A-10 TOURNAMENT: favorites, sleepers and players to watch

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Peter Byrne

RICHMOND, VA — Although it hasn’t always been easy, the college basketball regular season has concluded and there will be an Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time since 2019. There will be notable changes between this year’s tournament and the one from just two years before.

Instead of the entire tournament being held in Brooklyn, New York, the majority of the 2021 A-10 tournament will be held in Richmond, Virginia. VCU and Richmond will both play host until the tournament championship, which will be played in Dayton, Ohio. 

Furthermore, the tournament championship will be played eight days after the semifinals conclude. The tournament will go from March 3-6, with the title game on March 14. Despite some changes, the format is the same, and each team will be fighting for an automatic bid and a ticket to the NCAA tournament.  

THE FAVORITE(S): 

The favorites heading into the tournament will be the top two teams in St. Bonaventure and VCU.

The teams finished a half game apart in the standings and split their regular-season meetings, each team winning on their home floor. Both the Bonnies and Rams lost their final regular season matchups, so expect both teams to come out for revenge in Richmond. It would come to nobody’s surprise if these teams were playing for Atlantic 10 championship in Dayton. 

THE SLEEPER: 

Saint Louis was a preseason favorite heading into the season and has failed to exceed expectations. However, a lengthy COVID pause that had them out for over a month is worth noting. Now seeded fourth, the Bilikens are coming off two straight victories and look to be hitting their stride at just the right time.

Saint Louis also seems to have SBU’s number recently, as they’ve won three straight against Schmidt and co. Although they have not been consistent enough throughout the season to be labeled a favorite, they seem to peaking at the right time.

3 PLAYERS TO WATCH: 

Kyle Lofton (SBU): Lofton averaged 14.5 points and 5.5 per game assists in the regular season, leading the Bonnies to their first outright regular season title in school history. Although he is only shooting 23% from behind the arc, he is shooting 44% from three in his last six games. As the Bonnies point guard and leader, expect him to have the ball in his hands in crunch time throughout the tournament.

NAH’SHON “BONES” HYLAND (VCU): Sophomore guard Nah’shon “Bones” Hyland is arguably the conference’s most improved player this season, upping his points per game from 9.0 to 19.2 in just one season. This improvement is the main reason why VCU has exceeded its preseason expectations and should be heading to the NCAA Tournament. The 6’3 guard will look to prove why he should be the conference’s player of the year in Richmond 

Jordan Goodwin: Bilikens senior Jordan Goodwin is a do-it-all type player for his team. He averages 14.5 points a game, leads the team in rebounding as a guard with 10.3 boards per game, and dishes out nearly 4 assists a game. He also leads the team in steals. In what should be his final Atlantic 10 tournament appearance, Goodwin will look to lead his Bilikens to a second straight tournament title. 

MBB: Bonnies stumble to regular-season finish line with loss to Dayton

photo by Jeremy Castro

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — In the end, it proved to be too much.

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team was 20 minutes away from finishing the 2020-21 season undefeated at home. A one-point halftime lead was quickly erased as the game’s second stanza began, however, as Dayton (13-8, 9-7 A-10) went on a 13-2 run to start the half and take the lead for good.

Despite a late-game Bona comeback and a chance to tie the game in its last possession, SBU (13-4, 11-4 A-10) failed to come all the way back, and fell to the Flyers, 55-52, at the Reilly Center on Monday.

“(Dayton) played well defensively, and they did a good job of keeping us out of the paint,” SBU head coach Mark Schmidt said. “I thought we were sluggish; heavy-legged. We missed some shots. Shots we ordinarily make.”

Despite a poor offensive performance that saw them shoot 30% from the field and 29% from 3-point range, the Bonnies clawed back into the game late in the second half and brought the deficit to as little as two points (52-50) on a Dominick Welch 3-pointer with three minutes remaining.

After the teams traded baskets and Ibi Watson hit one of two free throws for the Flyers, SBU got the ball with 10 seconds to play, trailing by three. Junior forward Jalen Adaway got an open look from beyond the arc, but missed in the game’s waning seconds, leaving the Flyers victorious.

