COLUMN: Bona’s recent impediment of opposing stars key to defensive success

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Jeff Uveino

DAYTON, OH — St. Bonaventure knew it needed a plan to slow down Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland.

The players knew that stopping Hyland, the Atlantic 10 player of the year, would be essential in defending VCU. They weren’t worried, however, about figuring out how they’d do it.

That task, as junior forward/center Osun Osunniyi said before the game, would be head coach Mark Schmidt’s responsibility. And, while Osunniyi and junior guard Jaren Holmes didn’t yet know on Wednesday what Schmidt’s plan for stopping Hyland would be, they knew he’d have the Bonnies ready.

“Schmidt, he’s a basketball genius,” Osunniyi said four days before Sunday’s final. “He’s going to look at film and find ways to see where (Hyland) has struggled and try to use that to our advantage.”

Holmes, despite calling Hyland a “tremendous shooter with unlimited range,” agreed with Osunniyi.

“Like (Osunniyi) said, we’ll let Schmidt deal with that,” Holmes said. “We’re just going to go out there and play. Schmidt’s going to have us ready and they’re going to have a game plan.”

Then came the final, played at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

When the teams retreated to their respective locker rooms at halftime, the Bonnies led by seven points. Hyland had zero. And he was 0-of-3 from the field.

Hyland picked up three fouls in the game’s first seven minutes. Two were offensive; one defensive. The sophomore guard subsequently sat for the rest of the half.

Hyland’s first point of the game came just under over two minutes into the second half, when he got to the line and hit a pair of free throws. His first field goal didn’t come for another seven minutes, as a layup with 9:11 left in the game broke his scoreless streak from the field.

Bona eventually won the game, 74-65, and led by double digits before Hyland got going offensively. Hyland finished with a game-high 21 points but only made four field goals, shot 4-of-11 from the field and scored 11 of his points from the free-throw line.

Schmidt and the Bonnies, the A-10’s best defensive team, slowed down Hyland when it mattered. They frustrated VCU’s top scorer. While impressive, the circumstance wasn’t isolated.

SBU held Jordan Goodwin, Saint Louis’ leading scorer and a first-team all-league selection, to 11 points in its A-10 semifinal win over the Billikens. Nine of those points came in the second half, when Bona maintained a double-digit lead.

In the A-10 quarterfinals, SBU held Duquesne’s Marcus Weathers, the Dukes’ leading scorer and a second-team all-league selection, to six points.

In their final two regular season games, the Bonnies held two more first-team A-10 players, Davidson’s Kellan Grady and Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher, to two and six points, respectively.

Notice a trend?

In the last month, SBU has repeatedly limited the offensive output of opposing stars. That’s helped the team to a league-best 60.4 points allowed per game.

The only members of the A-10’s six-man first team that the Bonnies haven’t held to single-digit scoring this season are Hyland and Tre Mitchell, the UMass forward which the Bonnies did not play against this season.

The numbers are one thing. The players’ trust in Schmidt’s ability to game plan, however, is another.

Schmidt has said multiple times that he’s felt the teams that have had the most success throughout college basketball’s COVID-ridden season are those that stick together and rally around adversity. When a roster wants to play for a coach, as trusts a coach, as much as the Bonnies do Schmidt, those challenges become easier.

After winning the A-10 regular-season title and tournament on its way to a 16-4 record, ninth-seeded Bona finds itself pitted against No. 8 LSU (18-9) in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.

If Schmidt plans to defend LSU by limiting its best player, he’ll have his hands full in doing so. Cameron Thomas, a freshman guard that will have his sights set on the NBA Draft in the near future, leads the Tigers’ offense with 22.6 points per game.

Checking in just behind Thomas are Trendon Watford (16.7 points per game) and Ja’Vonte Smart (15.9 ppg).

While we’ll learn of Schmidt’s defensive strategy against LSU on Saturday, his team’s success in limiting opposing stars this season has been undeniable down the stretch.

The nation’s eighth-best scoring offense, led by a top-20 NBA prospect, will be Schmidt’s biggest defensive challenge to date.

