Atlantic 10 tournament preview: Bona enters as No. 5 seed; faces tough road back to final

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

BROOKLYN, NY — For the first time since 2017, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team will have to play on Thursday in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

After an 11-7 regular season in the A10, Bona is the No. 5 seed at the conference tournament, which will take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, from March 11-15.

The Bonnies dropped their season finale to Saint Louis last Saturday, which erased their hopes of a top-four seed and a double-bye through the first two rounds of the tournament. A win in the game would have landed Bona at No. 4, meaning it would not have had to play until Friday.

“Two of the last four teams that have won (the tournament) have played on Thursday,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “It’s not like no one has done it. You’ve just got to be playing well and get some momentum. It’s ‘game seven’ for the next four games, and hopefully we can win those game sevens.”

A year ago, Bona fell just short of winning the tournament, after making a run to the championship game as the No. 4 seed and letting a late-game lead slip away to Saint Louis in the championship game.

Bona returns three starters from that team, including now-sophomore Dominick Welch, who averaged 12 points and seven rebounds per game in three A10 tournament games a year ago. Welch scored 20 points in Bona’s quarterfinal win over George Mason.

“It gives me confidence knowing how well I played there,” Welch said. “We’ve let the new guys know that it wasn’t easy, and we’ll really have to prepare. Last year, we got off to a slow start because we weren’t used to the setting and the rims, so (we need to) make sure we get our shots up and are prepared.”

Schmidt said that the experience his team got playing deep into the tournament a year ago can only help it this time around.

“It certainly won’t be a negative,” Schmidt said. “They played well in pressure situations, and the more experience you get the better you’re going to be.”

Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi, both sophomores, also started all three tournament games for the Bonnies a year ago. Lofton averaged over 16 points per game to earn him all-tournament team honors, while Osunniyi averaged seven points and eight rebounds per game.

This year, Bona’s path back to the championship game is anything but easy.

SBU will play either No. 12 George Mason or No. 13 St. Joseph’s at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, with No. 4 Saint Louis awaiting the winner on Friday.

“It’s one game, and we can’t worry about what’s happening on Friday, Saturday or Sunday,” Schmidt said. “If you lose you go home, so our mindset is to prepare the best we can for St. Joe’s or George Mason.”

Then, if the Bonnies can beat the same SLU team that thrashed them, 72-49, on Saturday, they’ll set up a date with No. 1 Dayton on Saturday afternoon.

For players that weren’t around for last year’s tournament run, such as Jaren English, the opportunity to win a championship is exciting.

“We have the opportunity to win a championship, which would band us together as a team here forever,” English said. “Everybody talks about the 2012 team with (Andrew) Nicholson, and it would be a great honor to be talked about as we go on in our careers and come back to Bonaventure.”

The sophomore guard has college postseason experience, as he helped lead Ranger Community College to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I championship game a year ago.

English has since had a breakout year for the Bonnies, averaging nearly 12 points per game this season.

“We want to get down there and show people that they can’t cross us off of their list,” English said. “We’ve got high hopes and we believe that we can win, and that’s all you really need.”

Bona’s game on Thursday will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Network, as will its quarterfinal game if the Bonnies advance to Friday.

“Preparation is important, but you’ve got 24 hours after they play,” Schmidt said. “So, the preparation isn’t going to be as important as just going out and playing, and doing what you do best.”

Below is the complete tournament bracket.
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Duquesne gets revenge, beats Bonnies in overtime

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Two and a half weeks ago, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team outlasted Duquesne on the road.

On Wednesday night at the Reilly Center, the Dukes returned the favor.

Duquesne survived a late-game Bona comeback before forcing overtime and beating the Bonnies, 81-77.

Sincere Carry found himself at the free throw line in multiple game-changing scenarios for the Dukes, including when he hit two free throws to force overtime.

Then, with six seconds left in the extra stanza and Duquesne leading by two, the sophomore guard hit two more free throws to end Bona’s hopes of last-minute magic.

Carry finished with 18 points, including four in the overtime period.

“I thought Duquesne got off to a better start and had more energy than us in the first half, but our guys really responded coming out of halftime,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “We took the lead and then it was back and forth, but we had our opportunities.”

Michael Hughes, who was matched up with Bona center Osun Osunniyi for much of the game, also had 18 points.

“I thought Hughes hurt us at the end of the game,” Schmidt said. “He had two or three jump hooks. He didn’t have his best game, but he’s a great player.”

Hughes had four points in the final two minutes of regulation, as well as a big bucket with less than two minutes left in overtime.

