Sharpshooting freshmen lead Bona to first victory

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

TORONTO — It is often said that a team’s first win can be elusive.

But what the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team lacked over its first three games, it found in two instrumental freshmen on Saturday night.

The Bonnies (1-3), led by Alejandro Vasquez and Justin Winston, held on to defeat Rutgers (3-1), 80-74, at Scotiabank Arena.

Vasquez shot 8-of-12 from the field, and 3-of-5 from three-point range, to rack up 20 points.

After the Scarlet Knights worked to get back in the game, Vasquez hit a corner three with 2:30 remaining in the game to put the Bonnies up by eight points.

“That’s a big shot, right there,” Vasquez said. “I was just hoping it would go in.”

Vasquez also pulled down four rebounds and handed out two assists in 32 minutes on the court.

The guard oozed confidence on the court, as he has all season. Vasquez has showed Bona fans that whether he shoots the ball or drives to the basket, he wants to score the ball.

“The memo from the beginning was to come out with energy,” he said. “We wanted to keep that energy the same throughout the game.”

Winston showed his ability to shoot the ball, as he shot 4-of-5 from three-point range and 6-of-11 from the field. He scored 19 points in 34 minutes.

“(Vasquez and Winston) grew up and played with confidence,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said. “With freshmen, you never know when the light is going to come on. It went on tonight for both of those guys and they couldn’t have played better.”

Schmidt mentioned that with forward Osun Osunniyi out due to an injury, the Bonnies need to rely on their younger players to step up.

“Our young guys are put in a position where a couple of them need to have some success,” Schmidt said. “The game wasn’t too big for them, and that’s what we need.”

SBU shot 49 percent from the field, which was an improvement from the 35 percent that it had shot over its first three games.

The Bonnies also found some better luck from beyond the arc, shooting 45 percent from three. That is a vast improvement from the 23 percent that the team had shot from there before this game.

Kyle Loftton scored 17 points and Dom Welch added 11 points.

“You only gain confidence by playing well, and not just in practice,” Schmidt said. “Hopefully this game will push them forward because they played well against a really good team and should be proud of their efforts.”

Rutgers was hurt by poor shooting, was they shot 42 percent from the field and, more notably, 28 percent from three.

“Basketball is a humbling game and you get what you deserve,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “We didn’t deserve to win tonight, and we didn’t.”

The Scarlet Knights had four players reach double digits in scoring, including Caleb McConnell leading the way with 13 points.

Myles Johnson scored 12 points, Geo Baker added with 11 points and Akwasi Yeboah chipped in with 10 points.

“I think we’re a much better basketball team than how we played today, but to Bonaventure’s credit, they did a good job of not allowing us to play like a good basketball team,” Pikiell said.

In an NBA arena 170 miles away from SBU, the atmosphere felt like a Bona home game at times.

“I’m proud to be the coach at Bonaventure,” Schmidt said. “The alumni, boosters and students come and really do a great job. We have 30,000 alums and it feels like they’re all here.”

The Bonnies will have to wait a week before playing again, as they’ll travel to Buffalo on Saturday to play little three rival Canisius at KeyBank Center.

 

Bonnies fall short to Vermont for second straight year

photo by Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Matt Stasiw

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — With the amazing crowd presence in the Reilly Center on Friday night, every fan could already tell that a rematch between the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team and Vermont would be a battle until the end. 

The Bonnies have played Vermont each of the last three years in exciting non-conference duels.

This year, Vermont was too much for the Bonnies, as the Catamounts edged SBU, 61-59.

A year ago, then-junior Anthony Lamb, who averaged 21 points per game for the Catamounts, scored 41 against the Bonnies. 

On Friday night, Bona’s original game plan seemed to be any possible way to keep Lamb out of the picture. 

The Bonnies started of playing extremely hard with Amadi Ikpeze winning the tip off right away for the Bonnies and scoring the first basket just 29 Seconds into the game. 

Ikepeze proved to be the biggest offensive threat for the Bonnies, scoring 11 points and shooting 5-of-9 on field goals for the game. 

Unnecessary fouls, however, seemed to hold the Bonnies back early, with eight team fouls in the first nine minutes of play. 