After sweeping Davidson, Bonnies look for strong finish to regular season

photo courtesy of Tim Cowie/gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — After a challenging start to the week, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team is back home to wrap up the regular season and prepare for the postseason. However, the position that the Bonnies are currently stands in did not come without adversity.  

Though his teammates have urged him to hunt for his shot offensively, Bona junior guard Jalen Adaway has hesitated to take that step in his game. Wednesday night may have given him the push he needed.  

“He was hesitant all game. He really struggled,” said Bona head coach Mark Schmidt. “We always talk about dealing with adversity, and he dealt with it.” 

Adaway dealt with this adversity by sinking the go-ahead 3-pointer that sealed St. Bonaventure’s (12-3, 10-3 A-10) regular-season sweep of the Davidson Wildcats (11-7, 6-4 A-10) in a 56-53 victory. Adaway finished with 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting from the field, but believed he could perform better. 

“Sometimes I can be hesitant,” Adaway said. “I’m looking forward to watching more film today so I can correct those mistakes.” 

Overcoming adversity was a key theme for St. Bonaventure on Wednesday night, and Adaway’s heroics were a microcosm of that. After a 9-for-15 start from beyond the arc, the Bonnies went cold. After several long scoring droughts in the final 15 minutes, they saw a 14-point advantage dwindle and the Wildcats found their way back into the game.  

“We could have folded…. we missed some shots, we weren’t executing, missed a lot of layups,” SBU head coach Mark Schmidt said. “It didn’t affect our defense and that’s why we won.” 

As the final buzzer sounded after the win, the adversity was overcome as jubilant coaches, players and managers dashed to embrace one another on Bob McKillop Court at Belk Arena.  

“It was a very good win… it was an up and down game and they came back,” said junior guard Dominick Welch, who secured the game-winning rebound. “We’re all just in an exciting spot right now, we’re all just really happy and motivated.” 

The Bonnies head home now, and will look to stay motivated when they conclude their regular season with a pair of home games, the first coming against the George Washington Colonials on Friday.  

This is the final scheduled regular-season game for a GW team that is coming off a 63-58 loss to George Mason on Wednesday night.  

The Colonials’ 4-10 overall and 3-4 Atlantic 10 record hardly possesses an intimidation factor, but the Colonials have the leading scorer in the A-10 in James Bishop and the fifth leading scorer in Jamison Battle, who average 20.1 and 18.3 points per game, respectively.  

After holding preseason all-conference guard Kellan Grady to just two points on 1-of-7 shooting in their last game, the Bonnies will look to carry this defensive momentum into their next matchup.  

“Just attention to detail,” Adaway said. “I think it’s the same mentality going into tomorrow’s matchup. I think we are going to be locked in, and just play from start to finish.” 

Given the offensive ability of the Colonials, they do, however, pose one of the weaker defenses in the league. They are 10th in the A-10 in defensive field goal percentage and defensive three-point field goal percentage. With the Bonnies’ hot shooting from deep as of late, this could be an area where Schmidt’s team attacks. St. Bonaventure has shot 52.4% from 3-point range in its last two contests.  

“It’s really good to see all our shots starting to fall,” Welch said. “We have guys that can really shoot on the team.” 

Bona will tip off against the Colonials Friday night at 6 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN+. 

“We used to be the hunter, now we are the hunted,” Welch said. “So we know we are going to get every team’s best shot.” 

NEW: Lofton, Holmes use perimeter shooting to lead Bonnies over Davidson

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team hadn’t beaten Davidson in 1,090 days.

A driving force behind SBU’s four-game losing streak to Davidson (11-6, 6-3 A-10) had been the Wildcats’ perennially consistent 3-point shooting. On Sunday, however, the Bonnies (11-3, 9-3 A-10) used perimeter shooting to their advantage as they shot 52% beyond the arc in a 69-58 win over Davidson at the Reilly Center.

The Bonnies were 11-for-21 from 3-point range, with each of their three starting guards shooting over 50% from distance. Kyle Lofton scored a game-high 19 points while shooting 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Jaren Holmes was 5-for-7 from deep in an 18-point performance, while Dominick Welch shot 3-for-5 from distance on his way to nine points.

