Reaction: Stockard-led Bonnies embrace adversity, stun undefeated Maryland

By Josh Svetz

The Bonnies have provided enough highs and lows for a season’s worth of basketball and it’s only been four games.

Tonight was a high, but coming into the contest, most wouldn’t think so.

In fact, the Bonnies would have to overcome hard knocks to achieve any sort of high.

Hours before the game, star guard Jaylen Adams, who has yet to play or practice due to an ankle injury, was ruled out. Junior forward Courtney Stockard was probable, but limited in practice over the week.

Then, as tip-off neared, Bonas fans were left confounded when the official men’s basketball account tweeted that senior Matt Mobley, the Bonnies’ leading scorer, would not start due to being late for a team meeting.

On top of this, Bonas had to contend with the undefeated Maryland Terrapins, a top-20 defensive team featuring several bigs 6-foot-10 and taller alongside two NBA hopefuls, sophomores Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan.

The only way Bonas could hope to sneak out of this game victorious was to take advantage of the Terps’ bottom-200-ranked turnover rate, translating to a turnover every four possessions, and make this game ugly.

That’s exactly what the Bonnies did. They brought the grind to the grinders.

To start, they didn’t let the size difference affect the scoring in the first half.

Bonas deployed a 1-3-1 zone to neutralize talented freshman forward Bruno Fernando and it worked.

Fernando became agitated and frustrated early, taking his head out of the game and mounting up just two points and three rebounds in the first half. While 7-foot-1 senior Michal Cekovsky filled in nicely with nine points, two blocks and two rebounds in the first half, he just didn’t provide the same upside and athleticism of Fernando.

Bonas also capitalized on turnovers, turning eleven first half miscues into twelve points.

The scrappy effort contributed heavily, as Bonas didn’t let the Terps lead by more than four at any time in the first half.

But maybe the number one reason the Bonnies handled their business was their defense.

Forcing turnovers aside, Bonas switched beautifully on screens and closed out on the Terps’ guards. This frustrated the shooters, holding them to 1 of 10 from behind the arc and just 43 percent from the field.

Despite Mobley being held to four points in the first half, everyone else stepped up offensively, with Josh Ayeni, Izaiah Brockington, LaDarien Griffin and Courtney Stockard scoring 24 of the Bonnies’ 30 first-half points.

The Bonnies headed into the locker room down one, but with momentum on their side.

Still, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon may have summed up the situation best in his sideline interview.

“We haven’t made a jump shot, we have eleven turnovers and we’re up one,” Turgeon said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

With obvious adjustments coming for the second half, the Bonnies would need to continue the defensive tenacity and get something out of Mobley to have a chance.

The Terps came out re-energized, opening the second half with a 8-2 run in the first five minutes.

Bonas needed to answer, and with Mobley’s shot not falling, he turned to the free throw line to make a contribution.

Mobley went 10 of 10 from the free throw line, six of those coming in the second half.

But with 11 minutes left, the wheels started to come off.

Down by one, Bonas gave up two three-pointers and an and-one layup in the span of three minutes, trailing 44-52 with eight minutes remaining.

But the Bonnies wouldn’t quit.

Layups by Ayeni, Mobley and Brockington cut the deficit to two, and two free throws from Stockard tied the game at 53.

However, Bonas’ three-point defensive woes reared its ugly head, as Terps’ junior Dion Wiley drained a three.

Both teams traded free throws and Mobley made a layup to make the score 59-57 with two minutes to play.

Mobley then tied the game with two free throws.

The free throw line saved the Bonnies, as 21 of their 63 total points came from the stripe.

Then, the Bonnies caught a break when the Terps’ Jackson missed an open three.

Even with the break, Mobley missed a layup but Ayeni grabbed the offensive board and drew the foul.

Ayeni handled the pressure, draining both free throws, giving the Bonnies a 61-59 lead.

An ill-advised foul by Mobley not only gave the Terps’ Cowan free throws, but also gave him his fifth foul, taking him out of the game.

With no timeouts, Stockard-the highest scorer left in the game-was forced into the spotlight, facing adversity from the tenacious Terps’ defense.

