Schmidt Brushes Recruiting Woes Aside

image

[Image courtesy of bringinthepacl.com]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13

Rewind to March 11, 2012 and St. Bonaventure University fans and alumni immediately picture the previously unimaginable — the Bonnies jumping up and down in jubilation after earning the program’s first Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship.

The victory sent Bona into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since 2000, a 12-year gap made even worse by a devastating scandal, and brought added attention to the smallest university in the country to send both its men’s and women’s basketball teams to the tournament.

However, instead of capitalizing on its recent success and the added attention of having a No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, Bona coach Mark Schmidt and his staff oversaw a Fall recruiting period that came and went with no National Letter of Intents entering their hands. In fact, St. Bonaventure was the only Atlantic 10 member to not have a recruit signed during the Fall period.

Now turn to the present and Bona fans can sing a different tune as Schmidt wrapped up the Spring signing period by inking five players, three freshmen and two Junior College transfers. Xavier Smith, Chris Dees, Denzel Gregg, Andell Cumberbatch and Jalen Adams all add up to the most talented class, on paper, Schmidt and his staff have compiled in his six plus years at the helm.

Assistant head coach Steve Curran said it comes down to using all the resources available to them in order to decipher which players can help the program win.

“We go to a ton of exposure camps in the summer where all the best players are and we formulate a list,” Curran said. “A lot of it is contacts we’ve made over the years, phone calls and going out in the field.”

And one of the key contacts during this recent signing period was former Bona player, Tyler Relph who runs a basketball camp in Dallas, TX. Relph played two years at St. Bonaventure, experiencing his best season in Schmidt’s first year as coach, scoring 11.9 points per game.

It was Relph who spoke to Smith, a 6-foot-7 forward with four years of eligibility, about St. Bonaventure and discussed with him the possibility of getting into contact with the coaching staff.

“He told me about his experience at St. Bonaventure and that he didn’t regret a single second of it,” Smith said. “He also talked about the basketball program and the support it received. What he said influenced me a lot on my decision.”

And the decision-making process for Smith became hectic in the latter stages as the East Plano, TX native received offers from schools in the Big 12, but an official visit to campus sealed the deal.

“When I first arrived on campus, the coaches said they would love to have me at St. Bonaventure,” Smith said. “I immediately felt comfortable and welcomed at the school.”

However, while Bona immediately makes a list of players they are interested in because of their talent ability, positional needs always take first priority. With Bona graduating four players — a point guard, small forward, power forward and shooting guard — the staff aimed to get athletic.

Not only did they look for guys who can make an immediate impact, but dug deeper to find players who fit the program and can develop into an even greater force over four years.

“You’re definitely looking at need and the fit into the program,” Curran explained. “We’re looking for a kid who is going to fit into what we are trying to do. We run a lot of specific sets so we need someone with a high basketball IQ.”

With numerous set plays and a lot of four-out offensive sets, Bona needs players who can not only play in the paint, but go off-the-bounce with an outside touch. Curran recognized that Gregg could be that type of player and kept an eye on his possible de-commitment from Fordham based on a tip.

Once Gregg decommitted, Schmidt put on his own version of the full-court press, showing Gregg how vital a piece he could be to the program. It was the coaching staff’s commitment which made it an easy choice for Gregg.

“I already had a great relationship with Coach Curran and Coach Schmidt before my visit,” Gregg said. “Going to campus was really the last step for me in the process. I loved the program, heard good things about it, and I loved the school a lot.”

It’s a refreshing change of pace for a coaching staff that has dealt with criticisms, some warranted, for the inability to seal the deal with recruits during their tenure. That’s not to mention the famed de-commitments that shook the program and hurt the product on the court.

But the tide is quickly turning. Recruits are now discussing the staff’s accomplishments in developing players, their style of play and the level of interest shown to each one of them.

How else to explain Schmidt and his staff nabbing the 6-foot-7 Gregg and Smith, who averaged 12 points, six rebounds and 6.9 points and 7.6 rebounds respectively, and received numerous other offers?

How else to explain that after losing 59 percent of their scoring output from last season, Schmidt landed JUCO guard Cumberbatch to help stretch defenses with his 38 percent 3-point shooting and 50 percent shooting overall?