“You can go 9-for-11 sitting in the gym by yourself, but to do that in this type of environment against that type of team says a lot about our players,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said.

The trio of caught fire in the second half, shooting 9-for-11 (81.8%) from distance in the second stanza. The Bonnies built their first double-digit lead of the game halfway through the second half when two 3-pointers by Holmes were followed by back-to-back triples from Lofton to put the Bonnies up by 10.

“They’re a joy to coach,” Schmidt said of Holmes and Lofton. “They hit big shots. They deserve to have success because they’re always in the gym working. At times, they haven’t shot the ball well from the perimeter. They don’t stop working and they deserve to have those shots go down.”

Jalen Adaway and Osun Osunniyi each scored eight points for SBU, while Jalen Shaw added five points off the bench in the first half when Osunniyi sat for 10 minutes due to foul trouble.

Despite how well Bona shot the ball, Davidson hit more 3-pointers than SBU did, finishing at 13-for-37 (35%) from distance. Hyunjung Lee was 6-for-9 from deep to account for his 18 points, while three other Wildcats hit multiple triples in the game. Kellan Grady, the team’s leading scorer, racked up 18 points while shooting 7-for-12 from the field and 3-for-8 from the perimeter.

“Even though they made 13 threes, I thought we did a decent job defensively,” Schmidt said. “Holding that team to 58 points is a heck of a performance.”

Schmidt said that defense and rebounding were two “critical areas” of the game, and his team out-played the Wildcats in both of them. The Bonnies finished with a 39-25 rebounding advantage over the Wildcats while holding them to under 40% shooting from the field, something that Schmidt has repeatedly referred to as a goal of his each game.

“They’re going to make some shots, but you can’t give them two or three opportunities,” Schmidt said. “I always say, you’ve got to defend, you’ve got to rebound, take care of the basketball and make your foul shots. I thought we did that stuff.”

Before Sunday, SBU’s last win over Davidson came in February 2018, when Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley and Courtney Stockard combined for 98 points to lead the Bonnies to a triple-overtime victory. The past two seasons, Davidson had out-scored SBU by a combined 56 points in three games.

“The last two years, they got us, and they got us big,” Lofton said. “As a competitor, you don’t want that to happen. The key was just to bring the energy from the start and play with confidence. We did that today.”

The Bonnies and Wildcats will meet again in just three days at Belk Arena in Davidson, North Carolina, where Schmidt’s team will look to complete a regular-season sweep of Davidson for the first time since 2015-16.

“They’re going to make some adjustments, just like we are,” Schmidt said. “They’re not going to allow us to shoot 81% from threes and hopefully we don’t allow them to hit 13 threes. In terms of the scout, it makes it easier. Our guys know them.”

Bona has three games remaining on its schedule before the start of the Atlantic 10 tournament. Schmidt’s team faces three games in six days before heading to Richmond on March 3 to begin the tournament, which was moved up a week from its originally scheduled dates (other than the final).

“Our guys have put themselves in a situation where these games are really important,” Schmidt said. “There are some teams in this country that can’t wait until the season’s over because they aren’t playing for anything. Our guys have done a great job with the pandemic… and now we’re going to try to finish it.”

PREVIEW: Bonnies look to boost tournament resume, snap four-game skid against Davidson

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The last time the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team beat Davidson, it took 55 minutes of game time, three 30-point scorers and four Bonnies fouling out.

That was SBU’s 117-113 triple-overtime victory over the Wildcats in February 2018. Since then, the Wildcats have enjoyed a four-game winning streak over the Bonnies. On Sunday, Davidson (11-5, 6-2 A-10) will look to extend its winning streak over SBU (10-3, 8-3 A-10) at the Reilly Center.

“The last couple times we’ve played Davidson, we haven’t done a good job of keeping the ball in front of us,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “They made 13 threes last year and 15 against us the year before. If they make those numbers and shoot 50% from 3-pointers, it’s going to be a long night.”

