Bonnies begin A-10 play with pair of road games at Rhode Island, Richmond

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Mark Schmidt breaks each college basketball season down into three parts: non-conference play, conference play and the postseason.

For Schmidt and the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, the first part of the season didn’t go according to plan. The team had six of its eight scheduled games canceled due to a variety of COVID-19 concerns, but won both of the games it was able to play.

After beating Akron and Hofstra, the Bonnies enter Atlantic 10 play undefeated for the first time in program history.

“You just accept it and do the best job you can,” said Schmidt, who is in his 14th season as head coach at SBU, of the team’s unprecedented non-conference slate. “We knew this was going to happen. When it happens, it’s like a punch to the gut, but it is what it is. We’re 2-0, and now we turn our attention to the A-10. It would be just like that if we would have played 11 or 12 games in the non-conference.”

Bona begins A-10 play with a pair of road games against two of the conference’s perennial championship contenders. SBU will first travel to Rhode Island on Wednesday, where they will take on the 3-5 Rams.

“(Rhode Island has) got good size,” Schmidt said. “They’ve got high-major transfers. They’re very aggressive offensively and defensively.”

The Rams, who were picked to finish sixth in the league (Bona was picked to finish fourth), have not only already played eight games this season, but have played three games against Power Five conference opponents. URI’s losses include Arizona State, Boston College and Wisconsin, while the Rams own wins over South Florida, San Francisco and Seton Hall.

URI has lost three games in a row after previously enjoying a three-game winning streak. The Rams have already played one A-10 game, falling at home to Davidson on Dec. 18.

“We’ve got to try to keep them in the half court offensively, and take care of the ball so we don’t turn it over so they can get out on the break,” Schmidt said. “If this is a game that is in the 80s or 90s, they’re probably going to win. We’ve got to try to control tempo as much as we can and do a good job of keeping the ball out of the paint.”

Rhody is led by senior guard Fatts Russell, who has averaged 14.4 points per game and over three assists per game this season. The last time the Bonnies played the Rams, Russell scored 29 points in an 81-75 URI win at the Reilly Center.

“It’s very important for us to take care of the basketball and get shots up,” Schmidt said. “If we can do that and hopefully get some second shots, we’ll be okay. They are a tremendous athletic, physical half-court team.”

Senior guard Jeremy Sheppard averages 9.3 points per game for the Rams, while Antwan Walker, a forward who transferred to the program from Georgetown, averages 8.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

For Bona, Osun Osunniyi has been a bright spot in the middle of Schmidt’s offense. The junior forward/center has averaged 19.5 points and 10 rebounds per game in Bona’s two victories, while junior guards Kyle Lofton and Dominick Welch trail closely behind, each scoring 16.5 points per game over SBU’s young season.

Bona will enjoy the return of transfer guard Anthony Roberts, who missed the team’s first two games due to an extended quarantine period. Roberts averaged 12.7 points per game for Kent State last season.

Despite the lack of in-game reps that the Bonnies have gotten to prepare for A-10 play, Schmidt said that his team is excited to play “no matter who they’re playing.”

After playing URI, Bona will travel to Richmond to play the Spiders, who were the preseason favorite to win the A-10. The Spiders enter A-10 play with a 6-2 record, owning wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt. On Dec. 22, Richmond lost at home to Hofstra, a team that Bona had defeated three days prior.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” Schmidt said. “We’ve played two games.”

Bona and URI are scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. That game can be seen on ESPN+. The Bonnies will tip off against the Spiders at 5 p.m. on Saturday in a game that can be seen on CBS Sports Network.

“These two games aren’t going to tell us how good we are or how bad we are, just like the first two games that we played didn’t tell us how good we are or how bad we are,” Schmidt said on Tuesday. “I’ll probably tell you in three or four weeks where we’re at.”

Buffalo game wiped out by positive test; Bonnies finish shortest non-conference schedule ever

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — It was bound to happen once. Twice was a coincidence. But after another cancelation, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team is facing a non-conference schedule of only two games.