“Player development with this coaching staff has been really good,” Gregg said. “Look at Nicholson. He didn’t have a lot of D-I offers and they turned him into an NBA star. So I just feel that their development as a whole is great.”

And while no one is announcing there to be another NBA star among the ranks of incoming players, the coaching staff’s track record is unquestioned.

After numerous seasons of not filling positional needs, nor signing players during the regular signing period, Schmidt and his staff came up aces during Finals week. The signings of five talented and athletic players, each of which have the ability to make an immediate impact, displays hope for the near future.

“I want Bonnie fans to know that I won’t let y’all down,” Smith said.

“I want to win and become a better player by working as hard as I can,” Gregg added.

With talented and committed players in the fold, St. Bonaventure’s future no longer looks as dark and dreary as the Olean, N.Y. Winter, but bright enough to shine a light directly on the A-10 Championship banner as the staff attempts to build a team capable of duplicating the feat.

Sudbrook Continues To Lead Bonnies’ Baseball In Right Direction

image

[Image courtesy of gobonnies.com]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13

St. Bonaventure University pitcher Billy Urban stood tall on the mound with runners on first and third with one out. His team had just taken the lead in the top half of the ninth inning, putting head coach Larry Sudbrook just two outs away from a career milestone.

Urban, the team’s starting third baseman with all of 39 appearances on the mound under his belt, struck out the first Saint Joseph’s University batter on a high fastball and recorded a fielder’s choice to close out the game, sending the Bonnies to their third win in four games and handing Sudbrook his 600th career win.

It’s a feat that is even more special when realizing Sudbrook, in his 28th season at the helm of St. Bonaventure, has done it with a shoe-string budget and a no-nonsense approach.

But while 600 wins is a mark that no other St. Bonaventure head coach has come close within earshot of, Sudbrook has not yet taken the time to appreciate what he has accomplished.

“We’re in the midst of a season that we had high hopes for and we are not playing well,” Sudbrook said as he focused on the team’s next opponent. “Maybe in the Fall when I’m sitting in a tree bow-hunting, I’ll get around to thinking about how neat it was.”

The Bonnies are currently sitting in 12th place in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings with a 13-20 overall record, surely a far cry from the circumstances surrounding the program when Sudbrook nabbed his 500th career win.

St. Bonaventure was in the midst of making the A-10 postseason Tournament six out of nine years with one conference title and a second-place finish in the mix.

“The last four or five years, we’ve been mediocre,” Sudbrook said. “That takes away a little bit of the overall enjoyment of winning the 600.”

The honesty in which Sudbrook discussed the state of the baseball program does not surprise his team’s starting third baseman since his freshman season. In fact, Urban who has compiled 220 hits in his career — good enough for a career average of .333, said it would not have happened without his coach.

“I could tell you countless stories about him being brutally honest and it may not always be what you want to hear, but it’s what you need to hear,” Urban said of Sudbrook. “You always know exactly where you stand and that honesty goes a long way. He also relates to all of his players really well.”

Relating to players is something that has set Sudbrook apart and has helped him complete 12 winning seasons at St. Bonaventure, including being named the 2004 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year Award.

Baseball is a sport that is littered with failure no matter how one tries to decipher the small army of numbers available in the stats. The greatest players are considered hitters who compile a batting average of .300, meaning they actually are failing at their job 70 percent of the time.

But starting first baseman Austin Ingraham says Sudbrook understands that some situations call for a humorous environment.

“Baseball is a long season of ups and downs, and coach having the sense of humor that he does helps us all get through it with our sanity,” Ingraham said. “Guys may take it the wrong way sometimes if they’re having a bad day, but you’ll never be successful in this game if you can’t learn to laugh at yourself. Coach definitely encourages that. And for others to laugh at you as well.”

And it’s the old-school approach to the game, always focusing on the task at hand and helping keep the mood light that has led to Sudbrook developing 30 Atlantic 10 All-Conference Selections, 10 Major League Baseball draft picks and 14 Professional Players.

He’s accomplished all this at a school where his program is not fully funded and deals with constant game cancellations due to weather even with McGraw-Jennings Field being completely turf.