“(Hughes) knows how to play in the post and he has good moves,” Osunniyi said. “I gave him too much position inside and he got some easy buckets later in the game, which hurt us a lot.”

Osunniyi had 23 points and 13 rebounds of his own, shooting 10-for-15 from the field.

“They out-toughed us in the first half, and we tried to play harder in the second half,” Osunniyi said. “When you play a good team like that, you can’t have mental lapses.”

Neither team helped itself offensively, as the Bonnies and Dukes combined to shoot 27 percent from 3-point range and 60 percent from the free throw line. Each team forced 16 turnovers.

“They made one more play than we did,” Schmidt said. “We had a great game against them (on the road) and we had another great one against them tonight, but we came out on the short end this time.”

Jaren English had 15 points for the Bonnies, while Kyle Lofton scored 14 points.

English was forced into Lofton’s usual point guard position late in regulation when Lofton went down with an apparent ankle injury, but the sophomore was able to come back into the game after a minimal stint on the bench.

Dominick Welch picked up his sixth double-double of the season, as he scored 10 points to go along with 14 rebounds.

Lamar Norman Jr. put up 14 points for the Dukes, while Tavian Dunn-Martin, who lit up Bona in the teams’ first matchup, finished with nine points.

“You have to pick your poison with them,” Schmidt said. “Do you double team Hughes and then give up open three’s, or guard him straight up?”

The win was monumental for Duquesne’s Atlantic 10 tournament seeding hopes, as the Dukes moved to 9-6 in the league and 19-8 overall, good enough for a share of fifth place.

SBU fell to 10-5 in the A10 and 18-10 overall. The Bonnies now sit in fourth place in the A10, after Richmond defeated George Washington on Wednesday night to move to 11-3.

Up next for Bona is a Saturday trip to La Salle, where tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

“We have competitive guys in our locker room and they’re upset that we lost,” Schmidt said. “We’ll come back in 24 hours and get ready for La Salle. That’s always been the mentality.”

Bonnies survive Richmond comeback, beat the Spiders for share of third place

photo by Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Hayden Robinson

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — After a controversial call by referees, clutch free throws from St. Bonaventure’s Jaren English and Dominic Welch helped the Bonnies seal a win over Richmond on Saturday. 

The SBU men’s basketball team team pulled out a narrow victory over the Spiders at the Reilly Center, 75-71. 

With 35 seconds left in the game, Bona sophomore Bobby Planutis committed  a “flagrant one” foul. This would lead to a free throw made, followed by a clutch 3-pointer by Richmond’s Blake Francis, cutting Bonaventure’s previously sizable lead down to three points. 

Richmond would foul to stop the clock, but the Bonnies’ free throw shooting would prove to be the x-factor.

English and Welch were a combined 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final 25 seconds of the game.

English Finished with 17 points, while Welch put up a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. 

During this time of the year, you want to start putting everything together,” Bona forward Osun Osunniyi said. “The way we handled the big shots they hit, hitting our free throws when we had to, was really big.” 

 Bonaventure started the game on a 14-4 run over the first five minutes, making it seem as if it would be a game in Bonaventure’s hands. However, Richmond continued fight, keeping it within 10 points for much of the game 

A big corner three by Dominic Welch would put the Bonnies up by 13 points with nine minutes left in the game, which was  Bonaventure’s biggest lead of the night. 

Welch attributed his hot shooting tonight to his calm demeanor on the court.  

Just have to play my game and go with the flow,” Welch said. “Just playing with confidence.” 

Bona head coach Mark Schmidt spoke briefly on the difficulty playing against a successful in-conference team like Richmond. 

They hit some big shots at the end and they’re a team that you have to pick your poison,” Schmidt said. “They’re hard to defend and they played exceptionally well.” 

St. Bonaventure’s next game will be at home this Wednesday against Duquesne, who boasts an 8-6 record in cofference.   

All games at this point in the season are important for the Bonnies, as they are third in the A-10 conference at 10-4, and only two games behind Rhode Island for the second spot. 

Lofton’s big shot leads Bonnies to road win over Duquesne

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

MOON TOWNSHIP, PA — When Sincere Carry tied the game, all of the momentum was in Duquesne’s favor.

The Dukes had completed a 9-0 run after trailing for the entire second half, and prompted a hearty roar from a rowdy UPMC Events Center crowd.

However, St. Bonaventure guard Kyle Lofton didn’t seem to mind.

With 1:14 left in the game, Lofton nailed a three-pointer to put the Bonnies men’s basketball team up for good on its way to an 83-80 win over the Dukes on Saturday afternoon.

