photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Jeff Uveino
Kyle Lofton did it again.
The St. Bonaventure guard hit a go-ahead jumper with three seconds remaining and the Bonnies defeated the La Salle Explorers Wednesday night, 62-60.
Lofton, a freshman, got the ball to start a Bonnies possession with 10.7 seconds left and the score tied. He dribbled to his right, drove to his left and pulled up from the free throw line to send the Reilly Center crowd into a frenzy.
“It was on me to take the last shot,” said Lofton. “Coach trusts me and gives me room to make errors, so that makes me more comfortable. I was confident and I hit it.”
Lofton finished the game with 18 points.
Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said he has been impressed with Lofton’s shot-making ability all season and that the freshman plays beyond his years.
“I trust him, he plays 40 minutes a game,” said Schmidt. “He hits big shots and he doesn’t play like a freshman. Out of the timeout, I can put the ball in his hands and know that, for the most part, he’s going to make the right play.”
The game was close the whole way, with SBU leading by four points at halftime. The Explorers came out of the gates strong in the second half, but an and-one dunk from SBU forward Osun Osunniyi followed by a technical on LaSalle gave the Bonnies momentum. They proceeded to go on a 13-3 run.
The Bonnies led by as many as 11 points in the second half (50-41), but La Salle’s shooting got them back into the game late.
The Explorers hit ten three-pointers on the night, as opposed to just three from the Bonnies.
La Salle appeared as if it would get the last possession of the game, but guard Isiah Deas slipped on a drive and turned the ball over, giving Lofton his chance.
Schmidt talked about SBU’s defensive performance and its struggles that kept La Salle in the game.
“I always say, if you defend, rebound, take care of the ball and make your foul shots, you’ll do well,” he said. “We only did two of those things tonight. In the last couple games, we took care of the ball and made our free throws, and that’s why we won by a larger margin. We didn’t do those things tonight, which kept it close.”
Courtney Stockard scored 16 points and dished out seven assists for the Bonnies. Osunniyi had another big night on the glass with 13 rebounds, nine points and five blocks.
“Defense has always been the main focus of my game,” said Osunniyi. “We feed off the crowd and want to get them in the game early, so if I can block some shots it gets them involved and helps my teammates on the offensive end.”
La Salle was led by Pookie Powell, who scored 20 points and knocked down four three-pointers. Deas added 16 points.
Explorers guard Saul Phiri scored 10 points and hit a big three with a minute left to tie the game at 60 before the Lofton magic.
St. Bonaventure improved to 12-14 overall and 8-5 in the Atlantic 10, and La Salle fell to 8-17 overall and 6-7 in the A10.
The Bonnies have now won three games in a row and six of their last eight.
“It wasn’t a masterpiece offensively, but we gutted it out,” said Schmidt. “It was a blue-collar win.”