“How many programs do you see going through a new coach every four years? That’s a real testament to what coach is and what he’s been for this program and school,” Urban said. “It’s an incredible feat to be coaching for that long.”

“For him to be able to stick with this program and bring it to the top tier of A-10 baseball for as long as he has says a lot about his attitude and work ethic,” Ingraham added.

Right.

Because even with the miniscule budget and a coaching staff not even half the size of the institutions St. Bonaventure faces, Sudbrook keeps the Bonnies afloat in the A-10 using smoke and mirrors.

“Sr. Margaret always likes to talk about the David versus Goliath aspect, so there is that satisfaction when you get wins against schools that have twice the scholarships that we do, bigger coaching staffs and facilities,” Sudbrook said. “But when you’re David, you don’t take a whole lot of time to enjoy beating Goliath because he’s going to get back up.”

While Goliath does get back up, St. Bonaventure’s baseball team continues to fight back, knocking down Goliath with more and more frequency as the man at the helm continues to put his team in the best position to succeed — a total of 605 times and counting.

NBA Regular Season Awards

By Aime Mukendi, Staff Writer, @Sir_Aimezing

If I had a vote…

Sixth Man of the Year: J.R. Smith, SG New York Knicks

Stat line: 18 points per game, five rebounds per game, three assists per game

Smith averaged a career high in minutes, points and rebounds per game. He also stepped in as a replacement for Carmelo Anthony making a few game winning shots versus the Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Bobcats. He also recorded a career high eight double-doubles this season. More shots, more points, bigger impact.

Most Improved Player of the Year: James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets

Stat line: 26 points per game, six assists per game, five rebounds per game

After a disappointing NBA Finals performance as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden was traded to Houston before the season. He recorded 37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals in his first game as a Rocket. He finished fifth in the league in scoring and led the Rockets to their first playoff berth since the 2007-08 season. Harden is the second best shooting guard in the playoffs.

Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trailblazers

Stat line: 19 points per game, seven assists per game, three rebounds per game

Lillard broke Damon Stoudamire’s team record in three pointers made. He is the second player in Trailblazer history to finish a season with 1500 points and 500 assists; he is the third rookie to accomplish this in NBA history and the first since Allen Iverson in the 1996-97 season.

Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls

Stat line: 12 points per game, 11 rebounds per game, two blocks per game, one steal a game

In Derrick Rose’s absence he has become the ultimate difference maker for the Bulls. His presence in the post has been enough to help rank the Bulls third in points allowed per game this season and eighth in rebounds per game. He is the ultimate hustle player and deserves to be recognized for leading the Rose-less Bulls to the fifth seed in the playoffs.

Most Valuable Player of the Year: LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat

Stat line: 27 points per game, eight rebounds per game, seven assists per game

The only thing James had not done since joining the Heat during the regular season was to make a game winning shot. This season he made two. He shot 57 percent from the field and 41 percent from the three-point line, which both are career-highs. Six straight games with 30 points while shooting 60 percent from the field, a 27 game-winning streak and in 76 games failed to score at least 20 points just four times. Miami also has home court throughout the postseason.

Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat

Stat line: 66-16

The Heat are ranked fifth in scoring, fifth in points allowed and seventh in assists in the NBA. Miami has set a team record for wins, clinched home court throughout the postseason and have the second longest winning streak in NBA history. Miami is 8-0 without Chris Bosh in the line-up, 10-2 without Dwyane Wade in the line-up and 5-1 without LeBron James in the line-up.

All-NBA First Team:

Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard

All-NBA Second Team:

Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Brook Lopez

All-NBA Third Team:

Stephen Curry, James Harden, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Chris Bosh

All-Defensive First Team:

Chris Paul, Paul George, LeBron James, Serge Ibaka, Tim Duncan

All-Defensive Second Team:

Mike Conley Jr., Dwayne Wade, Andre Iguodala, Larry Sanders, Dwight Howard

All-Rookie First Team:

Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond

All-Rookie Second Team:

Pablo Prigioni, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, Jonas Valanciunas

Behind The Wolfpack: Bonnies’ Seniors Aim To Leave On Last Mark

image

[St. Bonaventure seniors Demitrius Conger and Eric Mosley, along with Chris Johnson and Michael Davenport will play their final home game tomorrow on Senior Day – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — While tomorrow’s game against Fordham represents a win and in scenario to make the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, it also represents the final home contest for four seniors who have changed the program around.

