Posley the hero in Bonnies’ upset win

(GoBonnies.com photo)

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

For the second straight game, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies had the ball for the final possession. And just like the Davidson game three days prior, junior guard Marcus Posley was the hero.

Posley’s off-balance layup at the buzzer gave the Bonnies a 73-71 win over the number 18 VCU Rams. The win elevated Bonaventure to 13-8, 6-4 in the Atlantic 10.

The Rams were down 71-67 with a minute to play when sophomore guard JeQuan Lewis made two free throws to cut the lead to two. After Youssou Ndoye missed a shot the other way, sophomore guard Jordan Burgess made the jumper to knot the game at 71.

With 17 seconds to work with, 11 more than he had against Davidson, Posley drove to the hoop, weaved between two defenders and tossed up a scoop-shot layup as time expired. Officials confirmed the basket after review as the students rushed the court in a scene reminiscent of last year’s upset win over UMass, a team ranked 21st at the time.

Posley’s 15 points were second-most for the Bonnies. Dion Wright led the team with 19 and added eight rebounds. Youssou Ndoye scored 13 and also grabbed eight boards, while Denzel Gregg chipped in 10 points off the bench. Jay Adams had nine points and seven assists, committing just two turnovers at the point guard spot.

Terry Larrier led the injury-ridden Rams with 15 points in 25 minutes of action. JeQuan Lewis scored 14 in the place of Briante Weber, while Melvin Johnson chipped in 11. Without Weber and Treveon Graham, VCU still packed a punch.

It was another huge team win, and a pretty speechless Posley acknowledged Adams when he talked about the shot.

“Jaylen had the trust in me, so I just called out the screens and got moving,” he said.

“I definitely thought about pulling up, but I just did a little stutter-step and (JeQuan Lewis) really didn’t bite for it, so I just attacked the basket and was able to get a good look.”

“It’s always great to beat a team of that caliber in the Reilly Center,” said coach Mark Schmidt. “We haven’t played as well as we’re accustomed to playing at home, but I thought our guys really responded coming off of the Davidson game.”

“We just wanted to get the RC rocking. We haven’t gotten this place going in a very long time,” said Adams.

Before the buzzer-beater, Posley already had a shot at getting on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays when he threw a half-court alley-oop with 9:51 to go in the game. “Denzel made me look good there,” he said with a laugh.

There was plenty of laughing and joking to go around for the Bona players after the game. They have countered a two-game losing streak at the end of January with a two-game winning streak to kick off February. Posley countered a slump and a benching over that stretch with two consecutive game-winners.

Once again, the Bonnies went as their god-send junior college transfer went.

Quick Hitters: Bonnies Vs. 18 VCU

By Jeff Fasoldt

Posley for the win: Not one, but two game winners for St. Bonaventure junior guard Marcus Posley in a row. After driving through the lane and hitting the shot vs. Davidson, Posley was up to the task again as he drove past three VCU defenders and throw a shot off the backboard with his right hand as he was falling away. All in all, Posley had a great game scoring 15 points in 39 minutes of play.

“Havoc” gone missing?: VCU is known for their suffocating defense that involves a multitude of traps and rotations, normally leading to plenty of turnovers for the other team. However, Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt had his team ready for the storm as the turnover margin between the team was nearly identical with the Bonnies having just one more turnover than the Rams.

No Webber or Graham for the Rams: It certainly helped the Bonnies not having to worry about VCU’s two best players, Trevor Graham—the Rams leading scorer, and Briante Weber—arguably the best defensive player in the nation. Graham was a game time decision while Weber unfortunately is out for the season after tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus.

Jay showing poise: coach Schmidt has to be proud of his young guard Jaylen Adams, who despite being only a freshman, only turned the ball over twice against one of the best defenses in the country.

Paint dominance: Points in the paint have proven to be Bonaventure’s specialty with Dion Wright and Youssou Ndoye, two of the top big-men in the A-10 this season. Wright led the Bonnies in scoring with 19, and Ndoye added 13 with most of those coming in the second-half. In total, they outscored VCU 40-28 in the paint.

Key quotes: 

VCU head coach, Shaka Smart: 

“Our guys showed a lot of poise, there were plenty of times where they could’ve folded up the tent. The crowd was terrific today but you have to give St. Bonaventure credit.”

“That shot that Posley made was a terrific shot. I’m sure that when we see it on tape we’ll see that it wasn’t that bad defense just a great shot.”

“I thought Jaylen Adams showed really good poise, leading their team to single-digit turnovers.”