But Stockard is no stranger to adversity.

For two years he’s battled back from foot injuries that ended his season twice. Even before the game, that same type of injury limited him all week in practice. But now, with the game in his hands, this was his moment.

He handled the ball inches in front of the half-court line, cutting to the basket and going up strong to put in the game-winning layup with 3.4 seconds left.

Stockard finished the game with fourteen points.

The Terps turned the ball over and that was it. The Bonnies won, despite everyone counting them out, despite all the adversity.

Stockard scored the game-winner, despite the adversity.

The excitement of this win will be short-lived, though, as they turn around and face TCU for the Emerald Coast Classic championship tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.

But as the glow remains fresh, the Bonnies carry a scrappy nature and underdog mentality, just like their leader tonight.

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Bonnies fall to Niagara in Heart breaker

By Jeremy Castro

When Nelson Kaputo slipped and fell with around 10 seconds remaining, causing Matt Mobley’s sixth and most crucial turnover, it almost felt like a microcosm for the entire game.

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies men’s basketball team, a team with NCAA tournament aspirations, lost the first game of their season, at home, to the Niagara Purple Eagles by the final score of 77-75.

The Bonnies were slow from the start, finding themselves only scoring ten total points within the first ten minutes of play.

Senior guard Matt Mobley led the way with 7 points, but was 2-11 from the field and 3 of those points were from the foul line. As a team, the Bonnies shot 25.9% from the field in the first half.

By halftime, the Bonnies found themselves down by nine, and by a score of 34-25.

\Head coach Mark Schmidt talked about the offensive struggles in his post-game press conference.

“We played very poor in the first half offensively,” Schmidt said. “I thought being down by 9 [points] at half time was good as we played so bad offensively.”

Coach Schmidt also described why he felt the team struggled in the first half.

“We played tight,” Schmidt said. “We had just one assist in the first half and I think we were 0-8 from three. We had some good looks; we just didn’t play the first 20 minutes the way we needed to play to beat a team of Niagara’s caliber.”

A lot of the talk before, during, and of course after the game was centered around star point guard Jaylen Adams.

Adams injured his left ankle in the team’s exhibition game last Friday against Alfred. Despite suspicions and murmurs on whether or not he would be ready for the game tonight that seem to go on all week, in the end Adams was kept out.

“He is our best player, but we are not going to make any excuses,” Schmidt said.

In the second half, the Bonnies seemed reinvigorated, scoring six quick points in about the span of a minute. However, they just never seemed able to capitalize.

Niagara’s red-shirt senior guard Kahlil Dukes lit up the Reilly Center, ending with total 23 total points on the night, and hitting 6 out of 8 three pointers.

Dukes is one of seven medal winners to return to the program from last season, and the Purple Eagles returned their entire starting five.

The Bonnies were  much better in the second half, with their field goal percentage jumping up to 50%. Not only did the team seem to have new life, but so did the fans. The Reilly Center was rocking and the crowd was back into the game. With 07:47 left in the game, Courtney Stockard hit a straight away three-point shoot which sent the crowd into a frenzy.

This was it. This is where the Bonnies would push on and finish the game out. However, it seemed every time the Bonnies responded, they’d make a mistake keeping them in the hole.

“Every time we got there (close to the lead), we just had a breakdown,” Schmidt said. – a turnover, we didn’t switch on the ball screen correctly.”

Junior forward LaDarien Griffin, who had a career high in rebounds with 10, compared the first and second half.

“(In the second half) we started playing defense,” Griffin said “We started moving the ball. Once we started getting stops and started scoring, then we started chipping at the lead, but we had too many breakdowns at the end.”

One such breakdown was the one I mentioned at the top of this article. With 12 seconds remaining, the ball is given to Matt Mobley with Bonaventure down by three. He brought the ball up the court and, looking for a give-and-go play to open him up for a three point attempt, passes it to Nelson Kaputo. Unfortunately, Kaputo slipped, fell down, and Mobley’s pass went well out of bounds, ending all hope of a comeback. After the comeback the Bonnies staged to get back into the game, it was a heart breaker. But, seeing how the game went, it was not all that surprising, especially missing their star.