Despite these early mistakes, the Bonnies, after being down 14-10 with 11:08 left, went on a 10-0 run in four minutes, capping it when a crazy basket by Bobby Plantutis that still managed to go in. 

Vermont answered right back, going on a 14-4 run to close out the first half, giving them a 28-24 lead heading into the locker room. 

The Bonnies held Anthony Lamb to just 9 points in the first half, keeping their game plan and motivation high going into the second half. 

Bobby Planutis scored the first points 30 seconds into the second half. 

The game kept roaring back and forth with the Bonnies finally going up 40-39 with 11:07 left in the game. 

However, the game plan seemed to fall apart when the Catamounts went on a 12-0 run over four minutes.

Then, an unlikely source of motivation led the Bonnies to come charging back into the game. 

Freshman Justin Winston used his aggressive play to snatch defensive rebounds and get to the line. 

Winston, who had 10 points on the night, helped the Bonnies to bring the deficit within five points, trailing 56-51 with 3:36 left to play. 

The Bonnies had many chances to come back, but unfortunately some late fouls and poor shooting held their efforts short, shooting 4-of-27 from three-point range for the game.  

“I thought we played extremely hard,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said. “If somebody told me that Anthony Lamb was going to score 15 points and go 0-for-7 from threes, I would have thought that we would’ve won.”

“We got to plat smarter and knock down shots,” Schmidt said when asked what his team’s biggest struggles were during the game. 

The Bonnies hope to improve to 1-2 on the season next Tuesday, as they travel to Siena for their first road contest of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

Game notes: Bonnies host Vermont, hope to slow down Lamb

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE — Two seasons ago, in his hometown of Rochester, New York, Anthony Lamb did almost everything to beat St. Bonaventure.

At Blue Cross Arena, the then-sophomore scored 27 points for the Vermont men’s basketball team, and if it hadn’t been for a Matt Mobley buzzer beater, the Catamounts would have won.

Last December, Lamb went for 42 points in Vermont’s double-overtime win against the Bonnies at home.

Now, the teams will meet for the third year in a row, as they play Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Reilly Center.

Bona head coach Mark Schmidt knows that if his team is going to earn its first win of the season, it’s going to have to slow down Lamb.

“I’m not sure if we have an answer,” Schmidt said on Thursday. “He can shoot the ball from the perimeter, post up, and he presents a lot of problems. I guess we hope he misses.”

Schmidt pointed out the fact that Lamb has averaged nearly 35 points per game against the Bonnies the last two years.

“There’s a couple different ways we can go about (stopping Lamb),” Schmidt said. “We can let him go and try to stop the other guys, or try to stop him and put it on their other players to make baskets.

“He can’t score 42 again, so whatever we need to do, hopefully we can do a better job than last year.”

After playing two preseason exhibitions, this will be Vermont’s first regular season game of the year.

Lamb did not play in the first exhibition vs. Brown, and played just five minutes in the second, against Saint Michael’s College.

A season ago, the Catamounts went 27-7 and were America East conference champions, earning a trip to the NCAA tournament.

As a No. 13 seed, Vermont was edged by No. 4 Florida State in the first round of the tournament, 76-69.

“They’re a good team and a veteran team,” Schmidt said. “We knew when we set up the schedule that they have a great program. I’m glad we’re playing at home, but it’s going to be difficult and we need to play our best to have a chance.”

Another Vermont player to watch is junior guard Stef Smith, who averaged 12.4 points per game and scored 21 points against the Bonnies a year ago.

The Bonnies will be without sophomore forward Osun Osunniyi, a preseason all-conference selection.

Osunniyi suffered a bone bruise in his knee in SBU’s season-opening loss to Ohio, and it was reported that he could miss up to a month.

Schmidt said that while losing a player of Osunniyi’s caliber is never good, it gives another player a chance.

“We stress it all the time, that you never know when your name is going to get called,” Schmidt said. “Someone’s name is going to get called tomorrow, and hopefully they’re ready and can take advantage of the opportunity.”

SBU is searching for its first win of the season, after losing to Ohio, 65-53, on Tuesday night.

This is only the fourth-ever meeting between the two programs, as they first met in 2015.

 

Bonnies humbled by Ohio in season opener

photo: Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE — When you lose by 12 points at home, there’s not too many positives to take away from the game.