 

SBU head coach, Mark Schmidt:

“Great game, great atmosphere, I told the guys after the Davidson game I don’t know if it could get better, but today it got better.”

“They (VCU) come at you in waves and we knew that but I think our guys are in pretty good shape and look accustomed to it.” 

“Denzel (Gregg) was terrific. He came off the bench and gave us great production and also got the crowd fired up with a couple dunks.” 

 

Men’s basketball: Bonnies prepare for Havoc

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

On Saturday afternoon, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies face their toughest test of the season: VCU’s Havoc defense.

The Rams, led by coach Shaka Smart, are one of the top 25 teams in the nation thanks in large part to a constant full-court press that suffocates opposing offenses and forces turnovers in bunches. The second the ball is inbounded, the defenders are trapping, pressuring and deflecting their way to steals and points the other way.

“They’re really active and they press the whole game. After a while it just wears on you,” said sophomore forward Denzel Gregg.

It’s worn on VCU’s 18 victims this year. The Rams force 17.3 turnovers a game, tied for fifth-most in the NCAA. They’ve been in the top three in turnovers forced per game the past three seasons.

An effective pressing team needs effective traps, and no team traps better. At a Coaching U basketball clinic last year, coach Smart emphasized the fundamentals. A good trap is one where the dribble is out of control, the ball handler doesn’t see it coming and there is constant movement; as the ball handler moves, so does the trap.

Smart also stresses to his team that they never trap in the middle of the court and that the guards are the focus. Cornering a big man is dangerous because it can free up a shooter, so they always make sure to get to the backcourt players. All of these elements make for a hellish time for an offense when Havoc is at its most treacherous.

While a lot of credit goes to Shaka’s coaching abilities, and deservedly so, his recruiting abilities are just as crucial to his team’s success. It takes a special type of player to fit into that defensive scheme; they need to be fast, long and extremely athletic, especially the guards.

The best of that guard group was senior Briante Weber, who swiped 374 passes in his collegiate career before going down with a torn ACL and MCL last week against Richmond. Losing Weber is a mammoth loss for the Rams as he was the leader and engine of the team. VCU is not the same team without him, and his absence will certainly have an impact on Saturday’s game.

The Bonnies sympathized with the talented young player.

“It’s kind of sad that he got hurt,” said junior forward Dion Wright. “That’s a very severe injury and they’re definitely going to miss him.”

“It’s a terrible injury; you never want a player to go down,” said senior center Youssou Ndoye. “I feel bad for him and hope he has a good recovery. He’s definitely a big-time defensive player.”

As for the impact the injury will have on the game, the Bonnies know the Rams will still be ready to play. Gregg pointed to Rhode Island rallying to beat SBU a couple weeks ago without star guard E.C. Matthews, who missed the game due to a foot injury.

“He’s a good player, he’s one of the best defensive players in the league, but I think they’re still going to be ready just like Rhode Island was,” he said.

“It’ll have somewhat of an impact, but it’s still Havoc,” added senior guard Andell Cumberbatch. “It’s still VCU, so we’re going to approach it the same way we would if Briante was playing.”

The impact of a sidelined Weber is still to be seen, but one thing this Bonaventure squad definitely has right now is some confidence after a huge win at Davidson on Wednesday night. Marcus Posley’s buzzer-beating floater was a momentum-changer for a team that came in on a two-game losing streak.

“We’re really confident anytime we get a win like that,” said Wright. “It’s going to obviously feed into the next game.”

“Every time you get a win like that, it doesn’t matter if it’s at home or away, you’re going to build from it,” added Ndoye.

To get another big A-10 win on Saturday, the Bonnies will have to handle Havoc better than they did last season, when they lost an 86-67 thrashing in Richmond. Bonaventure turned the ball over a staggering 24 times that game, negating the advantage they had on the glass.

The Bonnies feel they are more prepared to face the Rams this time around.

“I think we have different personnel that will be able to handle the press a little bit better,” said Gregg.

That personnel will have a definite challenge ahead of them. Even with Weber out, VCU has two double-digit scorers to deal with in Treveon Graham and Melvin Johnson, not to mention a forward built like a defensive lineman in Mo Alie-Cox. Graham’s status is up in the air due to an ankle injury, but Johnson and Alie-Cox are good to go.

Defending these powerful offensive threats will be a team task, and Ndoye recognizes that.

“I don’t really think about individual matchups because it’s all about the team and we’re going to guard them as a team. That’s going to determine if we win or lose the game,” he said.

