Bona fans– Don’t think what it could have been. Think what it can be

photos courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

BROOKLYN– It looked like a story book ending.

But it ended in a way that broke the hearts of the thousands of Bonnies fans that traveled to Brooklyn over the weekend.

When the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team’s 2018-19 season came to an end Sunday afternoon, it left an opportunity on the table that could have only been dreamed about at the beginning of the year.

The Bonnies fell to Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 championship game, and the college careers of Courtney Stockard, LaDarien Griffin and Nelson Kaputo came to an end.

St. Bonaventure entered the tournament as the fourth seed, but once Sunday came around, it looked like everything they needed to happen to win the tournament came true.

 

The top three seeds in the tournament (VCU, Davidson, Dayton) had all been knocked out, and the Bonnies awaited a Saint Louis team in the final that they had beaten eight days before.

 

But when the final buzzer sounded, it brought sorrow instead of joy for Bonnies fans.

Bona was so close, so close, to making an an improbable run to the NCAA tournament. It would have been the first time the program had ever went to the tournament in back-to-back years and a remarkable end to the careers of three seniors that have been through a lot over the past four seasons at SBU.

But for many Bonnies fans, it became the game, the championship and the tournament run that could have been.

 

Sure, it’s easy to look back at the past and think what could have resulted if a bounce or two could have gone Bona’s way. It’s also easy to look at the turnaround that this team had, after starting the season 4-10 and then coming within seven minutes of an A10 championship.

But at the culmination of this season, what Bonnies fans should really be excited is the year to come– and probably the next three.

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Bonnies center Osun Osunniyi during their win over Rhode Island

The team started three freshmen (when they were healthy) for the majority of the season. Kyle Lofton, Dom Welch and Osun Osunniyi averaged a combined 30 points and 14.4 rebounds per game during the regular season. The trio also scored 35.3 points per game and pulled down 18 rebounds per game during the A10 tournament.

 

Under a coach that is notorious for giving freshmen time to develop before he gives them significant playing time, it is remarkable what this year’s freshman class did.

Lofton and Osunniyi, prep school teammates, each blossomed into impact players in the Atlantic 10 over the course of the year. Both were named to the conference’s All-Rookie team, and Osunniyi was also named to its All-Defensive team.

For his play over the weekend, Lofton was named to the A10 All-Tournament team.

Welch, who missed nine games in the regular season with an injury, took longer to come around than the other two.

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Bonnies guard Dom Welch after hitting a three against George Mason

But the Buffalo native showed his potential in Brooklyn. Welch shot 6-12 from beyond the arc and scored 20 a career-high points in Bona’s quarterfinal win over George Mason, and followed it up with a 13-point performance the next day against Rhode Island.

 

What impressed me the most from Welch over the weekend was his defensive awareness. He was all over the court, and his defensive play, along with his offense, showed that he was finally ready to play at the level Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt had hoped he could.

“The future is bright,” said Schmidt after the loss to Saint Louis. “We’ve got to bring in some more guys, but they are a talented group that is going to continue to get better.”

Schmidt has already landed several players who could fill the roles the seniors left, including Bobby Planutis, a transfer from Mt. St. Mary’s who had to sit out this season, and Justin Winston, a three-star recruit from the same prep school that Lofton and Osunniyi came from (Putnam Science Academy).

Those players and the other returners will have 25-point-per-game shoes to fill that Stockard and Griffin will take with them when they graduate.

Sounds tough, but Bona was put in the same situation this year after they lost Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley’s combined 37.2 points per game.

Maybe I’m just trying to be positive.

But it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Bonnies have a special trio of freshmen on their hands who have big-game experience after playing into Sunday of the A10 tournament. That experience will go a long way in future years if they can find themselves in the same spot.

The 2019 Bonnies came close. But this tournament run, which was almost one for the ages, could be just the beginning of what this young group can accomplish.

I’m not the only one who feels that way. In the final press conference of his career, Griffin showed his enthusiasm for the future of the Bona program.