That’s what Mark Schmidt, head coach of the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, had to say after his team was thrashed in its season opener by the Ohio Bobcats, 65-53, Tuesday night in the Reilly Center.

It was evident that Bona’s offense struggled against Ohio’s zone defense.

Schmidt compared it to Syracuse’s zone, saying it was essentially the same scheme.

“Their zone really affected us,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t attack it well and we weren’t aggressive. I think it was a combination of that, and us missing some shots.”

Ohio head coach Jeff Boals said that he came into the game hoping to keep Bona’s shooters off balance.

“I thought our zone helped win the game tonight,” he said. “They got some good looks and it probably would have been a different game if they hit some of them.”

SBU shot 3-19 from beyond the arc (15.8 percent), and 36.4 percent from the field.

Dom Welch and Kyle Lofton had forgettable games to begin their sophomore seasons.

Welch scored five points, shot 2-12 from the field and 1-8 from three-point range. His only made three was with less than a minute remaining in the game, when the Bonnies were trailing by 16 points.

Lofton, who scored eight points, shot 3-11 from the field and 0-2 from beyond the arc.

“Your better players have to play well, and those guys struggled tonight,” Schmidt said. “We have faith in them, but when they don’t play well it’s hard to score.”

Freshman guard Alejandro Vasquez led the Bonnies in scoring with 12 points.

Vasquez, just the third Bona freshman to start a season opener in the Schmidt era (Jaylen Adams and Lofton), showed that he isn’t afraid to shoot the ball.

He took several good shots, and on other occasions, looked like he was trying to force it.

Vasquez shot 3-11 from the field and 2-7 from three.

Lost in the scenes from the night was an injury to Bonnies sophomore forward Osun Osunniyi.

With 15:49 left in the second half, Osunniyi stayed down on the floor after a play and appeared to be holding his knee.

The preseason all-conference and all-defensive team selection was helped off the floor by the Bona coaching staff, and looked like he was in a lot of pain. Osunniyi finished with six points in 11 minutes.

No additional information on the injury was provided after the game.

In his long-anticipated Bonaventure debut, forward Bobby Planutis scored eight points and pulled down 10 rebounds, including six offensive boards. He threw down an impressive transition dunk in the first half.

For Ohio, the three-headed attack of Jordan Dartis, Ben Vander Plas and Jason Preston was enough to beat the Bona defense.

Dartis led the scoring with 19 points, and shot 7-15 from the field. Vander Plas added 12 points for the Bobcats.

Perhaps the most impressive stat line, however, came from Preston.

The sophomore guard handed out 13 assists to go with 11 points, six rebounds and seven steals.

“(Preston) controlled the game for them,” Schmidt said. “We knew he was a good player and tried to keep him out of the paint, but he just controlled the game.”

Boals said that he was proud of his team for going into a hostile road environment and starting its season on the right foot.

“In order to win a conference championship, you’ve got to win tough games,” Boals said. “This place is as good as any. I’ve been at Duke and I’ve been at Kansas, and this place gets loud.”

For SBU, things don’t get any easier, as they host the defending America East conference champion Vermont Catamounts on Friday night.

“It’s never good to be young, but that’s just the way it is and we need to overcome that,” Schmidt said. “Hopefully this is a wake-up call and hopefully it shows the young guys what Division I basketball is all about.”

 

Planutis brings scoring ability, leadership to Bonnies

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

When the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team made its run to the Atlantic 10 championship game in March, Bobby Planutis had to sit and watch.

Planutis, who had decided to transfer to SBU after one season at Mount St. Mary’s, was ineligible to play last season because of NCAA transfer rules.

The sophomore forward from Hazelton, Pennsylvania must have made an impact on his teammates last year, however.

Planutis was voted as a team captain for the 2019-20 season, and is hoping to make an immediate impact for the Bonnies.

“I’ve worked on all aspects of my game, but especially with the strength coaches in the weight room,” Planutis said. “I was lifting four of five days a week for the past 18 months or so.”

Planutis isn’t afraid to identify himself as a shooter.

At Mount St. Mary’s, he averaged 5.9 points per game and shot an impressive 49% from three-point range.