Demitrius Conger, Michael Davenport, Chris Johnson and Eric Mosley.

Each of these seniors have etched their names into Bona program lore for their accomplishments, but all are aiming to leave a final mark on the program.

“It’s there, man. Everyday we come into the gym, you see the banners and stuff like that,” Chris Johnson said before practice. “But we still got an opportunity to make something happen this year and that’s where the focus is.”

And he’s right.

Because after starting the Atlantic 10 Conference season off with three consecutive losses and facing a daunting road trip to Philadelphia, a place of horrors for the Bona program, things looked bleak.

But those three losses, part of a six-game losing streak, were a turning point for a team that stunned everyone last season by capturing the A-10 Conference Tournament title with a late-season run.

Bona has seemingly captured their footing, winning three out of their last four games. Even more impressive: during their three-game winning streak, Bona averaged 93 points per game, getting hot at the right time once again.

“It’s a different team,” Johnson said. “We’re definitely turning it on in the stretch, but we’re running different plays, different guys are stepping up.”

Perhaps no one has stepped their game up more than the Bonnies’ senior point guard. While Mosley, at 5-foot-10, is the smallest Bona player on the roster, he has played bigger than any of his teammates.

With Bona needing every win they can get, Mosley entered Wednesday night’s game against Dayton averaging 27 points per game over the past four games. What makes that even more scary — it’s nearly identical to Andrew Nicholson’s 27.6 points per game average during last year’s Bonnies’ run.

“I’ve been telling Andrew that he wasn’t better than me,” Mosley said with an ear-to-ear grin. “I don’t know if he believes me or not, but we’re just trying to win games, stats don’t matter. I just want to get another ring.”

Another ring?

This coming from the same program that won just 32 games during a five-year span from the 2003-04 season to the 2007-08 season.

Why the sudden change?

Because players such as Davenport committed to a program that they believed was only going to get better, but even the Cincinnati native did not know the challenge that awaited him.

“I didn’t realize that they went 8-22 until after I had signed,” Davenport said. “My dad said, ‘you know they went 8-22’ and I was like, ‘what?’ To me, that was exciting. To start from scratch and be one of many to leave an imprint on rebuilding a program. That’s the biggest thing that will stick with me.”

But Davenport has also left Bona fans with memories that will stick with them for a lifetime. There was Davenport’s last-second 3-pointer against in Duquesne in 2010, handing the Dukes their first A-10 loss of the season.

Then, there were the numerous highlight dunks, none more so than when on a break, he received a bounce pass from Conger and skied over Lamont Samuel of Fordham. It’s a picture that is enshrined on the walls inside the Reilly Center.

With each highlight play, each signature win like the one over St. John’s, the near misses versus perennial powers such as N.C. State and Virginia Tech, the Bona program rose. And one player who rose each step of the way with it was No. 11.

Conger is truly in a class of his own.

The Brooklyn native has etched out a career so steeped in Bona history that only two other St. Bonaventure players have matched him. Conger has amassed over 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in his career, the only other two were David Vanterpool and Ahmad Smith.

Additionally, this season may be Conger’s best.

The senior forward is the only player in the A-10 to lead his team in points (14.2), rebounds (7.1) and assists (3.1).

But more importantly, the quiet and humble Conger has become more of a leader on the court, talking to his teammates and quieting them down when they become heated with the opposition or referee.

“It’s just something that going into your senior year, you need to do,” Conger said. “You look back on the people before you like Ogo, (Andrew), Quan. You look back on the leadership they showed and what they had done and you try to take that and use your own personality.”

And the personality of the team has changed.

For years, Bona sat in the basement of the A-10 as a perennial joke, but with the additions of players who aimed to make a difference, they have become a tough-minded team capable of anything.