“They beat us with the team we had out there,” Schmidt said. “The credit goes to them.”

The Bonnies take on Maryland East Shore at 7:00 PM on Wed. November 15th at the Reilly Center.

Kaputo “I’m the best I’ve ever been”

For Junior guard Nelson Kaputo, not getting lost in the hype is high on his priorities.

Because of the Bonnies’ NCAA Tournament snubs the past two seasons, the team is motivated to finally get over the hump this season, especially with the tournament-level hype surrounding the team. In fact, CBS Sports ranked the Bonnies the #1 college basketball team in New York on Wednesday.

Kaputo, a 6-foot guard from Toronto, Ontario, shared his thoughts about how the team doesn’t want to get lost in the hype.

“We’ve done a great job blocking it out,” Kaputo said. “We’re focusing on what we have to do.”

The Bonnies put up good numbers on the record sheet, finishing 20-12 on the season and 11-7 in conference play; however, Kaputo expects them to perform better this season due to a new emphasis on work ethic.

“It was a great off-season for all of us,” he said. “Individually, we all have gotten better, and personally, I think I’m the best I’ve been in my life.”

He felt the biggest improvement he made during the off-season was his strength.

“I’ve put on a lot of muscle this summer, and I think that’s going to allow me to be more effective on the court, being able to come off ball screens cleaner and taking bumps better,” he said.”My all-around game is going to improve this year.”

Kaputo said living with the team helped improve their bond.

“Most of the guys lived with one another over the summer and we’ve been around each other every single day,” he said. “The only time we’re not with each other is when we go to sleep.  Most of us live in the townhouses as well, so off that strength alone, the chemistry on the team is going to keep building throughout the season.  It’s like a brotherhood being on this team, and you’re going to see that carry onto the court when we’re out there balling and having fun with each other.”

This brotherhood the team has with each other carries over into Kaputo’s relationships with some of his fellow guards and forwards. He told me about how him, Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley have been in that position of learning from the veterans and how they taught him some things as well.

He is glad that, as a junior this season, he is able to follow in the footsteps as a mentor for some of the younger guys.

“As upperclassmen on this team, that’s the position that Matt, Jaylen and I are in with the younger guys,” Kaputo said.  “We are able to teach them how to understand the system and how to compete at this level, just like the veteran guys, who were in our shoes at one point before, taught us. We understood what it took to be good before and what it takes for us to get where we want to be.”

Kaputo shows a lot of praise for the system Coach Schmidt imparts to his players, but he went over with me how the team could have done better with the system.

“Our struggle last year was figuring out how to play with each other within the system, not the system itself,” said Kaputo.  “I love the system. It’s just a matter of getting to know the guys better and know how we play.  Having a lot of returners from last year should help us with that. Coming into this year, everyone knows their role, and everyone is ready to play.”

While Kaputo shows his admiration for the system, he also shows it towards his head coach.  He told me that Mark Schmidt is a great guy and coach, who is adept to the “open door policy” with his players, knows how to “install the winning mentality into his players” so they win games and gets him playing his best.

“He’s put me in a position to be successful time and time again,” he said.  “There have been times in my career where I haven’t followed through in that position, but he tells me what I need to do to get back on the court. As a player, you want a coach that brings out the best in you, and that’s what he does.”

According to Kaputo, it sounds like Coach Mark Schmidt has command of the locker room and the support of his players to be able to lead his team to new heights this season.

“The whole team has that same picture in mind: the NCAA Tournament, and we’ve been working like it,” said Kaputo.  “I think you guys are in for quite a season.”

 

 

Bonnies look to continue home opener winning tradition, despite questions

By Mike Hogan

As the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro, one of St. Bonaventure’s most accomplished journalism graduates, stated in his article on the Bona Blog — it’s the season Bonnies Fans have been awaiting for a very long time.

The journey starts tonight in the Reilly Center at 8 p.m. against longtime rival Niagara.

Preparing To win (possibly) without Adams

One of the biggest storylines that has gotten a lot of attention this week is whether or not Jaylen Adams will play tonight vs Niagara. Adams is questionable  with an ankle injury that he sustained during the exhibition match-up against Niagara last Saturday.

