Lofton’s game-winner pushes Bona past Richmond for first A-10 win

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Nic Gelyon

RICHMOND, VA — “You want the ball in his hands at the end of the game to make a play.” 

That’s St. Bonaventure men’s basketball head coach Mark Schmidt speaking about junior guard Kyle Lofton. Lofton’s step-back three-pointer with just over two seconds remaining in the game iced a 69-66 win for the Bonnies at preseason Atlantic 10 favorite Richmond on Saturday.  

St. Bonaventure continued its dominance over Richmond, a team the Bonnies have beaten in five of six previous matchups in the last four years. 

During last season’s 75-71 nail-biter against the Spiders, then-sophomore guard Jaren Holmes shined, contributing 17 points, four rebounds and an assist in one of his best performances as a Bonnie. Holmes scored another 17 points on Saturday, with three rebounds and two assists.

Holmes, who suffered an injury in the team’s previous game, was a game-time decision, having played just one minute in the Bonnies’ loss to Rhode Island on Wednesday. He managed to play 31 minutes on Saturday in an efficient showing from the now-junior.

 “He’s just a player,” Schmidt said of Holmes. “That toughness, he brings that… that’s what we were missing at the Rhode Island game, that toughness. He makes big time plays when you need them.” 

Lofton wasn’t far behind with 16 points on 5-for-9 shooting, as well as one rebound and three assists. He also went 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. Bonaventure’s 12-for-14 free-throw shooting played an important role in keeping up with a dangerous offensive team in Richmond.  

In the first half, SBU’s largest lead was six points, a lead that would last only until the Spiders went on a run of seven consecutive makes in the final four minutes of the half. St. Bonaventure’s starters, specifically Lofton and forward/center Osun Osunniyi, looked gassed on defense toward the end of the half as the Spiders bullied the Bonnies in the paint with three consecutive layups. Richmond guard Blake Francis’ buzzer-beating three would give the Spiders a 35-33 lead at halftime. 

Schmidt said that halftime is where the problems began for the Bonnies in their loss to URI.

“We didn’t get off to a good start in the second half against Rhode Island,” Schmidt said. “By getting off to a good start in the second half, it sets the tone for the half, and I think the guys did a really good job in that situation.” 

Indeed, coming out of halftime, both teams traded blows. St. Bonaventure went on a streak of five consecutive makes, including a three by Holmes. The Spiders managed to answer back with a three of their own Blake Francis, as they tried to continue their momentum from the end of the half with a 40-39 advantage.   Neither team shot well from beyond the arc on Saturday, with both sides shooting under 30%. 

Francis’ triple proved to be the last time Richmond would lead in this game, as Bonaventure answered it a minute and a half later with a pull-up jumper from Lofton to take a 41-40 lead. 

SBU was aided by several Spider miscues, including forward Tyler Burton fouling out of the game with just over a minute left in regulation. Burton, one of the Spiders’ best three-point shooters and their best free-throw shooter, had been in foul trouble for most of the game.  

With fifteen seconds left in the game and Bona leading by one, Bona guard Dom Welch was called for a foul, sending Spiders forward Grant Golden to the line for two. Had he made both free-throws, Richmond would’ve had a 67-66 lead, and wouldn’t have had to hit a three down the stretch to tie the game. He only hit one of the two. Osunniyi grabbed the rebound and the Bonnies called a timeout. 

Off the timeout, Lofton drove the ball up the court following a game-tying jumper by Blake Francis. He dribbled around the top of the key with six seconds left in the game. With two seconds left, Lofton pulled up, off-balance, a couple feet behind the arc.   

He hit the shot. The Bonnies avoided going 0-2 to start A-10 play, and advanced to 3-1 overall on the season.

Osunniyi finished with seven points and 13 rebounds, while Welch scored 11 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Richmond was led by Francis, who scored 21 points and handed out three assists. Jacob Gilyard had 13 points for the Spiders, while Nathan Cayo turned in a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

After the game, the character of Lofton and Holmes, as well as the entire team, was not lost on Schmidt.

 “Having a difficult game at Rhode Island, you know, we didn’t play well,” Schmidt said. “It was a struggle… we didn’t play a perfect game today by far, but I thought they handled adversity, they learned from their mistakes. The kids responded in a positive way, and that’s what you like from a coaching perspective.” 

Bona will now return home and prepare for St. Joseph’s, against whom the team will host its A-10 home opener on Wednesday.

Bonnies begin A-10 play with pair of road games at Rhode Island, Richmond

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Mark Schmidt breaks each college basketball season down into three parts: non-conference play, conference play and the postseason.

For Schmidt and the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, the first part of the season didn’t go according to plan. The team had six of its eight scheduled games canceled due to a variety of COVID-19 concerns, but won both of the games it was able to play.

After beating Akron and Hofstra, the Bonnies enter Atlantic 10 play undefeated for the first time in program history.

“You just accept it and do the best job you can,” said Schmidt, who is in his 14th season as head coach at SBU, of the team’s unprecedented non-conference slate. “We knew this was going to happen. When it happens, it’s like a punch to the gut, but it is what it is. We’re 2-0, and now we turn our attention to the A-10. It would be just like that if we would have played 11 or 12 games in the non-conference.”

Bona begins A-10 play with a pair of road games against two of the conference’s perennial championship contenders. SBU will first travel to Rhode Island on Wednesday, where they will take on the 3-5 Rams.

“(Rhode Island has) got good size,” Schmidt said. “They’ve got high-major transfers. They’re very aggressive offensively and defensively.”