Facing the Havoc is far from easy, but the Bonnies hope they’re up to the task.

 

 

 

Behind The Wolfpack: Conger Shines, Bonnies Show Heart In Loss To VCU

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[Demitrius Conger and St. Bonaventure attacked VCU’s havoc defense, but fell to the No. 24 ranked Rams, 72-65 – Photo by Daulton Sherwin]

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By Ryan Lazo, Co-editor in chief/feature columnist, @RMLazo13

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y.Coming off of four straight losses of at least 19 points, St. Bonaventure looked to be a dead in the water as Virginia Commonwealth University traveled to the Reilly Center for their first Atlantic 10 Conference road game.

But the team that was similar to zombies in The Walking Dead disappeared in favor of a Bona team that did not relent until the final whistle blew.

And when that final whistle blew, the Bonnies’ (7-8, 0-2) effort was not enough as No. 24 VCU held on for a 72-65 victory in front of 4,675 fans curious to see if Bona could take down a ranked team.

“Against VCU, you can’t take a step back, you can’t blink, you have to attack,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said after his team’s fifth straight loss. “There are no moral victories but our guys played hard and that’s the beginning. Hopefully we can build on it.”

Schmidt is right on part of his statement.

There are moral victories to be had. Let’s wander back to last season, the last time a ranked team visited to the Reilly Center.

While the Bonnies fell to the Temple Owls, the loss seemingly propelled them to an incredible run through the rest of the A-10 slate, culminating in the program’s first-ever A-10 Championship.

No one is proclaiming the same will happen to this year’s Bona squad, but they showed enough promise to stop the doomsday predictions floating around the program.

After allowing opponents to have a field day shooting the ball over the past four games, the Bonnies’ made VCU work on every possession to score. While the Rams finished the game by shooting 52 percent, Bona was able to guard the 3-point line effectively.

“We played a really hard fought game on Wednesday against Dayton and I felt like today, against St. Bonaventure, this one was even tougher,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said after the Bonnies’ forced 15 turnovers and held the Rams to just 29 percent from three. “They did a good job of coming at us and blew up some of the stuff we do on the offensive end.”

The aggressive nature of the Bonnies caught VCU off guard. Instead of playing tentatively, Bona attacked the famed havoc defense that averages 13 steals a game. And by the first media timeout, it was apparent Bona came to play.

“We feel like we finally found our heart,” Matthew Wright said after his 3-for-6 shooting for 10 points off the bench. “We got it back. We have to know that this is the bare 
minimum we can play. We have to play hard no matter what.”

It was a strong statement from a Bona guard that was among the returning players from last year’s tournament winning team. The fact that this team had either grown complacent or just didn’t have the mental fortitude to fight through bad starts is a trend that needs to be reversed.

And it’s quite possible that facing a team of VCU’s caliber was the medicine this team needed.

“Every team in this league is good,” Schmidt said after the loss. “We got to play hard in order to give ourselves a chance to win it at the end.”

With 3:46 remaining in the game, Bona found itself trailing by the biggest deficit in the game — 13. But instead of falling over like they have recently, the Bonnies’ roared back with 3-pointers and turnovers, giving them a chance at the end.

One of the main reasons they had that chance was once again, the play of Demitrius Conger. He scored 19 points on 5-for-10 shooting, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range, while dishing out three assists.

But even more important was where those numbers placed him in program history. The Bonnies’ captain became just the third player in program history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in a career.

With a player like him leading the way, the Bonnies will always have a chance. And if they shoot 11-for-25 from 3-point range for 44 percent, they will be tough to beat.

While they were dominated in the paint by a 32 to 18 margin and killed on the offensive glass — allowing 11 boards for 16 second chance points, Bona never gave up. image

It’s a point that did not go unnoticed by the Rams’ coach.

“I think St. Bonaventure is going to give a lot of teams trouble and they are going to win their share of games in this league,” the Final Four participating coach said.

And it’s true.

While Bona has played poorly of late, think back to the beginning of the season when the defense wasn’t being sliced like swiss cheese. Think back to those dramatic wins against Buffalo and Niagara.

The never-say-die spirit that emboldened last year’s team when they sat at just 2-3 on the season after losing to Arkansas State came out again. It’s the same spirit they showed when they won eight of their last 10 games to make the NCAA Tournament.

“We always talk about playing each possession like it’s your last,” Schmidt said. “At times we may have given in a bit, but I can tell you we didn’t give in today.”

Bona gave VCU all it can handle by not giving in, but whether is was an 
aberration or a sign of things to come remains to be seen.