Adams did not practice all week and sources say he’s been spotted on crutches, likely ruling him out for tonight.

If Adams can’t go, Junior guard Nelson Kaputo will likely get the start.

Last year, after not playing the first nine games for academic reasons, Kaputo averaged 2.0 points and 0.8 assists per game. Against Fordham last year he played 36 minutes and dished out six assists for the Bonnies. His highest scoring total came against George Mason, where he played 20 minutes and scored 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting.

Can History Repeat Itself?

The Bonnies have won their last six meetings with Niagara dating back to 2011, including last year’s game in Buffalo where the Bonnies came away with a 79-69 victory. Tonight marks the 158th meeting between the two big 4 rivals, with the Bonnies currently leading the series by an overwhelming 88 wins to 69 losses, and the margin only gets bigger at the RC where the Bonnies hold a 53-18 record vs Niagara.

Stacking up the Squads

This year’s team brings a lot of experience to the table as the team is returning four starters and seven letter winners. While Adams is questionable for tonight, Matt Mobley will still be there to pick up the slack as the two are known to be one of the best back-court tandems in the country. The lineup will also feature other strong role players such as Idris Taqqee, Josh Ayeni, LaDarien Griffin, Nelson Kaputo, Courtney Stockard, and Amadi Ikpeze. New additions like Izaiah Brockington, Tshiefu Ngalakulondi, and Ndene Gueye will also be mixed into the action.

Niagara brings experience to the table, as the team returns all five of its leading scorers from last year’s team which finished at 10-23. While last year’s results were not desirable Niagara is also primed to have a pretty solid year as they were picked to finish in the top five of the MAAC. The guys to key on for Niagara are Matt Scott who was named to the all-preseason MAAC first-team, and senior guard Kahlil Dukes who earned second team honors. Scott lead the team in scoring, rebounding, and steals last season, while Dukes was 11th in the MAAC in scoring and hit 92% of his shots from the line.

 

Keys for victory and prediction:

 

Obviously, if Adams is indeed ruled out for this game, other guys will have to chip in and take the pressure off of Mobley. Look for guys like Stockard (who scored 20 points in last week’s exhibition), and Idris Taqqee to step up and take the scoring load off of Mobley. Overall, even without Adams, this is a game the Bonnies should be able to handle. Look for Niagara to come in and play aggressive with nothing to lose. Niagara didn’t finish well last year, but they did put up a fight against the Bonnies, and they certainly aren’t a pushover.

Ngalakulondi primed to cook the competition

By Jeff Uveino

Move over “Chef Curry,” there’s a new “chef” in basketball.

Freshman Tshiefu Ngalakulondi is ready to start his college basketball career at St. Bonaventure. “Chef,” as he goes by, is a 6-foot-6-inch small forward hailing from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Attending Proctor Academy, he averaged 16 points and eight rebounds per game over his senior season in high school. He was named to the Class AA All-New England team both his junior and senior seasons.

Ngalakulondi was ranked by ESPN as the #2 recruit to come out of the state of New Hampshire this past year, and the #91 recruit out of the entire East region. He opened up about the recruiting process.

“I looked at mostly A-10 schools,” Ngalakulondi said. “I knew that this was a great league, and I knew that the team was going to be good this year so that was another reason that I chose to come here.”

Attending a preparatory high school, Ngalakulondi expressed, has made the transition from high school to college somewhat easier for him.

“It’s not too much of a difference because in high school I was living on campus, so I already had a feel for living away from home and being in that environment. So, the adjustment is not as hard,” he said.

Ngalakulondi will be looking to make a difference for the Bonnies this season, and has plenty of competitors to battle with in practice. An upperclassmen-heavy team, Ngalakulondi said that he has learned a lot from the experienced veterans on the roster.

“It’s not high school anymore,” he said. “It’s a whole new level. Bigger, stronger guys, faster guys. They’ve helped me transition over, it’s been helpful having them to look up to because they’ve been here and know what they’re doing, so they can show me the ropes.”