“I thought we had a great look,” Schmidt said. “In terms of getting an open look, I thought we got (one) that we wanted. They knew that we needed to hit a three so it’s always hard to get really open looks, but I thought that was a really good look. He made a good stroke on it, he just missed it.”

Adaway scored a game-high 17 points while shooting 3-of-7 from distance and pulling down four rebounds. Junior forward/center Osun Osunniyi churned out 10 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks while junior guard Kyle Lofton scored nine points and handed out six assists.

“We’ve been down before and we’ve come back,” Schmidt said. “(Dayton) did a good job keeping us out of the paint, and at times, we took quick shots. They beat us in the paint, 24-20, and it’s usually the other way around.”

Dayton narrowly out-rebounded the Bonnies, 36-32, and although the Flyers committed 11 more turnovers than the Bonnies, they shot nearly 45% from the field and 6-of-12 from beyond the arc. Watson scored 14 points to lead the Flyers, while RJ Blakney and Mustapha Amzil each scored nine points.

SBU held Jalen Crutcher, Dayton’s leading scorer, to six points before he fouled out with just under four minutes to play.

“I thought we played really hard, we just didn’t do a good job of executing, making shots,” Schmidt said. “Four games in nine days is a lot to ask, but at the same time, give Dayton credit. They played well enough to win.”

Before the game, the late Dr. Dennis DePerro, SBU’s 21st president, was honored with a moment of silence. DePerro passed away Sunday evening after battling COVID-19 for more than two months.

“He was a great man and a great leader, and he did amazing things here in his short stay,” Schmidt said of DePerro, who became university president in 2017. “He really supported athletics, especially men’s basketball, and we lost a great guy… he’s going to be hard to replace. It was a hard day today.”

SBU will now look ahead to the Atlantic 10 tournament, in which it will be the No. 1 seed. The Bonnies will get a chance to recuperate with three days off after playing four games in nine days to end their regular season.

While Bona’s A-10 quarterfinal opponent will be determined on Thursday, the Bonnies are locked into Friday’s 11 a.m. time slot. They’ll await the winner of No. 8 Richmond and No. 9 Duquesne.

“We’ve got to get our legs back,” Schmidt said. “It’s the end of the year; we’ve been practicing since whenever it’s been. It’s getting our guys the rest that they need, and then bouncing back and hopefully they can play well on Friday.”

NEW: Bonnies rout GW for largest-ever A-10 win

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The George Washington men’s basketball team came to the Reilly Center on Friday looking to pull off an upset over St. Bonaventure. SBU’s red-hot offense made it known early that an upset wasn’t going to happen.

Bona (13-3, 11-3 A-10) erupted for 88 points while shooting 58% from the field and 51% from 3-point range on its way to an 88-41 win over the Colonials (4-11, 3-5 A-10). It was the largest Atlantic 10 win in program history.

Bona junior guard Dominick Welch set the game tempo early by hitting four 3-point shots in the first half. That’s one less than the five triples that Welch hit in the first half at Davidson on Wednesday.

Welch was one of five Bonnies to reach double-digit scoring, as he scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half before sitting for the majority of the second half, as did nearly all of head coach Mark Schmidt’s starters.

“We came off two big wins and it could have been a let-down, we had one day to prepare, but our guys really really responded,” Schmidt said. “It was great to see, and I’m really proud of their effort.”

The Bonnies jumped out to a double-digit lead in the game’s first nine minutes and held it the rest of the way, leading 42-21 at halftime before out-scoring GW 46-20 in the second half.

Bona junior guard Jaren Holmes finished with 18 points, while sophomore guard AJ Vazquez scored 18 off the bench to match Holmes’ game-high total.

“This game was not an easy one at all,” Holmes said. “We just came out and played hard. We played with energy and we were excited to be out here.”

Junior guard Kyle Lofton racked up a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists, while junior forward Jalen Adaway scored 11 points.

“You play one possession at a time, and when you get up by 20 (points), the goal is by the next timeout, you want to be up by 30,” Schmidt said. “You’re up by 30, the goal for the next timeout is you want to be up by 40. That’s how you do it.”