“Once we get our foot in the door, we can play with anyone,” Davenport said. “Last year, while it wasn’t a surprise we got the No. 4 seed, we earned it. And we’re doing the same this year.”

While this year’s Bona squad has not reached the heights of last year’s team, the confidence of being defending A-10 Champions is still there.

“We could have had a better record, but we just dropped a couple of games,” Mosley said. “Making it to the tournament, anyone can win it.”

Whether this Bonnies’ team has any magic left remains to be seen, but with a core group of seniors looking to make a final mark on a program they helped rebuild, anything can happen.

Behind The WolfPack: Walker Leaves Lasting Legacy With The Bonnies

image

[Alaina Walker embodied what it meant to be a Bonnies’ player over her four years with her determination – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y.Alaina Walker stepped through the tunnel of the Reilly Center and onto the court for the last time as a member of St. Bonaventure Women’s Basketball team.

Accompanied by her mother, Walker walked up to Bona coach Jim Crowley and embraced the man who she embodied through her play in each game — all out intensity, hustle and a fighter.

And while the Bonnies had already been eliminated from qualifying for the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season, Walker had one more fight left in her. She aimed to snap the nine-game losing streak and end the season on winning note.

However, as Walker took to the court with music playing and the referee about to toss the ball in the air to open play, she could not help but lose focus, knowing this was her last time to make a first impression.

“Yea, it hit me,” the soft-spoken Walker acknowledged. “Then after that final buzzer went off, it kinda set in that it’s my last game. Unfortunately, you can’t come back. You got to move on.”

But before she did, Walker had to leave her lasting mark on a program that for years represented a doormat for A-10 opponents, only to recently become a preeminent power in the conference.

Facing a La Salle team that was on a four-game skid of their own, Walker made sure they would head back to Philadelphia feeling no love from the Bonnies. After Bona stormed out to a 5-2 advantage, the senior guard led a fast break and wiggled her way into the paint for a lay-up and forcing the Explorers to call their first timeout.

It would not change much the rest of the way as Walker was able to drive to the hoop with ease, sometimes taking it coast-to-coast for acrobatic lay-ups and powerful finishes. And on senior day, it was only fitting that Walker was the star, scoring 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting in a 71-58 Bona victory.

It marked just the third conference win of the season for the Bonnies (10-19, 3-11) after a magical run to the Sweet 16 last season. Graduating four seniors hurt Bona in the leadership department.

With only one senior in the starting lineup following Chelsea Bowker’s injury, the bed was made.

“This isn’t where we wanted to be on March 3, 2013, but it is where we’re at,” Crowley said. “I’m glad we could get a win for this kid sitting next to me (Alaina) whose given so much to the program that we could at least send her out on a positive note.”

Right.

Walker has proved invaluable to the Brown and White’s success over the course of her four-year career. While it was Jessica Jenkins, Megan Van Tatenhove and Armelia Horton who received much of the accolades, Bona would not have had as much success without the play of Walker.

“Alaina has the greatest skill we could ever ask for in a player,” Crowley said. “And it’s effort. Effort is a skill and she has it. She’s exactly what we want our players to be like.”

A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference’s All-Defensive Team, Walker helped shut-down opposing guards and forwards alike, keeping Bona ranked in the top half of the conference on defense.

The 5-foot-9 guard racked up 107 steals, 38 blocks and dished out 190 assists during her time with the Bonnies. However, with just 1:23 left in regulation against La Salle, Walker jumped high into the air and corralled her fifth rebound of the contest.

Why is that rebound significant?

It was career rebound No. 600, making her just the 10th St. Bonaventure player to reach that mark as she averaged 4.8 rebounds per game over her career.

Even more impressive?

Only one St. Bonaventure player grabbed 600 plus rebounds and was shorter than the 5-foot-9 Walker. That player was Missy Ward who was 5-foot-8.

“I just do what I do best,” Walker said laughingly. “That’s one of my assets, rebounding. On both ends of the floor, so I tried to keep that going throughout my career here.”

But just like her coach who fought his way through three consecutive nine-win seasons and subsequent one-year contracts to turn the program into a winner, Walker has fought to make herself a better player.