“Those guys are gonna use this season as motivation and as long as they stay together they’re going to be really special,” said Griffin.

“They’re going to be really, really good.”

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Bonnies defense leads the way to fifth straight win

photo courtesy of gobonnies@sbu.edu

By Isaiah Blakely

The all-time season series between the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and the Duquesne Dukes was 60-60 coming into Wednesday night in the Reilly Center. The Bonnies had won five of the last six meetings with the Dukes by six points or less.

But this night was a different story for St. Bonaventure (14-14, 10-5 A-10) which clinched its 10 win in Atlantic 10 play for a program record fifth season in a row beating the Dukes (18-10, 9-5 A-10) 68-47.

The Bonnies defense led the way once again only allowing one Dukes player to score in double figures. Two of Bonaventure’s seniors led the way. Courtney Stockard led all scorers with 21 points and LaDarien Griffin had his second double-double of the year with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Stockard got Bonaventure rolling, scoring six early points to help the Bonnies jump out to a 19-7 lead. That early run was capped off by freshman Osun Osunniyi’s two-handed slam. The Bonnies had four scorers in double figures including Osunniyi who had 10 points and added nine rebounds and three blocks. Freshman guard Kyle Lofton also scored 10 points and had six assists.

St. Bonaventure’s biggest lead in the first half was 17, but Duquesne it strong including a layup right before half by freshman Lamar Norman Jr., to cut the Bonnies halftime lead to 33-22. Norman Jr. was the Dukes only scorer in double figures, he had 20 points.

The Bonnies started the second half fast with an 8-0 run to go up 19.

Stockard sealed the win in the final minutes with a three pointer from the wing and a reverse jam on the fast break to put the Bonnies up 20.

Duquesne only shot 28 percent from the field and head coach Mark Schmidt talked about the defensive performance.

“It was as good of a defensive performance as we’ve had all year,” Schmidt said. “If someone would’ve told me that we would’ve held them to 47 points, I would have told them they were crazy.”

The Bonnies have held six of their last seven opponents to 60 points or less are 12-0 this season in those games.

The Bonnies now have a .500 record for the first time since they were 1-1 after their win over Jackson State in November.

The Bonnies are looking to get over .500 for the first time all year on Saturday at George Washington

Fourth quarter surge pushes Rams past Bonnies

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Isaiah Blakely

A 20-6 fourth quarter advantage propelled the VCU Rams (17-6, 9-1 A-10) to a comeback victory over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (7-15, 4-5 A-10) 59-50 Wednesday night in the Reilly Center. 

The Bonnies started out with a 9-2 lead including freshman Asianae Johnson’s eight points.  

The Bonnies stifling defense continued as they took an 18-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. They held VCU to only 19% shooting.  

In the second quarter, the leaders in the A-10 woke up. The Rams went on a 19-6 run to take the lead after sophomore Sofya Pashigoreva’s layup. Pashigoreva was part of a dominant night on the glass for the Rams. The Bonnies were outrebounded 36-28. 

Despite the rebounding differential, Bonnies freshman Deja Francis helped stopped the run by the Rams by scoring two of her seven points to tie the game at 27 with three seconds left in the half. 

It was a back fourth affair throughout the third quarter. Sophomore Emily Calabrese was the first player in double figures by scoring eight of her 10 points in the third quarter. Calabrese capped off a strong quarter for the Bonnies with a buzzer beater to put the Bonnies up 44-39 going into the fourth quarter.  

The fourth quarter was a similar story to the second quarter. The Bonnies went almost seven minutes without scoring, leading to a 14-0 run for the Rams to start the quarter. Johnson scored a layup to end the run but VCU was up 54-47. Coming out of the timeout freshman Kseniya Malashka hit a rare three-pointer to put VCU up ten and down the Bonnies.  

Johnson led the game in scoring with 15 points, while the Rams were paced by sophomore Taya Robinson who had 13 points and junior Danielle Hammond 12 points.  

“The way we’ve played for two weeks now and the way we’ve shared the ball; we’ve got athleticism and a good rotation,” said coach Jesse Fleming.  “We were so locked in to start the game that I thought we were going to be able to finish.” 