“I knew I was going to be the one to shoot it,” Lofton said. “In that type of moment, the coaches trust me. They depended on me, so I was confident and I stuck it.”

The shot was just one of many big-time offensive plays in the game, as the teams traded blows the whole way in front of a crowd that featured a sea of both Bona’s brown and white, and the blue and red of the Dukes.

Lofton hit five of his six shot attempts from beyond the arc. He finished with 21 points and seven assists.

“The thing I was most proud of was that whenever they made a play, we answered,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “To be able to do that against a really good team shows that we’re growing.”

Seven players reached double-digit scoring in the game, and the teams combined to shoot 24-for-54 from beyond the arc (44 percent).

 Jaren English scored 15 points for the Bonnies, the sixth time this season that he has reached that number.

Dom Welch added 14 points and nine rebounds, while Osun Osunniyi racked up 12 points and nine rebounds.

“I think (the win) shows our character and toughness, and what we can be in the future,” Lofton said. “We have guys that can score the ball, and it was good to have multiple guys in double figures.”

Duquesne’s three-point shooting kept it in the game the entire way, as the Dukes hit on 14-of-34 triples.

Tavian Dunn-Martin shot 7-for-15 on his own from beyond the arc on his way to a game-high 25 points.

After being held scoreless in the first half, Carry came alive in the second and finished with 17 points. Baylee Steele added 15 points for the Dukes.

“The game plan was to try to take away their inside game,” Schmidt said. “Even though they played really well, we still made the plays that we needed to make. Everybody did what they needed to do.”

With Osunniyi in foul trouble for much of the first half, Amadi Ikpeze played 15 minutes off the bench and put up four points to go with six rebounds. Osunniyi played just over 24 minutes.

The win boosted SBU to 16-8 overall, while Duquesne fell to 17-6 overall.

More importantly, it moved the Bonnies to 8-3 in Atlantic 10 play, while the Dukes fell to 7-4.

The teams will meet again at the Reilly Center on Feb. 26 in a game that could potentially have a large impact on seeding for the A-10 tournament in March.

However, Schmidt said that he isn’t looking that far ahead.

“You learn how to win by winning,” Schmidt said. “We can’t get satisfied and we can’t get comfortable.”

The Bonnies will travel to St. Joseph’s on Tuesday to play the Hawks, who are 0-9 in the A10.

Bonnies roll past George Washington

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Hayden Robinson

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — An electric crowd at the Reilly Center always gives the Bonnies an advantage.

On Wednesday night, this advantage proved to be crucial, as the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team secured a win against George Washington, 72-47.

Once SBU center Osun Osunniyi won the opening tip, it was off to the races.

The Bonnies started the game scorching hot with a 10-0 run in a balanced scoring effort. With George Washington reeling, their offense had to come from someone, and fast.

Despite a GW comeback that balanced the score, the Bonnies continued to torch their opponent with their balanced inside and outside scoring.

At the end of the first half, St. Bonaventure led 39-27.

George Washington kept the game close behind Jameer Nelson Jr.’s 14 points in the first half. He single-handedly brought the Colonials back after an abysmal start.

“In the first half, I didn’t think we played particularly well, especially defensively,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said. “But I thought that in the second half, we did a much better job of keeping them in front of us and contesting shots.”

St. Bonaventure would go on a run at the beginning of the second half that their opponent just couldn’t handle. The lead extended up to 26 points with just under seven minutes to play.

Bonnies guard Jaren English had himself a night, as well. He finished with 21 points, 12 of which came in the first half, and he shot 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.

“I’ve been working on my shot and getting in the gym extra,” English said. “I shot three for four, but I should have made the fourth one. I just have to get better, keep shooting and keep trusting in my progress and process.”

Osunniyi racked up 16 points for the Bonnies, while Dom Welch and Justin Winston scored 11 points each.

Jameer Nelson, Jr. carried the GW offense for most of the game, as he finished with 19 points. Jamison Battle added 13 points for the Colonials.

The win moved the Bonnies to 15-8 overall, and 7-3 in Atlantic 10 play. GW fell to 10-13 overall, and 4-6 in the A-10.

On Saturday, the Bonnies will travel down to Pennsylvania to take on the Duquesne Dukes.

The Dukes boast an overall record of 17-5, making this a tough matchup for the Bonnies.

Bonnies fall short against Rhode Island

photo by Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Fatts Russell showed a sold out Reilly Center why he is one of the leading candidates for Atlantic 10 player of the year.

The junior guard scored 29 points, including 20 in the second half, for the Rhode Island men’s basketball team in an 81-75 win over St. Bonaventure on Saturday afternoon.