With many experts picking St. Bonaventure to get an NCAA tournament bid this year, the team knows that they will have to meet high expectations all season. Ngalakulondi has embraced the attention that the Bonnies have been getting from the media, but knows that they need to go out and perform.

“It’s great, it’s really something I’m looking forward to,” he said. “Predictions don’t really mean anything, you have to put in the work and that will make us accomplish our goals.”

Ngalakulondi ‘s size should play a large part in his game. Although he stands at 6-foot-6, his athleticism allows him to play like he’s 6-foot-8.

With big men Amadi Ikpeze and Josh Ayeni returning, however, Ngalakulondi will have to work to see consistent minutes during his rookie season.

“My goal is to come out with energy and help the team win however I can,” he said. “Whether its rebounding, running the floor, knocking down shots, it’s just whatever I can do to make the team win.”

Ngalakulondi offered what he thinks the Bonnies have to do in order to find success deep into the postseason.

“We just have to play together, play hard all the time, and stay out of foul trouble. If we do all of those things, we can have a really good season,” he said.

Regardless of his role this season, Ngalakulondi has a long career ahead of him at Bonaventure, and his potential begs Bonnies fans to ask, what is the ‘Chef’ cooking?

 

Men’s basketball: No NIT for Bonnies; season ends with 20-12 record

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

For the first time in St. Bonaventure men’s basketball program history, the Bonnies reached 20 wins in a season but will not participate in a postseason tournament.

After Friday’s Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinal loss to Rhode Island ended Bona’s chances of getting an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, SBU learned Sunday night that it would not be receiving an invite to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

At 20-12, with a fifth-place finish in the Atlantic 10, Bonaventure had a case to be one of the 32 teams in the NIT field. However, the Bonnies had no wins over teams in the top 100 of the KenPom ratings. Also, 10 teams received automatic bids by virtue of winning their conference’s regular season championship but failing to win their conference tournament.

Bona has a policy against accepting any invitation to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), so the careers of seniors Denzel Gregg and David Andoh came to an end on Friday. The brown and white won 20 games in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons.

Men’s basketball: Rhody big men prove too much for Bonnies in A-10 quarterfinal

(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

PITTSBURGH — For a moment on Friday afternoon, it looked like the St. Bonaventure Bonnies were going to be able to overcome the many challenges Rhode Island presented them.

Two Matt Mobley free throws gave Bona a 35-34 lead with 17 minutes to play in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinal matchup. Ultimately, however, Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson were too much for the Bonnies to handle. The Rams (22-9) won 74-63 and Bonaventure (20-12) must wait for Sunday night to see if its season will continue in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

Iverson grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, while Martin scored 19 points and collected eight boards. The Rams worked inside-out, allowing E.C. Matthews to enjoy a 20-point day.

Coach Danny Hurley’s team was a matchup nightmare, and SBU didn’t have an answer for the big men.

“They were more physical than us,” said Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt. “We had a hard time scoring the ball. We tried to change things up (defensively), 1-3-1, 2-3, man-to-man, try to fool them. At times it worked, but they hurt us inside from an offensive standpoint and we didn’t have much resistance.

“One of our weaknesses is we have young guys inside and they took advantage of that. Their defense was really effective… when we had open looks we needed to knock those open looks down in that area as well.”

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Rhody big men prove too much for Bonnies in A-10 quarterfinal”

One down: Bonnies roll over UMass to set Friday date with Rhody

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

PITTSBURGH — There was reason for concern after the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team’s performance last Saturday against UMass. After all, the Minutemen had a chance to ruin Bona’s Senior Day and send the game into overtime at the buzzer.

The Bonnies eased any anxiety early on Thursday afternoon, defeating the Minutemen 73-60 at PPG Paints Arena to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals, where they will face Rhode Island.

Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt has often remarked about the team’s need for complimentary players to score, outside of his “Big Three” of Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley and Denzel Gregg. The brown and white delivered with four players in double figures- Mobley with 19, Adams with 17, David Andoh with 12 and Josh Ayeni with 10.

Continue reading “One down: Bonnies roll over UMass to set Friday date with Rhody”