MBB: Bonnies can build on national recognition with pair of road wins this week

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — For the second-consecutive week, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team received recognition from the Associated Press that it hadn’t previously gotten in nearly three years.

The Bonnies received 19 “votes” for inclusion in the AP’s Top 25 rankings on Monday, 11 more than they did a week ago. One voter listed the Bonnies as the 21st-best team in the country this week, while one ranked them 22nd, two ranked them 24th and six voters ranked them 25th.

“I think you use it as a positive,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “All the hard work that the kids have put in, and the way we’ve gotten off to a good start, they deserve some national recognition. But, at the same time, they need to remember what got us here.”

SBU’s 19 points are good enough for 32nd in the country, although the AP only officially ranks the top 25 teams. The Bonnies hadn’t previously received votes since late in the 2017-18 season, when they appeared for three-consecutive weeks in the midst of a 12-game winning streak to end the regular season.

Just two days after beating then-No. 16 Rhode Island at home, Bona received 13 votes, which was good enough for 31st in the nation. Two weeks later, the Bonnies received 72 votes, missing the Top 25 by one spot.

SBU hasn’t been ranked in the Top 25 in over 50 years, since it was ranked No. 10 on Jan. 19, 1971. Two more wins this week, however, including one over Saint Louis on Saturday, would help Bona’s case for re-joining the rankings after a half-century absence.

“The notoriety is good and our players deserve that, but at the same time, I think we have an experienced team that understands that all the notoriety could be (short-lived),” Schmidt said. “If we continue to do our job, those accolades will come. That’s the message to the players.”

Saint Louis checked in just behind the Bonnies in this week’s rankings, receiving 11 votes, which tied the Billikens with Belmont for 33rd-best in the nation. After a 7-1 non-conference schedule that included wins over LSU and North Carolina State, the Billikens were forced to wait until Jan. 26 to play their first A-10 game.

The result was a home loss to Dayton, which knocked SLU out of the Top 25, where it had been ranked 22nd the week before.

Before playing at Chaifitz Arena on Saturday, however, the Bonnies will travel to Saint Joseph’s to play a Hawks team that it has beaten six-consecutive times dating back to the 2017-18 season. The Bonnies ran away with a win over Saint Joe’s on Jan. 6 at the Reilly Center, as career-high scoring nights from Jaren Holmes (38 points) and Jalen Adaway (24 points) led SBU to an 83-57 victory.

Schmidt warned, however, that his team isn’t overlooking SJU after already beating the Hawks once this season.

“That final score wasn’t indicative of how that game went,” Schmidt said. “Our guys understand that it was 32-28 at half time, and we were down most of the first half. It got out of hand in the last 10 minutes of that game.”

After leading by just four points at halftime, Bona out-scored Joe’s 51-29 in the second half, aided by 60% shooting from the field and 7-for-9 shooting from three-point range.

“Our guys experienced them,” Schmidt said. They understand how difficult it is to guard them. They got our attention and we understand how good of an offensive team they are.”

Absent from the teams’ first meeting was Hawks redshirt senior forward Ryan Daly, who has not played since Dec. 21 due to injury. The Hawks are hopefully that Daly could return to their lineup for Wednesday’s matchup with SBU.

The return of Daly, a third-team all-league selection a year ago and SJU’s “best player,” according to Schmidt, could help an offense that has averaged just under 70 points per game this season while giving up over 83 points per game.

“The way they play, they’re trying to get 30 or 40 (three-point attempts) up,” Schmidt said. “On any given night, especially at home, they’re making those threes.”

The Hawks’ three-point shooting struggled at the Reilly Center in January, shooting 10-for-34 (29%).

Bona will seek its eighth-consecutive A-10 victory against the Hawks, and if it takes care of business, will be primed for one of its most important games of the season against the Billikens on Saturday.

Wednesday’s game, which is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m., will be broadcasted on ESPN+.

Lofton’s value, versatility shine in 11-assist performance

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — If you’re a fan of box scores and a fan of St. Bonaventure men’s basketball, you’ve probably gotten used to seeing double-digit numbers next to Kyle Lofton’s name in the points category.

Lofton averaged over 14 points per game in each of his first two seasons at SBU, and through five games of a young 2020-21 season, he has averaged 13.2 points per game. On Wednesday, however, Lofton scored only four of Bona’s 83 points in a blowout win over Saint Joseph’s.

What the junior guard lacked in points, he made up for on the rest of the stat sheet.

Lofton dished out 11 assists, pulled down eight rebounds and had one steal against the Hawks, while two of his teammates enjoyed career-high scoring nights. Jaren Holmes scored 38 points on 14-for-22 shooting and 8-for-12 three-point shooting, while Jalen Adaway scored 24 points after shooting 11-for-12 from the field.

While Lofton’s offensive output against the Hawks was unusual for a player that had scored at least 13 points in each of the team’s first four games this season, Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said that his stat line on Wednesday showed the leadership that he brings to the team.

“He’s the leader,” Schmidt said. “He doesn’t care whether he scores one point or 25 points; he wants to win. He shared the ball and he’s smart.”

Lofton, who is a career 44% shooter from the floor and 32% shooter from beyond the three-point line, was 0-for-7 against the Hawks, and 0-for-3 from beyond the arc. Despite struggling to make shots, he only turned the ball over twice.

“That’s what’s so special about him,” Schmidt said.” He doesn’t care about scoring. His shot’s not going down, but he’s still a team guy and that’s what you want.”