The Bonnies set a new season-high by hitting 15 3-point field goals, which bested the 11 triples they hit in each of their last two games. SBU has now shot over 50% from distance in three-consecutive games.

“It’s always needed,” Schmidt said of his team’s 3-point shooting. “Our guys deserve to make those shots. They’re always in the gym. We were missing (the shots) early in the season, but it wasn’t because we weren’t in the gym working at it. You knew it was going to happen. We have good shooters.”

The Bonnies held the Colonials to 33% shooting from the field and 15% from distance. Jamison Battle led GW with 10 points, while James Bishop, the A-10’s leading scorer entering Friday, was held to six points on 2-of-7 shooting.

“That’s the staple,” Schmidt said of his defense. “That’s how you win. We’re not going to shoot 15-for-29 (from distance) every game. You win championships, you win at this level, by playing defense and rebounding. Our guys understand that.”

With the win, SBU remained undefeated at home and stepped one win closer to the regular-season Atlantic 10 championship title. With a win over Dayton on Monday, the Bonnies can clinch at least a share of the A-10 regular-season title, as well as the top seed in next week’s conference tournament.

“If you take care of your business, everything is fine,” Schmidt said. “We control our own destiny. Even though it’s the last game of the regular season, we prepare the same way for everybody.”

With one game left in its regular season, St. Bonaventure controls its own destiny. After Friday’s win, nearly the entire Bona team crowded around a baseline camera. Each player pointed one finger in the air, signifying the final victory that the team needs to clinch the A-10’s top spot.

“It just feels good to get another win and (be) one step closer to an A-10 regular-season championship,” Holmes said. “We’re on a mission right now. I think we’re completely locked in as a team, and as a family.”

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.”

VCU gets revenge over St. Bonaventure; takes over A-10 lead at home

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Anthony Goss

RICHMOND, VA —After a season-best offensive output against La Salle earlier in the week, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team was challenged in a physical rematch with a fellow NCAA Tournament hopeful on Friday.  

The Bonnies (10-3, 8-3 A-10) fell just a possession short to the VCU Rams (15-4, 8-2 A-10) in a 67-64 defeat at the Siegel Center on Friday.  

From the opening tip, Jalen Adaway was in rhythm offensively for SBU. Adaway scored Bona’s first nine points, as it grabbed a 9-4 lead with 13:31 remaining in the first half. He would go on to lead all scorers with 23 points and added eight rebounds to his stat line.   

The game went back and forth in the opening frame, and at the under-four minute timeout, the Bonnies and Rams were locked at 24. With 3:33 remaining in the first half, Na’Shon “Bones” Hyland hit a three-point jumper that began a 9-2 VCU run to secure a 33-26 halftime lead.  

“They’re a good defensive team,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “They deny stuff, they play physical, so we knew it was going to be a challenge.” 

Fouls plagued the Bona attack early, with second-leading scorer Jaren Holmes picking up his second foul less than four minutes into the game. St. Bonaventure committed 24 fouls in total, and all SBU starters finished with at least three fouls. 

The VCU momentum carried into the second half, and less than three minutes after the break, the VCU lead expanded to 43-31.  

“If the game was lost, the game was lost in the first four or five minutes of the second half,” Schmidt said. 

After falling behind, St. Bonaventure found success going inside to Osun Osunniyi. With 9:18 remaining, the Ram lead was cut to 53-51.  

Osunniyi finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and five blocks, but fouled out with 3:10 remaining in the game. Dominick Welch accounted for 10 points and Kyle Lofton had eight points on only six shots.  

The Rams kept the Bonnies at a distance though, as Bonnies could not pull closer than a two-point deficit the rest of the game. With less than 10 seconds to play, a missed free throw by Vince Williams Jr gave the Bonnies a chance to send the game into overtime, but Welch missed a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer.  

“We had a shot to tie the game,” Schmidt said. “It’s a difficult place to play, but we were right there.” 