Fleming is opportunistic about this team’s development. 

“We’re getting closer,” “We’re showing some really good flashes. But, there’s a lot of things that we’ve got to keep working on.” 

The Bonnies look to continue their improved play on the road Saturday against Davidson. 

Davidson dominates second half to beat Bonnies

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

by Keara Donnelly

A much anticipated Atlantic 10 rivalry game Friday night on ESPN2 ended with the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (8-13) falling short to the Davidson Wildcats (16-5), 75-66, after a disappointing second half at the Reilly Center.

The Bonnies led the Wildcats by 10 at halftime, but only scored 22 points after the Wildcats switched to zone defense. The Wildcats shot 8-15 from beyond the arc to earn the win. They started the second half on a 14-4 run.

It was tight match up until Davidson’s Kellan Grady took control with back-to-back three-pointers to give the Wildcats a 64-57 lead with under four minutes left. Jon Axel Gudmundsson followed with consecutive three-pointers to give the Wildcats an 11-point lead with under two minutes left to secure the win.  

The Wildcats’ strong defense caused the Bonnies to shoot 8-27 from the field in the second half. The Wildcats were 13-26.

“(In the second half) as you start missing, the rim gets smaller and things get tighter,” said Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt. “Our guys didn’t quit, we just didn’t play 40 minutes and that’s what you have to do when you play a good team like Davidson.”

Kyle Lofton led the Bonnies with 24 points, tying his season high.

“(Lofton) plays with a poise, he plays with that swagger,” said Schmidt. “Not overconfidence, but he knows that he can make plays. He’s a good player, and he’s going to be a really good player.”

St. Bonaventure travels to the A.J Palumbo Center on Wednesday, Feb. 6 to face the Duquesne Dukes (15-6) at 7:30 p.m.

Preview: Bonnies take on Gators in NCAA Tournament

By Jeff Uveino

It’s one of the most anticipated days of the year for college hoops fans—the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament.

With 16 games scheduled for today, the eyes of the sporting world will once again be on college basketball. However, for fans of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies; only one game really matters.

The No. 11 Bonnies (25-7) will take on the No. 6 Florida Gators (20-12) at 9:55 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA tournament on truTV.

The Bonnies are coming off a 65-58 win over the UCLA Bruins in the ‘First Four’ round in Dayton, Ohio. Now, the Bonnies get to travel to Dallas, Texas to take on a Gators team that went 11-7 in Southeastern Conference (SEC) play. Despite winning their final three regular season games, the Gators were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament by the Arkansas Razorbacks. Florida owns several wins over other tournament teams this season, including Gonzaga, Auburn, and two wins against Kentucky

The Gators have enjoyed recent tournament success, including trips to at least the Elite Eight in five straight seasons. In the 2017 NCAA tournament, Florida lost a heart breaker to the South Carolina Gamecocks, denying them a trip to the Final Four.

The Gators have scorers up and down their roster, averaging 76 points per game. They are led by junior guard Jalen Hudson, who averages 15.3 points per game. Egor Koulechov, a senior guard from Russia, averages 13.6 points per game. Other key contributors are guards KeVaugh Allen and Chris Chiozza, who average 13.6 and 13.5 points, respectively. Chiozza also averages 6.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game, making him a central part of the Gators offense.

While the sunshine of Gainesville, Florida is far from the snow covered tundras of Allegany, New York; the Bonnies and Gators aren’t strangers.

Just last year, the Bonnies and Gators met at Florida in a close and competitive game resulting in a 73-66 loss.

Senior Idris Taqqee remembers the game against the Gators last year. Now, with a better team and a chance to see them on a neutral court, Taqqee said the Bonnies are ready for another shot against them.

“It’s already a rematch so we want to get that revenge,” Taqqee said. ” We want this. We’re hungry.”

Part of the path to getting that revenge is showing up defensively. The Bonnies used a stymieing zone defensive scheme to slow down the Bruins last game as they try for similar results against the Gators.  The Bonnies forced 20 UCLA turnovers, including 10 by their star guard Aaron Holiday.