Since Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley and Courtney Stockard combined to score 98 points and beat a Peyton Aldridge-led Wildcats team just under three years ago, Bob McKillop’s team has dominated SBU. The Wildcats bounced the second-seeded Bonnies out of the A-10 tournament later that season, have beat them by a combined 56 points in their three meetings since.

The Wildcats swept a two-game season series in 2018-19, edging SBU at the Reilly Center in early February before beating up on the Bonnies in an ugly, low-scoring Belk Arena game toward the end of the regular season.

Last year, a much-anticipated primetime game at the RC turned sour quickly for the Bonnies when Davidson scored 47 points in the first half and shot 13-for-26 from 3-point range in the game to blow SBU out.

“You just can’t give them open looks,” Schmidt said. “You need to make them earn contested shots. It’s imperative that we get the ball in front of us so that they’re not getting the ball in the paint and knocking down kick-out threes.”

This year, each team finds itself on the NCAA tournament “bubble,” and a win would assist either side’s tournament resume. Until Friday, Davidson hadn’t played a game in nearly a month after COVID-19 concerns had caused a string of six postponements. The Wildcats hosted Southern Virginia, a Division III team, on Friday before traveling to SBU.

The importance of the Wildcats’ matchup with SBU was heightened on Wednesday when the A-10 announced that it would be playing its men’s basketball championship tournament a week earlier than scheduled, leaving one less week for teams to make up games that have previously been postponed.

“I think what they’re doing it smart, and I don’t know all of the details,” Schmidt said. “I know that they’re trying to move it up so if a team gets the virus, there’s time for them to get through it.”

The tournament’s championship game will be played as planned, however, on NCAA “selection Sunday.”

“It will be interesting what you do for that week,” Schmidt said. “This year has been challenging and unique, and this is another situation where it’s the first time. Hopefully we’ll have that opportunity.”

Davidson out-scores its opponents by an average score of 74-64, and does so with a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces to Bona fans. Senior guard Kellan Grady, who scored 39 points and shot 16-for-16 from the free-throw line in the Bona/Davidson triple-overtime game as a freshman, leads the Wildcat offense with 17.9 points per game this season.

Sophomore guard Hyunjung Lee, who scored 14 points at the Reilly Center last season, averages 13.3 points per game. Senior guard Carter Collins checks in at 13 points per game, while junior forward Luka Brajkovic averages 10.1 points per game.

“We have to do a good job on transition defense,” Schmidt said. “We have to take care of the basketball so they’re not getting out on the break and getting three’s in transition. If you give these guys open looks, they’re high-quality 3-point shooters.”

Bona boasts its own starting lineup of five double-digit scorers, including a team-high 15.4 points per game by junior guard Kyle Lofton, but will need to slow down a Davidson offense that has averaged 85 points per game against SBU in the teams’ previous six meetings. Of course, the triple-overtime game construes that number somewhat, but Davidson has scored over 80 points in four of those games.

Sunday’s game is scheduled to tip-off at 3:30 p.m., and will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Network.

“Our guys have done a good job of turning the page and going on to the next game,” Schmidt said. “We’re lucky to have an experienced team that can deal with it.”

Davidson dominates second half to beat Bonnies

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

by Keara Donnelly

A much anticipated Atlantic 10 rivalry game Friday night on ESPN2 ended with the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (8-13) falling short to the Davidson Wildcats (16-5), 75-66, after a disappointing second half at the Reilly Center.

The Bonnies led the Wildcats by 10 at halftime, but only scored 22 points after the Wildcats switched to zone defense. The Wildcats shot 8-15 from beyond the arc to earn the win. They started the second half on a 14-4 run.

It was tight match up until Davidson’s Kellan Grady took control with back-to-back three-pointers to give the Wildcats a 64-57 lead with under four minutes left. Jon Axel Gudmundsson followed with consecutive three-pointers to give the Wildcats an 11-point lead with under two minutes left to secure the win.  

The Wildcats’ strong defense caused the Bonnies to shoot 8-27 from the field in the second half. The Wildcats were 13-26.