Despite the Bonnies shooting 44% from the field compared to 36% from the Rams, the havoc presented by VCU made a difference, as the Bonnies accounted for 15 turnovers compared to 11 from the Rams. The Rams nearly doubled SBU on the offensive glass as well, beating St. Bonaventure 19-10. 

“From an offensive standpoint, we shot a higher percentage,” Schmidt said. “They got more shots because of the offensive rebounding.” 

Second chance points proved critical in this close matchup, with the Rams scoring 16 to just 10 from the Bonnies. 

Hyland finished with a team high 22 points, while Williams Jr added 11 points for the Rams.  

With the loss, SBU fell out of first place and is now half-a-game back from the Rams, who now lead the A-10. Due to the disparity in games played among the top teams, St. Bonaventure sits in fourth place behind Davidson and UMass.  

“We gotta fix some stuff, but we were right there,” Schmidt said. “I was proud of the effort.” 

Bonnies bounce back, score season-high 86 points in win over La Salle

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — After having its seven-game winning streak snapped over the weekend, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team responded exactly the way that head coach Mark Schmidt hoped it would.

On the heels of a Saturday defeat at Saint Louis, the Bonnies (10-2, 8-2 A-10) returned home and ran past La Salle (8-12, 5-8 A-10), 86-73, on Tuesday at the Reilly Center.

Each of Bona’s five starters reached double-digit scoring, including a team-high 20 points by Jalen Adaway.

“Coming off of a loss, we knew we needed to prevail and bring it from the start,” Adaway said. “I felt like that’s what we did from top to bottom.”

The Explorers got off to a quick start in the first half, hitting three of their first four 3-point attempts to build an early nine-point lead.

Then, the midst of a 15-5 Bona run, La Salle head coach Ashley Howard was ejected after receiving a double technical foul. Howard was visibly upset after a play on his team’s offensive end, yelling, “Call a f***ing foul!” at a referee before exiting the court in a profanity-laden tirade.

While Howard’s ejection seemed to provide a boost of energy to the La Salle bench, the Explorers weren’t the same afterward. Kyle Lofton hit all four free throws after the double foul, breaking a 24-24 tie and giving SBU the lead for good.

“Stuff like that gives you momentum,” Schmidt said. “At the same time, you need to maintain that momentum, and I thought we did that. Basketball is all about momentum, and sometimes when you get it it’s hard to give it up or get it back.”

La Salle trailed the entire way after associate head coach Kyle Griffin took over Howard’s duties, and after Bona used a last-second Lofton 3-pointer to take a 10-point lead into halftime, the Explorers never cut the lead below double digits in the second half.

“When something like that happens… that team may come out and play with a lot more fire and want to have his back,” Adaway said. “We were telling each other, they’re going to come out, we need to come out twice as hard and be ready for it, and really try to put them away.”

SBU’s 86 points were the most that it had scored in a game this season, and the Bonnies got there by spreading the scoring around the floor.

Lofton had 18 points while Osun Osunniyi scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Jaren Holmes added another 15 points, while Dominick Welch finished with 10 points.

The Bonnies shot nearly 61% from the field and 64% from 3-point range. Lofton, who had entered Tuesday’s game shooting an uncharacteristic 3-for-34 on the season from distance, was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc against La Salle.

“It felt good,” Lofton said. “I come in here and work every day, so I’m going to just stay confident. I saw one go in, so the next one I’m thinking, ‘Alright, I’m gonna hit this one.’ I’m just taking good shots, and I’m going to continue to do that.”

Kenny Sherif scored a game-high 22 points for the Explorers, while Jhamir Brickus scored 13 points and Christian Ray just missed a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.

“We dealt with some adversity,” Schmidt said. “They made some runs, and we answered them. I’m happy with the performance.”

Bona’s win guarantees it sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10 for at least a few more days, as it leads second-place VCU (14-4, 7-2 A-10) by a half game entering the Bonnies’ Friday-night matchup against the Rams.

“We’ve got to continue to work and not be satisfied,” Schmidt said. “But we got better today.”

Bona falls at sharpshooting Saint Louis

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

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+.