Another key to the Bonnies’ First Four win was the play of Courtney Stockard, who scored 26 points. Stockard, a junior forward, is the X-factor in a Bonnies attack that features two high-scoring senior guards; Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley.

Adams averages 19.4 points and 5.3 assists per game, and Mobley averages 18.4 points and 5 rebounds per game. The Bonnies shoot nearly 40% from three point range, and their shooting will be a key as to whether they will be able to pull off an upset.
The winner of this game will play either Texas Tech or Stephen F. Austin on Saturday with a trip to the ‘Sweet 16’ at stake.

Junior LaDarien Griffin, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, knows the Gators pretty well. He grew up watching them and even played AAU with Florida forward Kevarrius Hayes.

He couldn’t hold back his excitement when asked about getting a second chance to beat the Gators.

“I used to watch those great teams that they had in awe.” Griffin said. “You grow up and it’s always the goal to beat those type of teams and now we get that chance. I can’t wait man, I can’t wait to play them!”

Bonnies Split Season Series With St. Joe’s In 70-67 Win

By: Nicholas Gallo

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies would get their revenge against the St. Joes Hawks in a 70-67 nail-biting win at the Reilly Center.

Jaylen Adams would convert a go-ahead basket with 18.5 seconds left to give the Bonnies their eighth straight win at home.

The Hawks would hold onto a six-point lead with four minutes to go in the first half. A three by Adams and a battle-tested Bonnies would tie the game up at 33 walking into halftime.

Entering the second half, the Bonnies came out scoring. They would score 11 unanswered points and have a 12-point lead with 13:48 to go in the game.

“In these type of physical games, you just got to go and play,” said Martelli. “We didn’t do that in the beginning of the second half being down 12.”

The Hawks wouldn’t quit as they kept coming after the Bonnies scoring eight unanswered points. After a made free throw by James Demery, the Hawks took a three-point lead with 7:51 left to play. Junior guard, Nelson Kaputo would make a huge three-point shot to tie the game up at 59 with 7:18 left in the game.

Both teams would go back and forth as the game would have 15 ties and 18 lead changes.

With 1:46 seconds left, down by two, Bonas would call a timeout to draw up a play to get a game-tying basket.

After multiple screens, a pass from Courtney Stockard to Ladarien Griffin for a dunk would tie the game up at 67 with a 1:24 to go.

After a St. Joes timeout, the team would go to James Demery who would miss a three-point shot.

With 37 seconds left, Piefrancesco would turn the ball over and St. Bonaventure would take advantage by calling a timeout.

“On the last play out of bounds, we wanted to run a fake handoff and a double away,” said Martelli. “There has to be some composure in these types of moments you can’t just be dribbling the ball all over the place.

Adams scored the go-ahead bucket to put Bonas up 69-67 with 14 seconds left to play.

“We were desperate for a win,” said Bonnies Head Coach Mark Schmidt. “We just found a way, but particularly our defense was much better then it had been on the road the last four games.”

Before tonight’s game, the Bonnies gave up an average of 84.25 points per game in their four-game road stretch. Forcing a Hawks team to shoot 39% from the field and causing 11 turnovers was vital in assisting the Bonnies effort on offense.

In addition to their defense, the Bonnies would have four players in double figures for points. Courtney Stockard and LaDarien Griffin would have stat-stuffing games by both recording double-doubles. Griffin would score ten points and grab 11 rebounds while Stockard would tally 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Kaputo would tie the game at 59 with his first three-point shot with 7:18 left in the second half. He would also convert another three-pointer when being down 66-62 with 3:48 left in the game, keeping Bonas in striking distance to win the game.

St. Bonaventure will take this win and will start preparing for the George Washington Colonials coming to the Reilly Center on Sunday, Jan 28 at 12 p.m.

St. Bonaventure Starts Off Atlantic 10 Conference Play with Win Against UMass

By: Sean Lynch

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies ended 2017 with their first conference win of the season against The University of Massachusetts Minutemen 98-78 at home in the Reilly Center.