Turn the page to her freshman season and Walker was rarely a threat to take a mid-range jumper. Even last season the sight of her pulling up may have brought groans from the crowd, but this year has been different.

Walker turned in a career-high 21 points against UMass and unveiled a lethal mid-range jumper that helped bump her scoring average in Atlantic 10 play from 6.4 last season to 10.7 points per game this year.

“She scored the ball in high school, but struggled on how to carry that over,” Crowley said of his senior starter. “But she kept working to improve. She probably could have scored more the past few years, but she didn’t need to. She needed to play defense, grab rebounds and keep others involved.”

Selfless.

Walker did whatever was needed for the good of the team and Crowley said her battle with mononucleosis was what derailed Bona from qualifying for the A-10 Tournament to defend their crown.

“I still think this year is a heck of a lot different if mono doesn’t grab her halfway through our conference season,” Crowley said. “She’d come off her 21-point game against UMass, finding her rhythm and we were finding ours with her.”

While Bona never was able to find their groove and qualify or the A-10 Tournament, one can not discredit the impact Walker had on the program. She never relented no matter the score, no matter the record and did whatever was needed to win.

They say the team normally represents the attitude of the coach, but perhaps this time the coach represented the player.

Quick Hits: Bonnies Snap Nine-Game Skid, Win On Senior Day

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13

Game Story: St. Bonaventure looked to snap a nine-game skid against La Salle, the Bonnies came out inspired, jumping out to an early 7-2 advantage on Senior Day. Playing tough defense and utilizing the entire shot-clock, St. Bonaventure kept the game close throughout and earned the 71-58 victory in their final game of the season. Alaina Walker and Doris Ortega led the way for Bona with 18 points apiece followed be CeCe Dixon with 16 points of her own.

Senior Day Streak: Under head coach Jim Crowley, the Bonnies are now 9-4 on senior day and are currently riding a five-game winning streak. The streak began with an upset over No. 13 George Washington in the 2007-08 season. 

Walker’ing Away: Alaina Walker has been among the best defenders in the Atlantic 10 Conference, but in her senior season she has erupted on offense. Walker has set a career-high in points this season with 21 against UMass and showed off he offensive skills against La Salle. The senior dropped in 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting in her final game in the Brown and White.

Ortega’s Streaking: Doris Ortega has scored now scored in double-digits for the 10th consecutive game after her 17-point performance on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. Ortega’s streak began with 16 points against Rhode Island and she has averaged 12.3 points per game during its duration.

CeCe For Three: The junior guard has rediscovered her 3-point stroke over the last three games, hitting at least two treys in each game. Against La Salle, Dixon nailed two first 3-pointers en route to a 14-point performance on 4-for-9 shooting, including 6-of-8 from the free throw line.

Fighting To The End: While the Bonnies have embarked on a disappointing season following a Sweet 16 run, Bona has never faltered to battle teams to the final whistle. Trailing by 13 points with 37 seconds to then No. 14 Dayton, Bona stormed to within four points before falling to the Flyers. Bona then fought back from a 16-point deficit at Fordham to pull within one before falling to the Rams. The Bonnies have been one possession away, showing hope for a bright future.

Walker On The Glass: After recording five rebounds, Alaina Walker just become the 10th player in St. Bonaventure women’s basketball history to grab 600 plus rebounds in a career. 

Farewell: St. Bonaventure bid adieu to two seniors who were instrumental in forming a winning tradition with the Brown and White. Alaina Walker has played in 125 games during her four seasons at Bona, averaging 6.1 points per game, but her best contribution has been on the defensive end. Her tenacity on that side of the ball has helped Bona shut down numerous All-Conference players, helping the program reach new height. Jordan McGee came to Bona as a junior college transfer and also helped make Crowley’s defense among the top in the Atlantic 10 Conference. 

Eliminated: For the first time since the 2005-06 season, St. Bonaventure will not qualify for the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. That season the Bonnies finished with a 9-18 record and just a 3-13 mark in conference play. This year, St. Bonaventure lost their first two conference games before winning their next two, setting the stage for their season-ending 10 game slide.

Next Up: An off-season to help the freshmen develop from their impressive debut seasons in the Brown and White and once again establish a winning tradition.