The Bonnies were scheduled to play Buffalo at the Reilly Center on Tuesday, in what would have been their final non-conference game of the 2020-21 season. SBU had previously beaten Akron and Hofstra to earn its first 2-0 start to a season in seven years. After six game cancelations over the past four weeks, however, the program is also looking at the shortest non-conference schedule in its history.

About 30 hours before scheduled tip-off against Buffalo, the Bulls announced that a member of their “Tier 1” personnel, which includes student-athletes, coaches, team managers and support staff, had tested positive for COVID-19. The program was notified of the test result, which came from its regular surveillance testing in accordance with NCAA guidelines, on Sunday.

This comes just nine days after the Bonnies’ scheduled home opener against St. Francis (PA) was canceled due to a positive test within the Red Flash’s program.

Bona was able to christen the RC for the building’s 54th season against Hofstra, which now could end up being the only non-conference game played there this season. SBU was also scheduled to make a trip to the Mohegan Sun Arena bubble in late November, which was canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test within Bona’s program.

Unless SBU adds an opponent to its schedule over the next week, the Bonnies’ next competition will be an Atlantic 10 game. Bona is scheduled to play at Rhode Island on Dec. 30 and at Richmond on Jan. 2, before hosting Saint Joseph’s on Jan. 6 in what will presumably be the team’s A-10 home opener.

If this is indeed how Bona’s non-conference schedule will end, it will be the first time the Bonnies will have gone undefeated in non-conference play. This was the first time since 2013-14 that the team started a season 2-0.

Bona survives Hofstra comeback, wins home opener

photo by Craig Melvin

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — For a moment, it looked like another run-away victory. Then, it wasn’t.

The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team defeated Hofstra for the second year in a row on Saturday, in a game that turned out to be much closer than the contest’s start would have indicated.

When the Bonnies jumped out to a 30-7 lead early in the first half, flashbacks of SBU’s 28-point victory over the Pride last December transpired. The Bonnies carried a 15-point lead into halftime, but Jalen Ray got hot for Hofstra from the three-point line in the second half and led the Pride back.

After a frenzy of lead exchanges in the game’s final 10 minutes, the Bonnies went on a 13-3 run to close the game and beat Hofstra, 77-69.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “You knew they were going to come back, but I didn’t think they were going to come back in the second half and outscore us by 27 at one point.”

Trailing by 13 points with 15 minutes left in the second half, Hofstra went on a 29-14 run that spanned 11 minutes and gave the Pride a 66-65 lead. From there, Schmidt’s group responded.

With the game tied at 66 points each, Dominick Welch hit a three-pointer that was followed by a 12-foot floater by Kyle Lofton and two Osun Osunniyi dunks.

“When they took the lead, I thought our guys collected themselves, didn’t hang their heads and fought back,” Schmidt said. “But we beat a good team. Our goal was to be 2-0, and 1-0 at home, and we accomplished that.”

Lofton scored a team-high 16 points, and also dished out nine assists and pulled down four rebounds. Welch scored 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds while shooting 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.

“We got comfortable with the lead,” Lofton said. “When we got to the end, we knew it was go time. We couldn’t play laid back. We had to be aggressive. We knew that we had to get stops and rebounds, and finish out possessions.”

Osunniyi had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He briefly came out of the game two minutes into the second half after picking up his second personal foul.

Osunniyi was replaced by Jalen Shaw, who scored four points in nine minutes of action. In the eight minutes that Osunniyi was on the bench, the Bona lead shrunk from 13 points to three.

“I got into foul trouble, so me not being in the game, I just tried to bring energy from the bench,” Osunniyi said. “It all comes down to the veteran leadership and the more experienced guys telling everybody to stay calm, run our offense and play defense.”