“I think it helps (our offense) that I’m 6’8 and can shoot,” Planutis said. “Hopefully, that will help open up the floor for some other guys.”

Bona head coach Mark Schmidt talked about how Planutis can fit into his offense.

“(Planutis) is a catch-and-shoot kind of guy,” Schmidt said. “In the game today, the (power forward) man has become a face-up guy. If you have a guy in that position that can shoot, it creates better spacing on the floor and opens up the lanes.”

Schmidt said that Planutis’ ability to shoot the ball will stretch opposing defenses and allow the Bonnies more opportunities to get the ball to guys in the paint.

Planutis said that having well-known players such as Kyle Lofton, Dom Welch and Osun Osunniyi around him will help his game.

“I hope they get double teamed,” he said with a laugh. “Then, I can get some open shots. It makes it easier to play when the guys around you are good.”

It was Bona’s recent success, along with a bit of name recognition, that drew Planutis to SBU.

“My prep coaches knew Bona well, which helped me get to know the school,” Planutis said. “The winning that was happening here was also a big draw.”

Planutis mentioned how the Bonnies reached the NCAA tournament in 2017-18, which was his prep school year at Bridgton Academy in Maine.

In the Bonnies’ preseason exhibition vs. Alfred University, Planutis shot 5-7 from the field, including 1-3 from beyond the arc, to score 11 points in 18 minutes.

He also pulled down four rebounds.

Schmidt said that based on Planutis’ work ethic, he thinks the sophomore will adjust to Atlantic 10 competition just fine.

“There are a lot of guys that don’t work when they take a year off, but (Planutis) realized that the season was going to come quickly and he really took advantage of the year,” Schmidt said. “He’s a much better player than he was last year, and hopefully that translates on the court.”

As far as leadership goes, Schmidt said that Planutis’ teammates selecting him as a captain speaks volumes about what they think of him.

“It shows his commitment, leadership skills and how important basketball is to him,” Schmidt said. “It shows that he has the respect of his teammates.”

SBU opens regular season play on Tuesday night when it hosts Ohio University.

 

Winston, Bona’s latest Putnam pickup, ready to work

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

When Justin Winston committed to play basketball at St. Bonaventure in September 2018, he became the third Putnam Science Academy graduate in two years to do so.

The “Putnam Pipeline” to SBU has been talked about repeatedly since the arrival of Winston, following Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi’s commitment the year before.

For Winston, the campus nestled in the foothills of the Enchanted Mountains felt like home.

“You can compare (Bonaventure) to Putnam because it’s a small school,” Winston said. “It’s a place where you can always work to get better as a player and as a person.”

The West Orange, New Jersey native, rated a four-star recruit by ESPN, stands at 6’8 and weighs 215 pounds.

In his senior year of high school at Immaculate Conception, Winston averaged 15 points per game.

Winston said that he saw Bona as the perfect situation to develop himself.

“I knew I could have a good social life while still being able to work on becoming a better basketball player,” Winston said.

Of course, Lofton and Osunniyi most likely did some recruiting of their own that influenced Winston’s decision.

“Since I had played with (Lofton and Osunniyi), I knew I’d always have family here,” Winston said.

Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt has said that Winston will fit into the offense at the power forward position, sharing time with sophomore transfer Bobby Planutis.

“He’s an attacking type of forward,” Schmidt said of Winston. “He can shoot the ball, but he’s got better ball skills and more ‘junk in the trunk’.”

Winston said that he hopes to bring a little bit of everything to the floor for the Bonnies.

“I’m looking to bring a lot of intensity and energy,” he said. “I can grab rebounds and score inside and out.”

In the Bonnies’ exhibition vs. Alfred University last Wednesday, Winston logged nine rebounds and two points over 21 minutes.

It was his first taste of action in the Reilly Center, which he said he has been looking forward to playing in since his commitment.

“I’ll have a lot of eyes on me,” Winston said. “I’ve just gotta put on.”

Johnson looks to provide scoring help for Bonnies

photo: Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Aidan Conaghan

Matt Johnson didn’t follow the typical path of becoming a Division I basketball player.  

Johnson, a 6-4 guard from Baltimore, Maryland, won two state championships at New Town High.  