Behind The Wolfpack: Bona Surging After Third Straight Victory

[Matthew Wright has rediscovered his lost stroke since dealing with his foot injury as he dropped 20 points in Bona’s 104-84 rout of Charlotte – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — It was around late February to early March of last season when the St. Bonaventure Bonnies finally hit their stride and lived up to their preseason billing and suddenly this years squad is beginning to revisit history.

Facing a Charlotte team that was among the three teams tied with Bona for ninth place in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings, the Bonnies came out of the locker room on a mission. Bona scored the game’s first four points and the 49ers never came any closer in a 104-83 rout at the Reilly Center.

The 104 points is tied for the most Bona (14-13, 7-7) has scored against an Atlantic 10 opponent and is the first time eclipsing the century mark since a 112-107 four overtime win against Ohio on Dec. 18, 2010.

“I thought in the first half, we could not have played any better,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said after his team’s third straight victory. “We had a little bit of a let-down in the second half though.”

A little bit of a let-down may have been the only aspect wrong with St. Bonaventure’s dominating performance that surely captured some attention from around the league. The Brown and White connected at a season-high 58 percent clip and played stingy defense, limiting Charlotte (18-10, 6-8)  to just 38.7 percent shooting from the field.

It’s a performance that puts the rest of the A-10 Conference on notice.

While VCU, Saint Louis and Butler get most of the attention, and rightfully so, the defending A-10 Conference Champions are surging at the right time once again.

Charlotte learned of Bona’s penchant for going on second-half-of-the-season runs the hard way as the Brown and White barraged the 49ers with nine 3-pointers in the first half alone, connecting at a blistering 61 percent for the game — also tied for a season high.

But even with the win and statement it sent, Schmidt was not happy with the way his team finished the game.

“We talk about curbing,” Schmidt said. “It’s an IRA term about knock a guy down, open his mouth and knock his teeth out. That’s what you try to do when you have someone down and we didn’t curb them.”

That’s a scary thought for the rest of the league as the A-10 Tournament nears.

The Bonnies did not finish off Charlotte in the manner they would have preferred, but they still captured a dominating 21-point victory. And how did they accomplish that?

It starts with the play of Matthew Wright.

Wright’s importance to the Bona team has never been fully realized until the Bonnies began conference play by dropping their first four games while looking at a road trip to both Temple and Saint Joseph’s, a bad omen. Yet, Wright came out out of the shadows and scored 22 and 18 points respectively in the two Bona wins.

But a left foot injury slowed him down, limiting him to an average of just 17 minutes per game over the last four, not including missing two games against Butler and Duquesne. However, Wright is seemingly getting healthy and he showed it against the 49ers.

Wright followed up a Youssou Ndoye jump-hook with a mid-range jumper from the top of the key himself in the games opening minutes, giving him all the confidence he needed. The Toronto native would hit his first four shots of the game, three of which from beyond the arc as he compiled 20 points on the night, helping Bona pile on Charlotte.

“My high school coach said if you’re going to lace them up, there’s no excuses,” Wright said of dealing with his injury. “I told myself, ‘I’m going to play and I’m going to play as hard as I can’.”

But Wright is not the only player who is playing as hard as he can.

Eric Mosley has been garnering much of the attention over the past few weeks and for good reason. The reigning A-10 Player of the Week dropped in two 30-point games and a solid 16-point effort against Duquense.

However, the senior has continued to catch fire from beyond the arc as he connected on 5-of-8 3-point attempts en route to another 23-point performance against the 49ers. Mosley’s elevation of his game is leaving many to think back to how Andrew Nicholson elevated his game when Bona needed him most.

“I think we are playing more collectively as a team,” Mosley said after Bona racked up 22 assists against Charlotte. “But more importantly guys are making shots, but we have guys stepping up, like Dion tonight.”

Right.

Because it wasn’t just the usual suspects for the Brown and White during this victory. With Marquise Simmons and Youssou Ndoye both fouling out, someone needed to fill their minutes and Dion Wright proved to be more than a place-holder.