Since Lofton arrived at SBU before the 2018-19 season, he has been Schmidt’s “floor general” at the point guard position. He has averaged over 37 minutes per game (regulation-length games are 40 minutes) in each season for the Bonnies. He played 35 minutes in his collegiate regular-season debut two seasons ago.

Since the departure of Jaylen Adams from the point guard position for Bona three years ago, Lofton has been the guy that Schmidt has trusted to run that position, which is the centerpiece to his offensive system.

Lofton has shown that he has been a competent successor to Adams, being both durable and consistent in the back court. He started all 34 of the team’s games two years ago and all 31 of its contests a year ago. Over his career, he has averaged 4.9 assists per game and 2.3 turnovers per game.

And, even on nights that Lofton struggles on the offensive end, he makes plays for the Bonnies.

“He knew that (Holmes) had a hot hand (against Saint Joe’s), and every point guard, that’s what you do,” Schmidt said. “You go back to that guy. A lot of times, when you don’t shoot the ball well, your head goes down and you get worried about that, but (Lofton is) not that type of kid.”

After Adams graduated in 2018, it was a change of pace for Bona fans to see someone else playing point guard in Mark Schmidt’s offense.

When Lofton leaves, presumably after four full years of manning the point for the Bonnies, perhaps SBU fans will feel the same way about his successor.

Holmes scores 38 as Bona blows out Saint Joseph’s

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — If Jaren Holmes had been the only player to score for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, the Bonnies would have only lost to Saint Joseph’s by 19 points.

Holmes had a career-high 38 points on 14-for-22 shooting from the field and 8-for-12 shooting from three-point range, as the Bonnies blew out the Hawks, 83-57, on Wednesday at the Reilly Center.

Bona took a four-point lead into halftime, but it was a 25-6 second-half run that spanned nearly 10 minutes of game time that put the Hawks away. During the run, Holmes scored 17 points and hit three triples. After the Hawks finally broke a dry spell from three-point range with a triple by Jack Forrest, Holmes responded with a three of his own.

Four minutes later, he hit two more three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to cap the best shooting night of his career.

“Guys kept giving me the ball in the right spots,” Holmes said. “My job at (SBU) is to hit shots, and I think I did that today. It definitely was my night. “

The junior guard from Romulus, Michigan attributed his success to finding holes in the Hawks’ zone defense, which SJU played nearly the entire game.

“They had holes in their zone, so we were just trying to exploit them,” Holmes said. “I was in those spots and ready to fire. We practice those shots in pregame warmups, and those were the shots that I was hitting tonight.”

Holmes’ shooting confidence, he said, has been aided by not only gelling with his teammates, but by the number of reps he has been able to get in leading up to this season.

“I’ve been getting a lot of reps in,” he said. “Shooting late nights, early mornings, and working with the guys and telling the guys ‘I’m here’ or ‘look for me there’. We’re just trying to feed off of each other. Me getting 38 (points) without my teammates is almost impossible, especially playing (against the) zone.”

Nearly lost in Holmes’ exceptional game was an 11-for-12 shooting night from Jalen Adaway, who scored 24 points without attempting a three-point shot. Adaway also pulled down seven rebounds and handed out four assists.

“(Holmes) and (Adaway) played exceptionally well,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “We had 27 assists and seven turnovers; any coach in America would be happy with that. We attacked their zone effectively and we out-rebounded them, so we hit all of our marks.”

Holmes’ eight three-pointers land him third all-time for the most in a game in Bona history, not far behind Jaylen Adams, who hit 10 triples on 13 attempts against Saint Louis in 2018. Holmes also had 10 rebounds in the game, giving him his first double-double of the season.

Schmidt said that Holmes’ commitment to basketball and the time that he puts into the sport have shown.

“Every kid that works their tail off, as a coach, you want them to be successful and have nights like this,” Schmidt said. “I’m proud of him, and I know his teammates are.”

Adaway’s performance didn’t go unnoticed to Schmidt, either.

“(Holmes) has had some success in the Atlantic 10 before, but (Adaway) hasn’t,” Schmidt said of the junior transfer from Miami (OH). “A night like this should give him a lot more confidence.”

The Bonnies out-scored the Hawks 51-29 in the second half and shot 47% from the floor, while SJU shot 37%. Bona junior guard Kyle Lofton was kept off the score sheet for most of the night, but found other ways to contribute, dishing out 11 assists and pulling down eight rebounds to go with his four points.

Taylor Funk and Cameron Brown each scored 13 points for Saint Joseph’s, while Jordan Hall just missed a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds to go with five assists. The Hawks fell to 0-8 and 0-3 in A-10 play.

The win was SBU’s second in a row, as the Bonnies now sit at 2-1 in A-10 play after beating Richmond and losing to Rhode Island. Bona is 4-1 overall.

“We’re getting more camaraderie with the new guys coming in, and I love the step that we’re taking,” Holmes said. “Ultimately, this was just a great win for us and a great stepping stone to keep moving up in the A-10.”

The Bonnies will be back at the RC on Saturday to play George Washington in a game that is scheduled to tip off at noon.

“You win and be competitive in the Atlantic 10 by winning your home games, protecting your home court, and trying to steal some on the road,” Schmidt said. “We’ve stolen one on the road, now we’ve protected our house one time. We have many more times where we need to protect our house, and we need to steal some more on the road.”