Ray, who scored a game-high 28 points, was instrumental in Hofstra’s second-half comeback. He shot 6-for-10 from beyond the arc, including 5-for-7 in the second half, when 19 of his points were scored. Isaac Kante finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Pride, while former Bona guard Tareq Coburn scored nine points.

Schmidt mentioned several positives that he took away from his team’s performance, including out-rebounding Hofstra by 15 and having a team total of 19 assists compared to 11 turnovers.

“We’ve got to get better,” Schmidt said. “We can’t give up 20-point leads. There are a lot of challenges going on, but I’m proud of our mental toughness.”

Lofton, Welch and Osunniyi each reaching double-digit scoring figures was also encouraging, Schmidt said.

“We need them,” he said. “They’re juniors now; they’re the main guys. Those three guys, along with Jaren (Holmes), need to score the ball.”

Holmes finished with nine points and eight rebounds, while Jalen Adaway had nine points and five rebounds. Eight different Bonnies got on the score sheet.

This is the first time that SBU has started 2-0 in a season since 2013-14, and the first time that Bona has won its home opener since 2016-17. Bona will host “Big 4” rival Buffalo on Tuesday to wrap up the Bonnies’ non-conference schedule.

“I think everybody is slowly starting to find their way on this team,” Osunniyi said. “The new guys are trying to find their way and see where they fit in. That’s good for us.”

Bonnies return to Reilly Center for rematch against Hofstra

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Sean Casey

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The Bonnies’ long-awaited return to the Reilly Center will finally be here on Saturday, as Mark Schmidt and the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team square off against Hofstra.

The Pride will be led by associate coach and acting head coach Mike Farrelly, due to head coach Joe Mihalich being on temporary medical leave. Coming off of a win at Rocket Mortage Fieldhouse vs Akron, the Bonnies look to stay perfect in their second game of the season. 

SBU and Hofstra last faced off on Dec. 7 of last year, when the Pride traveled north to St. Bonaventure in what was Bona’s 50th anniversary celebration of its 1970 Final Four team. Members of the historic team returned to a packed Reilly Center to watch the Bonnies team soar to a 28-point victory, led by Dominick Welch and Jaren Holmes each scoring 17 points.

Despite the score gap, it was a talented Hofstra team that went on to win the Colonial Athletic Association and is favored to defend that title this season. 

Hofstra has played four more games than the Bonnies, compiling a 3-2 record. The Pride have been led by senior guard Tareq Coburn, who has averaged 20 points per game while shooting 15-plus free throws in two games, something the Bonnies will need to keep an eye on.

Another player to watch is senior guard Jalen Ray, who is the Pride’s minutes leader, averaging 35 per game while scoring 16 points per game and handing out four assists per game. 

Hofstra is a fast team that has been playing a 2-3 zone defense often this season, and Schmidt realizes the importance of countering what they are doing.

“We need to be able to attack their 2-3 zone effectively, getting good shots,” said Schmidt, Bona’s head coach. “It’s hard to run when the ball is going through the net, and if you’re missing shots and turning the ball over, that’s when they’re at their best.” 

In Bona’s win over Akron, the team scored 81 points despite only hitting one three-pointer, so the Bonnies will look to improve on their jump shooting against Hofstra. 

Osun Osunniyi was dominant on both ends of the floor, scoring 25 points to go with eight rebounds. 

SBU relied on its starting unit heavily against Akron, with all five starters playing 27 minutes or more, while the bench played a combined 34 minutes. It will be interesting to see if the Bonnies look to their bench more in this game with Schmidt expressing concern over the team’s fitness following a late-November quarantine.

“Usually in the preseason and once the season starts, you’re in game shape, but we’re not,” Schmidt said. “At least we’re playing.”

Saturday’s tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m., and can be seen on ESPN+ and heard on 95.7 WPIG.

“They’re a talented team,” Schmidt said of Hofstra. “There’s a reason why they’re picked to win (their conference) again. The game is not going to be like it was last year.”