The Rams, who were picked to finish sixth in the league (Bona was picked to finish fourth), have not only already played eight games this season, but have played three games against Power Five conference opponents. URI’s losses include Arizona State, Boston College and Wisconsin, while the Rams own wins over South Florida, San Francisco and Seton Hall.

URI has lost three games in a row after previously enjoying a three-game winning streak. The Rams have already played one A-10 game, falling at home to Davidson on Dec. 18.

“We’ve got to try to keep them in the half court offensively, and take care of the ball so we don’t turn it over so they can get out on the break,” Schmidt said. “If this is a game that is in the 80s or 90s, they’re probably going to win. We’ve got to try to control tempo as much as we can and do a good job of keeping the ball out of the paint.”

Rhody is led by senior guard Fatts Russell, who has averaged 14.4 points per game and over three assists per game this season. The last time the Bonnies played the Rams, Russell scored 29 points in an 81-75 URI win at the Reilly Center.

“It’s very important for us to take care of the basketball and get shots up,” Schmidt said. “If we can do that and hopefully get some second shots, we’ll be okay. They are a tremendous athletic, physical half-court team.”

Senior guard Jeremy Sheppard averages 9.3 points per game for the Rams, while Antwan Walker, a forward who transferred to the program from Georgetown, averages 8.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

For Bona, Osun Osunniyi has been a bright spot in the middle of Schmidt’s offense. The junior forward/center has averaged 19.5 points and 10 rebounds per game in Bona’s two victories, while junior guards Kyle Lofton and Dominick Welch trail closely behind, each scoring 16.5 points per game over SBU’s young season.

Bona will enjoy the return of transfer guard Anthony Roberts, who missed the team’s first two games due to an extended quarantine period. Roberts averaged 12.7 points per game for Kent State last season.

Despite the lack of in-game reps that the Bonnies have gotten to prepare for A-10 play, Schmidt said that his team is excited to play “no matter who they’re playing.”

After playing URI, Bona will travel to Richmond to play the Spiders, who were the preseason favorite to win the A-10. The Spiders enter A-10 play with a 6-2 record, owning wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt. On Dec. 22, Richmond lost at home to Hofstra, a team that Bona had defeated three days prior.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” Schmidt said. “We’ve played two games.”

Bona and URI are scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. That game can be seen on ESPN+. The Bonnies will tip off against the Spiders at 5 p.m. on Saturday in a game that can be seen on CBS Sports Network.

“These two games aren’t going to tell us how good we are or how bad we are, just like the first two games that we played didn’t tell us how good we are or how bad we are,” Schmidt said on Tuesday. “I’ll probably tell you in three or four weeks where we’re at.”

Quick Hitters: #Bonnies v. Richmond

By Jeff Fasoldt @Jeff_Fasoldt 

Adams absence a factor: Bonnies freshman point guard, Jay Adams, missed his second straight game after recently having surgery to mend his broken right-hand ring finger. It’s safe to say Adams was the Bonnies backbone and floor general in every game that he’s played this year. Missing him hurt the Bonnies chances tonight not only because he is such a capable young player, but because they lacked a serious threat from beyond the arc. Marcus Posley is normally as big a threat as anybody, but even he had an off game tonight.

Second-half Magic for Anthony: There’s a reason why Kendall Anthony is one of the most feared point guards in the A-10. He is undersized but has a quick first step and enough speed to drive to the hoop before big-men can swat him from behind. While only scoring two points in the first half, he turned it on after coming out of the locker room and gathered eight more points to help lead his team to a victory on the road.

Too many turnovers: Richmond came into the game as one of the top teams in the A-10 at protecting the ball, and they held onto that reputation in this game only turning the ball over 11 times. However, things did not go so well for the Bonnies with 19 turnovers on the game—including seven by their starting guards, Marcus Posley and Iakeem Alston.

Caught in the web: Richmond is known for their matchup zone, which confuses opposing offenses and takes advantage of other teams being more athletic then they are. Lets face it, the Bonnies were much larger than Richmond from the guard spot to the forward spot—but the zone takes away the Bonnies big men just enough so that the guards have to jack up three’s.

Winning the ‘three’: When a team plays a zone against you, you must win the three point battle. The brown and white failed to do this tonight, going just 3-13 from beyond the arc. Like you would expect, the Spiders shot 44 percent from three on the night—going 8-18. T.J. Cline, despite being one of the tallest players on Richmond’s team, was leader for the Bonnies from outside going 4-8.

Posley just a little late: Marcus Posley is the most talked about player on this Bonnies team largely in part of his ability to hit big time shots in big games and take over offensively. However, it would be nice for Mark Schmidt if he could’ve gotten going a little earlier in this one. Posley did not score in the first-half. The second half went a little better as he had nine points, but only managed one three pointer on eight attempts.

 

Chris Mooney:

“Ndoye has improved as much as any player that I’ve seen in my coaching career.”

“Our guys did a great job tonight of giving him (Ndoye) uncomfortable touches.”

“Our defense was able to play tighter when it was a half-court game without Jay Adams in for Bonaventure.”

Mark Schmidt:

“For the first eight minutes of the second-half we played terrific, but after Coach Mooney called a time-out everything changed.”

“We missed so many easy baskets and layups. When you’re struggling from the free-throw line you have to have those.”

“(Posley) just has to keep working at it, shooting in the gym. It’s just like when you’re in a hitting slump in baseball so you go to the batting cage.”

 

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