Johnson played the last two years at the junior college level. His first year, he attended Pensacola State, where he averaged 7.5 points per game.  

Johnson then played his sophomore season at Howard Community College in Texas. There, he was named to the all-conference team, averaging 14 points and five rebounds per game.  

Johnson then committed to play at St. Bonaventure.

“When I went up to a game, I loved the atmosphere and the fans were great,” Johnson said.

Another factor for Johnson’s commitment was how well he connected with the coaches.

“I liked what coach Schmidt offered,” he said. “I liked his vibe.”  

Johnson has seen a big difference in the level of play so far at the Division I level.

“It is a lot faster,” he said. “The players are also a lot smarter.”  

Head coach Mark Schmidt talked about his new players having a lot to learn quickly.

“They all have to learn the system,” he said. “If you don’t learn the system, you are going to struggle.”  

Johnson talked about the versatility of his game.

“I can score at all three levels and get other people involved,” he said.  

Johnson also said that he can help give fellow guard Kyle Lofton some rest, after Lofton averaged 37 minutes per game last year.

“I can play the point guard and the shooting guard to take pressure off (Lofton),” Johnson said.  

In Johnson’s free time, he likes to play video games.

“I play 2K and Fortnite, but most of my time is for school and workouts,” the junior guard said.  

Johnson will make his debut on Tuesday when the Bonnies host the Ohio University Bobcats

 

Lofton’s game-winning jumper propels Bonnies over La Salle

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

Kyle Lofton did it again. 

The St. Bonaventure guard hit a go-ahead jumper with three seconds remaining and the Bonnies defeated the La Salle Explorers Wednesday night, 62-60. 

Lofton, a freshman, got the ball to start a Bonnies possession with 10.7 seconds left and the score tied. He dribbled to his right, drove to his left and pulled up from the free throw line to send the Reilly Center crowd into a frenzy. 

“It was on me to take the last shot,” said Lofton. “Coach trusts me and gives me room to make errors, so that makes me more comfortable. I was confident and I hit it.” 

Lofton finished the game with 18 points. 

Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said he has been impressed with Lofton’s shot-making ability all season and that the freshman plays beyond his years. 

“I trust him, he plays 40 minutes a game,” said Schmidt. “He hits big shots and he doesn’t play like a freshman. Out of the timeout, I can put the ball in his hands and know that, for the most part, he’s going to make the right play.” 

The game was close the whole way, with SBU leading by four points at halftime. The Explorers came out of the gates strong in the second half, but an and-one dunk from SBU forward Osun Osunniyi followed by a technical on LaSalle gave the Bonnies momentum. They proceeded to go on a 13-3 run. 

The Bonnies led by as many as 11 points in the second half (50-41), but La Salle’s shooting got them back into the game late. 

The Explorers hit ten three-pointers on the night, as opposed to just three from the Bonnies. 

La Salle appeared as if it would get the last possession of the game, but guard Isiah Deas slipped on a drive and turned the ball over, giving Lofton his chance. 

Schmidt talked about SBU’s defensive performance and its struggles that kept La Salle in the game. 

“I always say, if you defend, rebound, take care of the ball and make your foul shots, you’ll do well,” he said. “We only did two of those things tonight. In the last couple games, we took care of the ball and made our free throws, and that’s why we won by a larger margin. We didn’t do those things tonight, which kept it close.” 

Courtney Stockard scored 16 points and dished out seven assists for the Bonnies. Osunniyi had another big night on the glass with 13 rebounds, nine points and five blocks. 

“Defense has always been the main focus of my game,” said Osunniyi. “We feed off the crowd and want to get them in the game early, so if I can block some shots it gets them involved and helps my teammates on the offensive end.”  

La Salle was led by Pookie Powell, who scored 20 points and knocked down four three-pointers. Deas added 16 points. 

Explorers guard Saul Phiri scored 10 points and hit a big three with a minute left to tie the game at 60 before the Lofton magic. 

St. Bonaventure improved to 12-14 overall and 8-5 in the Atlantic 10, and La Salle fell to 8-17 overall and 6-7 in the A10. 

The Bonnies have now won three games in a row and six of their last eight. 

“It wasn’t a masterpiece offensively, but we gutted it out,” said Schmidt. “It was a blue-collar win.”