Bonnies await debut of transfer guard Roberts

photo: kentstatesports.com

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — When Anthony Roberts received a transfer waiver from the NCAA in October, Mark Schmidt’s group of guards got even deeper than it already was.

Roberts transferred to the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team from Kent State after the 2019-20 season. And, even though his waiver allows Roberts to play this season instead of having to sit out a year to meet NCAA transfer rules, the junior’s Bona debut has been delayed.

“He was in quarantine, so he hasn’t had an opportunity to play,” said Schmidt, Bona’s head coach, on Thursday. “It will probably be another game or two for him to get back into playing shape.”

Roberts missed the team’s season opener against Akron on Tuesday as a result of his quarantine, and will not play on Saturday when the Bonnies host Hofstra. When he is ready, however, Schmidt said that Roberts could help the team “right away.”

“I think he’s going to be a really good player,” Schmidt said of Roberts before the season. “He’s somebody that played at Kent State and had a lot of success. He can really score the basketball, and he can play the two and the one (guard positions).”

In his sophomore season with the Golden Flashes, Roberts averaged 12.9 points per game and shot 44% from the field. He was a 37% three-point shooter and 79% free-throw shooter, and scored 19 or more points in six different games.

Roberts also showed progression from his freshman to sophomore year, as he was given more playing time in year two. He averaged 11.5 more minutes played per game in his sophomore year than in his freshman season, and more than doubled his points per game average while shooting 8% higher from beyond the arc.

Roberts’ career-high scoring game came against SBU’s “Big 4” rival Buffalo, against whom he scored 23 points on 8-for-17 shooting from the field in February. The Bonnies are scheduled to play the Bulls on Dec. 22 at the Reilly Center.

“We’re expecting him to come in and help us right away,” Schmidt said. “He’s good enough and he’s shown it. Now he just needs to show it in the A-10.”

Osunniyi dominates, leads Bonnies to opening victory in Cleveland

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Tom Doyle

CLEVELAND, OH — In its first game in nine months, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team picked up its first win of the season by beating the Akron Zips, 81-74, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Tuesday afternoon. 

The Bonnies were led by Osun Osunniyi, who had a career-high 25 points to go with eight rebounds and three assists. The Bonnies controlled the entire game, stretching their lead to 10 points for most of the game.   

“I’m proud of our effort with all the challenges we have had since the Atlantic 10 Tournament was cancelled last year and having to quarantine,” said Bona head coach Mark Schmidt. “I thought the kids came out excited to play and the veterans got us out to a great start.”

The Bonnies forced the Zips into 17 turnovers with swarming defense on Akron star point guard Loren Cristian Jackson.

 “We were active defensively and we did a decent job on Jackson,” Schmidt said. “We made baskets when we needed them and got decent stops. (Osunniyi) did a good job inside and (point guard) Kyle (Lofton) did a good job handling the ball.”

Jackson would finish with a team-high 22 points.

Bona’s defensive success started early with a couple of steals from Lofton and Dom Welch.  This led to two assists from Osunniyi, a Welch three-pointer and a Lofton layup, stretching the lead to 23-12 with nine minutes remaining in the first half. 

In the second half, the Bonnies didn’t slow down. The Bonnies lengthened their lead to 50-33 before Jackson cut it to 10 with 9:45 remaining. But, the Bonnies kept their composure and didn’t let them back into the game, led by Osunniyi. 

Lofton finished with 17 points and five assists for Bona, while Welch scored 18 points and pulled down five rebounds.

After the game, Osunniyi spoke about his ability to expand his offensive game this year. 

“It felt good,” Osunniyi said. “Shooting the midrange shot and knocking it down, I’ve been working all summer on that and just trying to expand my game and not just be an inside presence.”

The Bonnies were not sharp shooting the ball, shooting 1-for-14 from three-point range and 20-for-28 from the foul line. Fortunately for them, Akron shot 6-for-32 from three, and the Zips couldn’t get stops on the defensive end when they needed to. 