In an 8-for-14 shooting effort, Russell shot 5-for-9 from three-point range and 8-for-8 from the free throw line.

“When I’m hot, I feel like any shot I take is going to go in,” Russell said. “I tried to slow myself down, and pick and choose my spots.”

After trailing 40-35 at halftime, the Rams went on a 7-0 run to begin the second half. They took the lead for good with 14:33 remaining in the second half, when Russell buried a three pointer.

“I felt like once we had the lead in the second half, our guards are good enough to control the game,” Russell said.

Bona made a late push with four minutes remaining, when Justin Winston knocked down a three pointer to make the score 69-66.

That was as close as the Bonnies would get.

Winston was one of five Bonnies to reach double-digit scoring, as he finished with 12 points.

Kyle Lofton led the Bonnies in scoring with 15 points, while Dominick Welch and Jaren English each scored 14 points. Alejandro Vasquez racked up 11 points, including three big three-pointers in the first half.

“I thought the game was decided in the first four minutes of the second half,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “We came out lethargic and they came after us.”

Missed free throws plagued the Bonnies down the stretch. They shot 13-for-14 from the line in the first half, but just 7-for-12 in the second half.

“With an inexperienced team, you have to make foul shots,” Schmidt said. “Against a team like Rhode Island, every possession is critical, and I thought that at some points we broke down.”

Tyrese Martin scored 14 points for Rhode Island, including a big three to answer Winston’s and re-establish the Rams’ six-point lead.

Cyril Langevine had 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Jeff Dowtin scored 11 points.

This was St. Bonaventure’s third-straight loss, as it has gotten a taste of the Atlantic 10’s best over the past week. The Bonnies fell to VCU and Dayton previously.

SBU sits at 12-8 overall and 4-3 in the A-10. Rhode Island improved to 14-5 overall and 6-1 in the A-10.

“Rhode Island is one of the best teams in our league, and we were right there with a chance to win,” Schmidt said. “The effort was there, but the execution has to get a little bit better.”

The Bonnies will travel to Fordham on Wednesday before returning home on Feb. 1 to host George Mason.

 

Bonnies beat Niagara for sixth-straight win

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The snowstorm that blew through the Southern Tier may have slowed down Wednesday evening commutes.

But it certainly didn’t slow down the offense of the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, which shot 50 percent from the field on its way to an 87-70 in over Niagara at the Reilly Center.

SBU did not trail in the game, and led by double-digits for most of the way before surviving a Niagara comeback late in the second half.

The Purple Eagles pulled within six points with just over five minutes to go, but Bona re-gained momentum and went on a 19-8 run to end the game.

Six Bonnies scored in double-digits, including 17 points from Dominick Welch.

Welch shot 5-for-9 from three-point range, and also pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists.

“The more guys we have scoring the basketball, the more difficult it is for the opponent to guard us,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “That’s common sense. When you have six guys who can score, it makes your offense that much more effective.”

Kyle Lofton compiled a double-double, as he had 11 assists to go with 12 points.

“We need him to be a scoring point guard, and that’s what he’s doing,” Schmidt said. “I think he shot the ball much better today, and he’s always been able to pass the ball and be the floor general. We need him to do both.”

It was Lofton’s third game in a row in which he handed out 11 assists, as he previously did it against Hofstra and Gannon.

Alejandro Vasquez scored 14 points for the Bonnies, and Osun Osunniyi was close behind him with 13 points to go with seven rebounds.

Osunniyi said that Schmidt used the fact that Niagara had beaten SBU each of the past two years as motivation.

“Our mindset was that we weren’t going to lose,” Osunniyi said. “Two years ago they stole one here, so we had the mindset that we weren’t going to let them come in and beat us again.”

Rounding out the double-digit scorers for Bona were Amadi Ikpeze, who had 11 points and eight rebounds, and Justin Winston, who scored 10 points.

The Bonnies shot 46 percent from three-point range (12-for-16), and made 17-of-18 free throws.

Niagara was paced by Marcus Hammond, who scored 21 points. Nicholas Kratholm scored 10 points for the Purple Eagles.

The Bonnies out-rebounded Niagara 39-22, including 10-2 on offensive boards.

“We dealt with adversity, which was good to see,” Schmidt said. “There are a lot of positives. But we’ve got a long way to go, both offensively and defensively.”

This was SBU’s sixth-straight win, and the Bonnies now sit at 7-4 on the year. Niagara falls to 2-7 with the loss.

The Bonnies will not play again in the Reilly Center until Jan. 11, as they begin a four-game road trip at Middle Tennessee on Saturday.

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.”