The freshman had not recorded a minute of game action since Feb. 6 at Butler, but there was no rust in his game. The 6-foot-7 forward proved agile around the basket, throwing down two dunks and recording two putbacks en route a career-high 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

With 10 Bona players cracking the scoresheet, this Bona team is confident as they hold sole possession of the ninth spot in the A-10 standings with just two games to go.

“Around this time last year we started to hit our peak,” Wright said. “We know how crucial that is going into the A-10 Tournament. So yea, I think we are starting to hit our stride.”

Scoring an average of 93 points over their three-game winning streak, a message has been sent to the rest of the league — The defending champions were not curbed and now they aim to repeat recent history with another magical finish.

Quick Hits: Bonnies Send Charlotte Packing In Rout

By Ryan Lazo, Editor in Chief, @RMLazo13

Game Story: Entering the game, St. Bonaventure was in a four-way tie for ninth place in the Atlantic 10, one of those teams being the Charlotte 49ers. And the Bonnies came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders, playing tough defense and nailing their outside shots. Matthew Wright and Eric Mosley scored 28 of the Bonnies’ 53 points in the first half as eight Bona players cracked the scoresheet. After hitting nine 3-pointers in the first half, the Bonnies cooled down in the second, but the lead was never in jeopardy during the 104-83 spanking of the 49ers at the Reilly Center.  The win marked the first time this season Bona eclipsed 100 points and the first time since they dropped 112 in an 4OT victory over Ohio Dec. 18, 2010

Sloppy Play: While the Bonnies handled VCU’s havoc defense well, turning the ball over just 16 times, Bona could not handle Charlotte’s full-court pressure. The 49ers forced Bona into 15 second-half turnovers, mostly off of inbounds plays and in the back court. It will need to be addressed before their next game. 

Stout Defense: The Bonnies defense has never been confused with the Chicago Bulls’, but their effort against Charlotte would have made even Tom Thibodeau smile. St. Bonaventure limited Charlotte to a paltry 25 percent shooting in the first half and a dismal 38.7 percent for the game

Forgotten Man: Due to foul trouble, Dion Wright entered the game in the first half for his first game action since Feb. 6 at Butler. Wright scored a career-high 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting and grabbed four rebounds. 

The Wright Stuff: Matthew Wright finally found the stroke that has evaded him since a left foot injury derailed his season. The junior sharpshooter tallied 20 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. 

Three For The Win: St. Bonaventure has lived and died with the three ball for much of the season and against Charlotte, the rim might have well been the Atlantic Ocean. The Bonnies were blistering from beyond the arc in the first half, shooting 7-for-9 from three and finished the game shooting an absurd 61 percent. 

Senior Impact: After scoring 82 percent of the Bonnies’ points against Duquesne last week, Bona’s seniors once again helped key a third straight victory. The seniors combined for 54 of Bona’s 104 total points. Each senior: Davenport, Simmons, Johnson, Conger and Mosley cracked the scoresheet.

Tight Competition: Without even playing on Wednesday night, St. Bonaventure moved from the 12th and final spot to qualify for the A-10 Tournament, into a four-way tie for ninth. The Bonnies hold the tiebreakers over UMass, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and now Charlotte. 

No. 2 equals 44: Eric Mosleyis doing his best Andrew Nicholson impression over the course of his final games among the Brown and White. Mosley tallied back-to-back 30-point games, including a 39-point effort against UMass — the most ever by a Bona player against an A-10 opponent.

History Repeating: Last year, St. Bonaventure struggled through the early part of the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule, but caught fire at the end, winning four of their last five. With their victory over Charlotte, the Bonnies have won three straight with just two games remaining.

Next Up: The Bonnies travel to UD Arena to take on the suddenly surging Dayton Flyers, winners of two straight. Dayton currently holds a 5-8 record, just one game out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. 

Quotes: 

Schmidt: “I thought in the first half, we could not have played better both on the offense and defense. There was a little bit of a let-down in the second half. We try to put them away but we have them life.”

“That’s the best half of basketball we’ve played. The last four or five games we have played really well.”

“When we are shooting the ball around the perimeter, we are hard to guard.”

Matthew Wright “Around this time last year we hit our peak. We know how crucial that is and I think we are starting to hit our stride.”