“(In the second half) as you start missing, the rim gets smaller and things get tighter,” said Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt. “Our guys didn’t quit, we just didn’t play 40 minutes and that’s what you have to do when you play a good team like Davidson.”

Kyle Lofton led the Bonnies with 24 points, tying his season high.

“(Lofton) plays with a poise, he plays with that swagger,” said Schmidt. “Not overconfidence, but he knows that he can make plays. He’s a good player, and he’s going to be a really good player.”

St. Bonaventure travels to the A.J Palumbo Center on Wednesday, Feb. 6 to face the Duquesne Dukes (15-6) at 7:30 p.m.

Bonnies Survive Against Davidson in Triple Overtime Thriller, 117-113

By Jeff Uveino

When St. Bonaventure basketball coach Mark Schmidt walked into the postgame press conference at around 12:30 A.M. and said “It’s past my bed time,” he spoke for everyone in the room.

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies and Davidson Wildcats, two of the top teams in the Atlantic-10, put the crowd through a gut-wrenching, triple-overtime game that didn’t conclude until 12:15 in the morning.

Five players scored over 30 points, eight players fouled out, and 79 free throws were attempted in this instant classic.

The Bonnies eventually prevailed, 117-113, but let’s rewind in order to recollect a night that will go down in Reilly Center history.

This game had everything, right from the start. Senior night. Unusually late 9 p.m. tip-off. No students due to spring break. The nearly 5,000-strong Reilly Center crowd was about to witness a special night.

Courtney Stockard started off the game hot for the Bonnies. The junior forward hit four three-pointers within the first four minutes of the game, sending the crowd into a frenzy before Davidson even knew what hit them. Stockard scored 17 points before any of his teammates got on the board. Early in the first half, it looked like the Bonnies could run away with this one.

However, the Wildcats’ sharpshooting swung the momentum, propelling them to a 41-37 lead at halftime.

“That was two really good teams going at each other and not one team taking a step back,” Schmidt said. “One team would hit a shot; the other team would go down and answer it.”

In the second half neither team found a way to pull ahead of the other. A constant buzz rang through the arena. It felt like the crowd was waiting to erupt as soon as a play warranted it.

The Bonnies’ offense kept them in the game down the stretch, but no matter what they did, they couldn’t find an answer for the Wildcats’ three-point shooting.

At the core of the Wildcats’ attack were two players, a senior and a freshman. Senior forward Peyton Aldridge, who leads the team in points at 20.5 PPG, seemed to always have an answer to stifle the Bonnies’ momentum down the stretch.

Aldridge finished with 45 points, including shooting 8-11 from beyond the arc.

Alongside him was freshman Kellan Grady, who finished with a career-high 39 points of his own. Grady didn’t miss a shot from the stripe, shooting an impressive 16-16 from the free throw line, including 8-8 during the overtime periods.

“Aldridge and Grady are two of the best players in our league and they showed it tonight,” Schmidt said.

The teams traded blows throughout the second half, then with a minute to play Grady drove to the hoop and went up and over a Bona defender for the dunk. The basket put the Wildcats up by a point.

After a Bona miss at the other end, Aldridge was fouled and sent to the line for the Wildcats. He made just one of his two free throws, putting the Bonnies down by two with four seconds left to play.

In a last-ditch effort, Bonnies forward LaDarien Griffin drove to the basket and scored as time expired, sending the game to overtime with a score of 78-78.

The first overtime began with a downpour of three pointers. Aldridge and Bona guards Matt Mobley and Jaylen Adams all hit from downtown, keeping the back-and-forth theme alive.

Adams hit threes on consecutive possessions for the Bonnies, bringing the crowd to its feet. However, Aldridge came firing right back as he had the entire game.

Still deadlocked, the Bonnies and the Wildcats went to the second overtime period, 91-91.

After a big Mobley three early in the period to put them up by five, things were looking good for the Bonnies. However, with 1:24 left in the second overtime, Jaylen Adams picked up his fifth foul.