The Bonnies will continue their season against Hofstra on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Reilly Center. 

PREVIEW: Bonnies set to finally begin season in Cleveland

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Tom Doyle

CLEVELAND, OH— The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team is scheduled to open its season on Tuesday when it takes on the Akron Zips at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Well, we’ll see. The Bonnies have been waiting and waiting to take the court this year. Entering Monday, the Bonnies are still one of 23 teams yet to play this year in the NCAA. 

SBU has already had five games canceled this season, as a canceled trip to the Mohegan Sun Arena bubble in November was followed by a canceled home opener against St. Francis (PA) last Saturday.

“It’s frustrating,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “It’s challenging. But, we’re not the only team that’s going through this. Our guys are tired of practicing and tired of quarantining.”

Bona had been previously forced to pause all team activities for 18 days following a positive COVID-19 test on Nov. 19.

“We took two and a half weeks off, and when we came back, it was more conditioning and trying to get the kids back in shape like we would when they come back after the summer time,” Schmidt said.

Akron has also dealt with delays in its schedule this season, with a two-week shutdown resulting in only playing one game. This past Saturday, the Zips won handily over Cedarville, 97-49, led by senior guard Loren Cristian Jackson.

Last season, Akron finished 24-7, and 14-4 in Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) play.  The Zips had four players averaging over 10 points per contest.  Three of those players are no longer with the team, leaving Jackson to run the show.  They are looking for Jackson, Ali Ali and Cameron Reece to fill the key losses.   

Jackson was tremendous for the Zips last season, and was named the MAC player of the year, as well as to the Lou Henson All-American team, and tallied over five 30-point performances. 

“They’re well coached and they play extremely hard,” Schmidt said. “(Jackson) is one of the best point guards in the country. They lost a number of guys off of last year’s team, but they didn’t lose the engine. He makes them go.”

Standing only at 5’8 and weighing 150 pounds, Jackson is a menace with the ball in his hands. Bona guard Kyle Lofton will have his hands full with Jackson, but can use his size at 6’3, 190 pounds to slow him down. 

“They run multiple ball screens for (Jackson), so that’s something we’re going to do a good job on,” Schmidt said. “Somehow, some way, try keep him out of the paint as much as we can. The other thing is, they really shoot the ball.”

The Zips attempted 40 three-pointers against Cedarville, making 16 of them.

The teams have met twice before, with the Bonnies dropping both.  The first time SBU played Akron was in 1942. The last meeting between the two teams came in the Cayman Islands two years ago, as the Zips beat the Bonnies, 61-49.  In that game, the Bonnies were missing three starters in Dom Welch, Courtney Stockard, and LaDarien Griffin.

Tuesday’s game is scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m., and can be found on ESPN3 or the Bonnies basketball radio network. 

“I think we’re all appreciative of the opportunity to play,” Schmidt said. “Im thankful that we’re going to be able to play and give the kids the chance to do what they love to do.”

Bona home opener canceled less than two hours before tip-off

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — After a 283-day hiatus, it appeared as though the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team would return to the Reilly Center to play its 2020-21 season opener.

The Bonnies were scheduled to play St. Francis (PA) at 2 p.m. on Saturday, until less than two hours before tip-off, the game was canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test.

According to a statement released by the SBU athletic department, a positive test from within St. Francis’ Tier 1 personnel traveling party caused the cancellation of the game. This comes nine days after the Bonnies were able to resume team activities following a 14-day down period because of a positive COVID-19 test within their own program.

As of now, Bona will have to wait until Tuesday to begin its regular season, and wait until Dec. 19 to hold its home opener. SBU is scheduled to play Akron at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland on Tuesday before hosting Hofstra five days later.

With the elimination of the St. Francis game, which will not be rescheduled, the Bonnies only have three non-conference games on their schedule, as they will play Buffalo next week to finish non-conference play.