many mistakes during their comeback. The Billikens didn’t have a chance to make the Bonnies “pay for it”. 

Out of halftime, the Bonnies took a 37-36 lead on two Adaway free-throws and two buckets from the reinstated Jaren Holmes, who made an immediate impact off the bench. Two Osun Osunniyi blocks in just over ten seconds led to a Lofton jumper that kept the game tied.  

But this is where the Billikens’ depth began to show. While the Bonnies visibly ran out of gas down the stretch, Javonte Perkins heated up, scoring seven points in the span of just under three minutes. Other players from the SLU bench made key scoring contributions, such as Fred Thatch, Jr., Demarius Jacobs, and Marten Linssen. Schmidt made note of these players. 

“It’s not like they came off with eight new guys; those two kids were the difference,” Schmidt said, referring to Jacobs and Linssen. They combined for 19 points.

But despite St. Bonaventure’s continued strength on defense, forcing six more turnovers in the second half, Saint Louis’ scoring attack never wavered. A late 9-0 run by the Billikens destroyed much hope of a Bonnies comeback. Seven points down, the Bonnies would still have a chance to comeback late with multiple fouls to give late in the game, but the effort would be to no avail. 

Schmidt noted the energy and the momentum of his team, but he knows it may have come at the expense of execution.  

“I knew our guys were going to meet the challenge physically, we just needed to play better,” Schmidt said. “That’s where we failed.” 

St. Bonaventure falls to 9-2 on the season, and its seven-game winning streak— what had been the longest in the Atlantic 10—comes to an end. The Billikens are now 8-3 on the season, just a game behind the Bonnies overall.  

As for the Atlantic 10 standings, the Bonnies remain atop the leaderboard at 7-2 in conference play. Right behind are Davidson and VCU at 6-2.

The Bonnies are back in action Wednesday against La Salle (8-11) at the Reilly Center, in a game moved up two weeks from its originally scheduled date, Feb. 24. That game will be on ESPN+. 

PREVIEW: Bonnies look to stay hot, seek redemption at Saint Louis

photo courtesy of

By Nic Gelyon

ST. LOUIS, MO — This is a big weekend for the Bonnies.  

They have a chance to put a strangle-hold on the Atlantic 10. To make people notice them. 

A win against Saint Louis (7-3) would not only see the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team beat a former Associated Press Top 25 team and extend its winning streak to eight games. It would see the Bonnies continue a streak of A-10 dominance that has been unmatched this season. 

Just consider this: seven of SBU’s first 10 opponents currently have a record over .500. Bona went 7-0 against those opponents. 

And the Bonnies are blowing out virtually everyone. Since their loss to Rhode Island, they are winning by an average 13.4 points. And, against all opponents that are currently over .500, the Bonnies have won by an average of 9.9 points. 

They now face what could be their toughest opponent yet in Saint Louis. 

But what makes this Billikens team difficult to analyze is that they’ve played, in essence, two different seasons. Their first, which lasted until Dec. 23, saw them go 7-1 in all non-conference games. But they wouldn’t play again for over a month, as a COVID-19 outbreak within the program halted all team activities. 

Just last Tuesday, a game-starved Saint Louis returned. They lost a close game to Dayton, 76-61. They then lost at La Salle, 82-75, on Wednesday.

To say Saint Louis’ last two games are representative of what it was before the team’s outbreak would be unfair. Let me remind you what the Billikens have the potential to be at full-strength. 

They averaged 84 points in non-conference play, and held opponents to 65. They shot over 50% from the field and were the 13th-best three-point shooting team in the nation.  

They had a plus-11 rebound advantage, and nearly ten more assists per game than their opponents. They won a close game against LSU, dominated North Carolina State, and played a relatively even game against Minnesota before losing by eight points.

This is what Saint Louis was.   

But this week, the Billikens haven’t had much time to rest. It seems that what Saint Louis has lost in momentum, St. Bonaventure has gained in steam.  

The Bonnies lived up to their potential against George Mason on Saturday. Shooting 61% from the field, the Bonnies put 84 points on the Patriots, the most points they’d allowed in a non-overtime game this season. 

 84 is also the highest number of points that the Bonnies have scored this season.  

Junior guard Dominick Welch led the way in that game, shooting 4-for-6 from three, with four rebounds, four assists and 22 points. He played all 40 minutes against the Patriots. 

What does this mean for Saturday’s game against the Billikens? 

Saint Louis’ biggest weakness is currently its defense. Against Dayton and La Salle, the Billikens have allowed 12 and eight three-point makes, respectively. The three-ball has accounted for nearly 40% of the points they allowed in those two games.

The Bonnies have the shooters to exploit this weakness. Junior guard Kyle Lofton knows having himself, Welch, Jaren Holmes and Jalen Adaway makes life easier for the Bonnies. All are averaging over 10 points a game this season. 

“Having guys that can do that… it takes pressure off me,” Lofton said. “It’s hard to focus on one or two guys because we have so much talent on this team where guys can just go off every given night.” 

And for what the Bonnies bring to the table in skill, they have the motivation to match—especially in this game. This will be the first time the Bonnies have played Saint Louis since last March, a one-sided, 72-49 loss, just before the COVID-19 pandemic halted college basketball. 

“Seeing how freshman year we lost, and how last year we lost, like it wasn’t even a game, we talk about all that stuff,” Lofton said. “Everyday we look at it, like all right, this is it, it’s not going to happen anymore.” 

Welch knows that beating this team will require a strong presence on the glass—they can’t let senior Hasahn French notch 18 rebounds this time around, as he did a year ago against SBU. It’s a good thing the Bonnies are one of the best rebounding teams in the country, averaging 39.4 a game. 

Bona will also need to be weary of Jordan Goodwin, SLU’s preseason first-team all-league senior guard who is averaging 15.8 points per game this year.

“This year, we’re a much smaller team,” Welch said. “We just need to be the more physical team, really get them off the glass. We need to win the battle of the boards, match their physicality, and just make shots.” 

As bonus motivation for Bona, the team received 19 votes in last week’s AP poll, the 32nd-most in the country. A win likely inches the Bonnies closer to the Top 25. It may even put them in the Top 25.  

The Bonnies have set out to prove themselves. Many will argue that they already have. Some, of course, will say otherwise. But it will be hard to argue with a 10-1 record, an undefeated non-conference schedule, and an 8-1 record in the A-10 if they beat Saint Louis on Saturday.