PREVIEW: Bona faces Saint Louis with A-10 final on the line

photo courtesy of Atlantic 10 conference

By Jeff Uveino

RICHMOND, VA — They beat St. Bonaventure in the 2019 Atlantic 10 championship game. They beat them by 23 points in Bona’s 2019-20 season finale. They beat them exactly one month ago.

Now, the Saint Louis men’s basketball team stands in the Bonnies’ path to the 2021 A-10 championship game.

After beating No. 9 Duquesne in Friday’s quarterfinals, No. 1 St. Bonaventure will play No. 4 Saint Louis at the Siegel Center on Saturday with a trip to next week’s A-10 final on the line.

The Billikens beat No. 5 Massachusetts, 86-72, in Friday’s quarterfinals, and a familiar face to Bona fans led the way for Saint Louis. Senior guard Javonte Perkins, who scored a game-high 21 points in SLU’s 70-59 defeat of the Bonnies on Feb. 6, scored a team-high 16 points on Friday.

Saint Louis’ senior class has developed as fierce a rivalry with SBU as any other A-10 team in its four seasons, as the Bonnies and Billikens have split six contests since 2017-18. The Bonnies took the first three games, two of which were won by a Jaylen Adams-led Bona team in 2018. However, since SBU beat the Billikens at the Reilly Center in 2018-19’s regular-season finale, Saint Louis has taken three straight.

If there’s one thing that Bona head coach Mark Schmidt’s team has done since its core of now-juniors joined the team prior to the 2018-19 season, however, it’s mature.

When Kyle Lofton, Dominick Welch and Osun Osunniyi started the 2019 A-10 championship game, all three were freshmen. While Schmidt said after Friday’s win that his players didn’t think about past games such as that defeat, he’s been consistently adamant about his team’s experience level this season.

“I’ve been lucky to have these experienced guys that know how to win,” said Schmidt, reiterating a point he’s made about his team since the preseason’s first press conference.

Lofton, Welch and Osunniyi have combined to make 210 starts for the Bonnies in just under three years.

The only matchup between the two defensive-minded teams this season was at Chaifitz Arena in Saint Louis, where the Billikens held the Bonnies to 36% shooting from the field while shooting it at 43% themselves. Bona junior guard Kyle Lofton scored a team-high 17 points in that game, while junior guard Jaren Holmes scored 12 points and junior forward Jalen Adaway tallied 10 points.

SBU is the A-10’s top defensive team, allowing an average of 60.5 points per game, while Saint Louis checks in at third in the league, giving up 64.7 points per game.

Saturday could be the last time that Bona battles SLU’s current senior class. Hasahn French, Javonte Perkins and Jordan Goodwin have each become familiar names to the SBU fans that have watched them beat their Bonnies three times in a row.

Now, Schmidt’s core of juniors gets a chance to avenge its recent losses to the Billikens. And, if they do, University of Dayton Arena and the A-10 championship game await them on March 14.

Nicholson on first team, SBU predicted to finish fourth

[Andrew Nicholson gets interviewed by ESPN’s Andy Katz at the Atlantic 10 Conference Media Day Thursday at the Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge – Photo courtesy of GoBonnies.com]

By Ryan Lazo, feature columnist, @RMLazo13

NEW YORK (Oct. 13) — St. Bonaventure’s men’s basketball team was picked to finish fourth in preseason polls today at the Atlantic 10 Conference Media Day.

Xavier with 304 total points and 18 first-place votes got picked to finish first. Temple (287 points, four first-place votes), Saint Louis (239), St. Bonaventure (217) and defending champion Richmond (196) rounded out the top five. 

“It’s nice to have the recognition for our program and the hard work we have put in, but it doesn’t matter,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “We didn’t believe what they had to say last year when they picked us to finish 13th, and we’re not buying into the hype.”

St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson and Xavier’s Tu Holloway, the defending A-10 Player of the Year, were both named to the Preseason First-Team All-Conference team.

Both players were also selected last week as preseason candidates for the prestigious John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 List. Temple seniors Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez and George Washington’s Tony Taylor rounded out the first-team selctions.

Chris Mack, Xavier’s coach, said that Schmidt, a former Xavier assistant coach, has done an incredible job recruiting in a small town like Olean, N.Y. and the fans should be proud of that.

Also, Mack added Nicholson might be the most skilled player in the country.

“He is a constant mismatch for any team,” he said. “Place a big man on him and he’ll go around him or he’ll just take you outside.”

Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg, on the other hand, had a different approach.

“Best way to stop him is say your prayers the night before,” Kellogg said of Nicholson. 

Though various high praises were said about Nicholson, Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus might have given the highest compliment to St. Bonaventure’s senior forward.

“When I saw 44, I used to think of Henry Aaron,” he said. “Now, I think of Nicholson.”

Tony Lee contributed to this story.

lazorm09@bonaventure.edu

NOTES:

  • Nicholson, Holloway, Duquesne’s T.J. McConnell, Richmond’s Darrius Garret and Saint Joseph’s’ C.J. Aiken were named to the all-defensive team. 
  • Practice begins Saturday at midnight. Duquesne tips off the 2011-12 season on Nov. 9 with a game at Arizona in the Coaches vs. Cancer 2K Sports Classic. 
  • The Bonnies play their first A-10 game on Jan. 4 vs. George Washington at 7 p.m.

Here is the list of the 2011-12 A-10 men’s basketball predicted order of finish:

  1. Xavier (18) 304 
  2. Temple (4) 287 
  3. Saint Louis 239 
  4. St. Bonaventure 217 
  5. Richmond 196 
  6. Dayton 168 
  7. St. Joseph’s 165 
  8. George Washington 163 
  9. Duquesne 151 
  10. Rhode Island 117 
  11. Charlotte 115 
  12. Massachusetts 107 
  13. La Salle 52 
  14. Fordham 29