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.”

Bonnies honor legends, beat Hofstra

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE — Mark Schmidt described it perfectly.

On the day that the St. Bonventure men’s basketball team honored its legends, the Bonnies played arguably their best game of the season thus far, routing Hofstra at the Reilly Center on Saturday, 73-45.

“It couldn’t have been better,” Schmidt said. “It was a great day to be at Bonaventure and to be a Bonnie.”

SBU continued its celebration of the program’s 100th season by honoring its all-time team at half time, and celebrating its 1970 Final Four team after the game.

The Bonnies went on a 24-1 scoring run that Hofstra could not come back from.

Jaren English had a breakout offensive game for SBU, scoring 17 points and shooting 4-of-5 from three-point range.

English led a tremendous overall day for the Bona offense, which shot 49 percent from the field and 48 percent from beyond the arc.

Dom Welch also scored 17 points for the Bonnies, and Bobby Planutis scored 11 points and pulled down eight rebounds.

“We have good shooters,” Schmidt said. “It hadn’t been going well, but I thought we shot the ball much better in Florida (last week), and once the ball starts going in it helps your confidence.”

English said that Schmidt talks to the team every day about being ready to play, and that the Bonnies came out excited to play in front of the program’s legends.

“That’s why I came to Bonaventure, is to play in games like this,” English said. “I just want to bring toughness, win games and win championships.

“Coach Schmidt tells me what I need to do, and I do it.”

English, a sophomore guard in his first year at Bona’s after transferring from Ranger Community College in Texas, had averaged nine points per game over his first three appearances prior to Saturday.

“(English) shot the ball really well and he brings a different dimension to our team,” Schmidt said. “He shot 4-of-5 from three, and that was something that we didn’t have over our first three games.”

Osun Osunniyi had a promising game after battling a knee injury over the past few weeks. He scored eight points, pulled down 16 rebounds and blocked two shots.

Hofstra struggled offensively, shooting just under 28 percent from the field and 16 percent from three-point range.

Desure Buie scored 17 points for the Pride, and Eli Pemberton scored nine points.

Up next for the Bonnies is two more home games, as they’ll host Gannon next Saturday and Niagara on Dec. 18.

Bona will then go on the road to finish its non-conference schedule, with trips to Middle Tennessee State and Buffalo.

“We have a lot of inexperience and I don’t think we’re nearly where we need to be, but we’re learning,” Schmidt said. The more we get put in situations, the better we’ll be.”

English, a new face around SBU, seemed right at home when he talked about getting to meet the program’s legends.

“It’s an honor to be in their presence, with all the great things they’ve done for this program,” English said. “Coach Schmidt tells us all the time that we have to play for everyone in this town, and for the people who played before us. We did that today.”