Adams finished with 34 points and 5 assists, leaving Bonnies fans wondering if they could pull out a win with their star player on the bench. Although annoyed, Adams said he had to keep his composure for the team.

“I was just nervous that I couldn’t finish the game for my team,” Adams said. “But at the same time, I needed to turn into another coach on the bench.”

With 19 seconds to play in the second overtime, Kellan Grady sunk two free throws to force a third overtime with the game knotted up at 100.

Hey, what’s five more minutes of basketball? As the clock approached midnight, the energy in the Reilly Center didn’t dwindle. It was on another level, something Coach Schmidt made note of.

“Give kudos out to our community,” Schmidt said. “Without the students here, they rallied around us. They came, and they were terrific.”

Two Kellan Grady free throws opened the third overtime. On the ensuing Bonnies possession, Courtney Stockard was called for a charge, his fifth foul.

Stockard left the game with a career-high 31 points.

The St. Bonaventure bench was starting to thin, but things evened out shortly after Stockard fouled out.

On the next Davidson possession, Aldridge was called for a foul away from the ball, his fifth of the night. Players were dropping like flies at the hands of the officials, and it looked like this game might turn into a battle of the benches.

Two more players fouled out shortly after; Wildcat senior Oskar Michelsen, and Bonnies senior Idris Taqqee.

The Bonnies found themselves trailing by three half way through the third overtime. But then, the Bonnies caught a break. Junior guard Nelson Kaputo was fouled while putting up a three, sending him to the line with a chance to tie the game. Kaputo, who shoots nearly 95% from the stripe, sunk all three to tie the game.

The Wildcats took the ball down the court and set up shop. Grady drove, put up a shot, and was blocked by freshman Izaiah Brockington. The referees initially ruled that the ball went out off St. Bonaventure, but after review gave the ball to the Bonnies.

“I thought Izaiah did a really good job (on defense) against a really good player,” Schmidt said.

With less than two minutes remaining, a big dunk from freshman Tshiefu “the Chef” Ngalakulondi put the Bonnies up 110-108. From there, they would never look back.

The rest of the game was a free throw shooting contest in which the Bonnies prevailed. After three long overtimes, they outlasted Davidson, 117-113.

Coach Schmidt commented on his team’s ability to pull out a win in a game that was a real grind.

“We showed some toughness,” he said. “I told the team after the first overtime, someone was going to have to step up off the bench that hasn’t played, and we did.”

The Bonnies certainly received contributions from up and down the roster, as two of the biggest plays of the game came late in the third overtime from freshmen. Schmidt was not the only one who had high praise for the Bonnies bench. Star guard Jaylen Adams also commented on the vitality of their contributions.

“Credit to the bench for finishing the way they finished,” Adams said. “The majority of guys who played the last 10 minutes are guys that usually get under 20 minutes a game, so credit to them for stepping up and making plays down the stretch.”

Senior guard Matt Mobley, who finished with 33 points and played the entire 55 minutes of the contest for the Bonnies, said he never came close to throwing in the towel.

“I just told the guys that we weren’t going to leave until we got the win,” Mobley said. “When Jay and Courtney fouled out, I knew I had to try to get good looks on offense.”I was fortunate enough to get to the foul line which helped a lot. I’m just thankful for the win.”

Mobley also spoke about the toll that playing the whole game took on him physically.

“You start to get a little cramping, but you just need to fight through it,” he said. “The game means too much.”

Coach Schmidt had high praise for his seniors on the night that they were honored, pinning much of the team’s success on them.

“You’re only as good as your seniors,” he said. “We wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are right now without Idris, Matt, and Jay. Those three seniors will never forget this day the rest of their lives. It’s special, and I’m glad I was a part of it.”

It certainly was a special night for the seniors, for St. Bonaventure, and for college basketball. I’d have to speculate that there will be a good amount of “sick days” taken in Olean on Wednesday, and for good reason. The crowd at the RC witnessed one of the best basketball games they’ll ever see.

Jaylen Adams’ postgame emotions sum the night up well.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better. This is a special game, I’m just glad I could be a part of it.”