Coming off their first ever win in the Carrier Dome against the Syracuse Orange; the Bonnies continued the hot streak with their eighth win in a row to start off play in the Atlantic 10.

Jaylen Adams proved to be a key factor for the Bonnies, finishing with a game-high 32 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds. Matt Mobley finished with 28 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.

The Bonnies started the game off hot, going on an 11-0 run after UMass scored the first basket of the game. UMass broke the streak at 16:32 with a Rashaan Holloway free throw.

The Minutemen broke off their own 13-0 run to tie the game at 23-23 after the Bonnies went on a four-minute drought. Courtney Stockard ended the scoreless spree with a free throw at 7:04. Jaylen Adams shot a long three to bring the lead back to seven with 3:39 left in the half.

St. Bonaventure opted for the long ball to close out the first half, hitting five straight three-pointers until Matt Mobley missed with 1:05 left in the first half. The Bonnies closed out the half with a 47-38 lead over the Minutemen.

Bonas started another run with a second half with another 10-0 run, once again thwarted by a Rashaan Holloway free throw at 12:34. The second half remained in the Bonnies hands behind Adams 17 second-half points.

A huge factor on offense came through Bonaventure’s three-point shooting. The Bonnies shot 8-11 (72.7%) in the first half and closed out the game shooting 10-18 (55.6%) from deep.

The Bonnies were also successful in defending the three, keeping the Minutemen at 8-23(34.8%) from long range.

The Bonnies will start the new year in Dayton, Ohio as they will take on the Flyers on January 3 at 8:30 p.m. in UD Arena.

Mobley keeping a “junkyard dog” mentality through expectations

By Nicholas Gallo

Despite some early setbacks, Matt Mobley and the St. Bonaventure Bonnies have fought through adversity and find themselves atop the A-10 standings.

Despite missing star guard Jaylen Adams for the first several games of the year, the Bonnies are 10-2 with wins over Buffalo, Maryland, Vermont and Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.

Many of those wins are thanks in part to Mobley, who received a nod for Preseason First Team All-A-10 Conference and is on his way to living up to that distinction.

Last year, Mobley finished top three on the team in steals, assists, rebounds, and points. In addition, Mobley led all Division-I players in minutes per game with 38.3. Mobley said that he had a good summer and was in the weight room, on the court, and continuing to improve his cardio.

“Two of the main aspects of my game that I worked on this summer was ball handling and shooting,” Mobley said. “I felt like those were the skills that I needed to improve on the most to get to the level where I want to be at.”

The senior guard’s grind has paid off, averaging 17.5 points per game, 1.4 steals and leading the conference in free throw percentage with 85.2% from the stripe.

Mobley and Adams have developed into a great one-two punch; becoming one of the best backcourts in the nation. Mobley said it’s exciting to play with Adams again.

“He draws so much attention and his vision is unlike any point guard I have ever played with,” Mobley said. “He gets his guys in the right spots and it’s great to play with him.”

Last March, the University of Dayton, Saint Joseph’s University, and Virginia Commonwealth University went dancing in the NCAA Tournament. This year, St. Bonaventure hopes to do the same thing as Mobley says he believes they should finish strong.

“We’re ready to go and we are all excited,” Mobley said. “Playing and performing is more important than any Preseason ranking.”

According to atlantic10.com, the University of Rhode Island has been picked to repeat as A-10 champions in the 2017-18 preseason poll and St. Bonaventure is supposed to finish second.

So far this season, the Bonnies have handled those expectations.

While Mobley said that the team felt good about the hype, it won’t change their mindset.

“We still want to embrace that underdog mentality,” Mobley said. “Like our coaches say, we need to act like a ‘junkyard dog’ no matter what.”

Mobley said all the young guys are stepping up and standing out, though, at the end of the day, he said the veterans will determine how far this team can go.

“It’s on us, the captains, to get the young guys going,” Mobley said. “This team’s success is on us.”